AirPhil Express: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me (Part 1)

I'm almost inclined to believe that I deserve everything that happened to me, because no one in their right mind would book a flight with AirPhil Express after that tiny slice of hell they put me through. But, well, I wasn't exactly in my right mind when I booked yet another fresh slice of hell.

I don't even know why I'm reliving this, but I guess it makes for a good story. A very long story. To be read only if you're in a good mood, as it is known to induce hypertension. Or it may make you feel better knowing there are idiots out there (read:me) who have it so much worse than you. Anyway.

So here's a happy photo of me, back in the day 
when airlines still made an effort to provide good customer service.
It has always been my worst nightmare, having to rush home to attend a funeral. But somehow it materialized, and it left me looking for flights in the wee hours of the morning. The ones via Clark, which is nearer my hometown, are all too late, so I had no choice but to go to Manila and take the four-hour bus ride home. Naturally I wanted the earliest flight I could possibly catch, because there are flight delays and weekday traffic to take into account. Funny I should say that, because one thing I did not manage to account for is me not being able to board the plane. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So I blindly booked the first flight of the day, which happened to be (surprise surprise) AirPhil Express.  It leaves Changi shortly after midnight, which gives me plenty of time to pass through immigration, get my luggage, and catch that bus while the sun is not yet up. Six hours before the flight, I re-checked my itinerary (Confirmed) and flight status (on schedule). Everything seemed to be going well. 

I arrived at the airport around 11pm (my flight departs at 12:45am), and I made my way to the check-in counter, where there were no more than ten people lined up. I checked-in, and the lady behind the counter told me I had to be placed in the middle seat, because the flight was full. No biggie. I just needed to be home. So all was well and good. And then she directed me to proceed to another counter. Ah, here we go.

So the staff tells me they can't issue me a boarding pass because my payment was "voided." Blood. Pressure. Rising. I told him it's impossible, because I was asked to input my OTP (one-time pin, a security feature of credit cards where they send you a pin via SMS and you have to key it in to complete your online transaction). But he was adamant my transaction was voided, and he insisted that AirPhil has, in fact, attempted to contact me three times to inform me. Two days ago. He sounded so sure I almost believed him (despite the fact that there is absolutely no record of any missed call from any number on my phone) except for one teeny tiny thing - I booked my ticket the day before. You would think that if they have somehow managed time travel they'd at least put that in their flyer.

Since it became pretty clear pretty fast that arguing would get me nowhere, I offered to just pay for the ticket then and there. But of course I can't do that. Some sort of timeout or network glitch or something. I think it was at this point that, with a very shaky voice, I told the kuya behind the counter that I was on my way to attend a funeral so if he could just wipe the patronizing look off his face and do something, that would be great. As it turns out, he is not from AirPhil Express (some sort of generic airport staff, I guess), so as his smirk disappeared, so did his usefulness.

There were two things I could have done at this point that would have been of immense help:
1. I should have demanded to see an AirPhil Express representative. Even if there is no one manning the counter, there should be at least one in the airport, as per Section 17 of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights (which I highly recommend you download here). Should the customer service representative prove to be unhelpful as well, I also have the option to escalate the issue to a CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) representative.
2. I should have obtained a certification from the counter stating that I was denied a boarding pass due to a voided transaction. This way, it would be easy to file for a dispute in the event that they actually charged my credit card.

Now I said "I should have", so obviously I didn't do those things. What I did was walk around the airport terminal in a daze - depressed, exhausted, and so very angry with myself for being an idiot. And so, at the stroke of midnight, as I was scanning the board for the next available flight, tears started falling. In fact an airline attendant actually stopped to ask me if I was alright. Anyway, once I reached my daily time limit of making a total ass out of myself (about fifteen minutes, on a good day), I marched to the CebuPacific counter, booked the next flight to Manila (for double the price), and ten minutes later plopped my weary ass down the comfy chairs of the boarding area. I called my bank, and they assured me that there was no transaction - cancelled or otherwise - from AirPhil Express. Crisis averted. No, of course not; don't be silly. Part 2 tomorrow, it's getting late :)

Update: Click here for Part 2 

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