AirPhil Express: Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me (Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here for maximum hypertension.)

So where was I?

Yes. Yes they do.

Right. So I was in the airport boarding area, waiting for my Cebu Pacific flight. I had maybe half an hour to spare, and I figured I'd use it to stabilize my blood pressure and regain my sanity. I haven't even warmed up my seat when, on the airport PA system, I heard this:

Paging Passenger Yap... Ella... Please proceed to Gate ** immediately to board your flight. 
I scanned my ticket. Boarding time is not for another half an hour. And the gate number is different. So why was I being paged? And then it dawned on me. AirPhil. AirPhil is paging me to board the flight they refused to check me into. Deep breath.

And then my phone rang.

Kuya: Ma'am! Location nyo Ma'am?
Me: Ummm... I'm at the boarding area?
Kuya: Ma'am proceed na po tayo sa gate aalis na po yung plane! (Ma'am please proceed to the gate, the plane is about to leave!)
Me: Well, see, you did not allow me to check in.
Kuya: Ah eh... ah... sige po
Are you freaking kidding me? And guess what? He calls again!
Kuya: Ma'am boarding na po yung plane.
Me: (Trying really hard to regulate my voice) Kuya. Hindi nga ako pinayagan mag-check-in.
Kuya: Ma'am, sigurado kayo? 
And this is where I lost it. I tried really hard to stay calm and composed, but my goodness, these people. What kind of idiot do they take me for (An idiot who books flights with AirPhil, duh)? How does that even happen, not being sure if I was checked in or not? It doesn't even make sense!

So from silently crying outside the airport check-in counters, I am now shouting like a madman in the boarding area. Oh joy. Finally he gave me a muffled apology and thanked me (thanked me for what?!? for going ballistic?!?) before hanging up.

The only positive thing that came up from all of this is I was so exhausted I barely noticed the turbulence on the plane ride home. Even the cab driver who took me to the bus station even told me to take care because I looked so tired and sleepy.

Now I guess I wasn't a total idiot because I booked my return flight with Cebu Pacific. And since my bank told me there was no transaction from AirPhil Express I figured I'd let the whole issue slide. Sure, they caused me a lot of undue stress, through no fault of my own, but I'm positive an attempt to get a semblance of customer service from them is bound to drive me crazy. So I chose peace of mind.

And that I had. For a full five days. And then I decided to check my online credit card statement. Yep, charged for the flight I wasn't allowed to board because supposedly, I did not pay for it. If that's not completely effed up I don't know what is.

I made a panicked call to my bank, and apparently, AirPhil Express charged me for the flight two days after my flight date. So to give you a timeline of events: Day 1, I booked a flight. Day 2: I tried to board the flight, but wasn't allowed to. Day 4: Airline charged me for the flight. Day 7: Armaggedon.

So, angry phone call to AirPhil's customer service hotline. Which of course yielded nothing. Next, a lengthy, scathing e-mail to their online support. The reply?

We would like to inform you that we are implementing No Show Policy. Cancellation, rebooking or request for any changes must be done at least 24 hours before the flight. Otherwise, ticket will be forfeited if passenger failed to show up or check-in on time on the day of the flight.

This has got to be the single, most maddeningly infuriating e-mail I have ever received in my life. No show!?! How in the world do you arrive at this conclusion? Just reading the first paragraph, hell, just reading my 140-character tweet about it would tell you it's not a case of no-show.
And take note, I received this reply twice. So, all caps. And a sprinkle of exclamation points.

First of all I'm not proud of these e-mails; I make a conscious effort to refrain from using all caps because I remember an English professor saying it's a cheap way of creating emotion, i.e. I should be able to convey the same message with the right choice of words. But seeing as the people I'm dealing with appear to lack reading comprehension skills it becomes a necessity. Hell, if there was a font with teeth and blood and violent explosions I'd use that.

See, this is what I was afraid of. Every time I get an e-mail from AirPhil my blood pressure skyrockets. I started getting anxiety attacks every time my inbox lights up with a new message. I began questioning myself if all this stress was really worth that 6000 peso refund. I mean, how much do hypertension meds cost?

I remembered I had medical insurance that would pay for my blood pressure pills so I continued sending e-mails peppered with phrases in all caps,  and at the same time I also badgered their Twitter account (@airphilexpress), which can't really do anything concrete but it does reply immediately with the promise of following up with their customer service reps. And sometimes you just need that reply, worthless as it is, to assure you there's someone listening.

It took a number of follow-ups before I finally got a useful reply. One trick I got from my previous company is to number your e-mails, e.g. Follow-up #1. It not only tracks the number of messages you have sent, it also serves as an anger-meter. Apparently third time's the charm, and as I read that patronizing e-mail that stated they will refund my payment "for customer goodwill", I swear I almost cried because for the first time since this whole ordeal started, I didn't want to punch someone in the face.

The End.

P.S. I have to add that I am now in Follow-up #2 for the details of my refund. But this too, shall pass (I hope).

P.P.S. I did get my refund after a couple of weeks. We can now put this episode behind us, and I can now chuckle while re-reading this blog entry.

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