Flight Drama

After enjoying our Last Day in Nepal, we were finally entering the departure hall of Tribhuvan International Airport. At first, it was just like any other view that can be found in an airport, such as people carrying luggage, queues at check-in desk, etc. Then I realized that the view was actually quite strange. Why was that? Well, everyone was wearing their warm clothes (thick jackets, gloves, etc), not the view I expected to see in the inside of an international airport.

Maybe winter in Katmandu is considerably mild compare to winter in northern Europe/America. But in those northern countries in Europe/America, you normally will only experience the cold when you are at the outside while almost every building, especially in public buildings such as airport, has a proper heater. Apparently that is not the case when you are visiting less fortunate countries such as Nepal.

To come back home, we booked the same airline when we came to Nepal, the most phenomenal airline in 2014, Malaysian Airlines. When we entered the check-in area, the check-in desk for our flight wasn’t open yet. We were then waiting in the benches near the check-in desk area. Some of us (Felix, Arini, and Eva) were talking with other tourist who we were also waiting, Putu was using the last credit of the prepaid phone to call family, while me and Willy (as the daily ‘pirates’) were draining our last prepaid internet quota in our Nepali’s mobile number to download movies.

Our plane was supposed to take off from Kathmandu before midnight, transit in Kuala Lumpur, and later arrive at Singapore in the next morning. For the trip from Singapore to Jakarta, we have booked another flight in the evening so we would be able to walk around Singapore for a couple hours.

After around an hour of waiting, the check-in desk for our flight was finally opened. Other than tourists, there was also another queue full of Nepalese workers who were going to Malaysia. It turns out that Malaysia is one of favorite destinations for many Nepalese to work, just like many Indonesian. Even the Malaysian Airways has daily flight from Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur (vice versa).

Not long after, we got the most horrifying news ever for all travelers from airlines– “Your flight is cancelled”. The officer said that the flight was re-scheduled until tomorrow morning and we would be given a hotel room to spend night. When we asked the reason for such cancellation, we didn’t get a clear answer. Some said because the airport will be closed after midnight (which is weird because our flight was scheduled just around midnight) or the pilot needed a rest after a long flight (well, this reason is even weirder). We were so panic for hearing the news, basically because we already booked another flight from Singapore to Jakarta. If our flight was pushed back until tomorrow morning, we would not make it to our next flight.

There were also several passengers who were to catch another flight, but they did not seem panic as we were. While the other passengers get ready to go to the hotel, we decided to not just accept the situation. We thought the airline could not just re-schedule the flight in a short notice like that. Well…maybe they could, who knows what written in the terms and conditions when we bought the tickets (and yet are still proudly claimed ourselves as group of lawyers and a diplomat :p).

Anyway, we then protested to the airline’s officer by explaining our situation. Our leader, Feliks, led the negotiation with the officer. The negotiation went a bit tense with anger, disappointment and panic involved. When the officer started to sound annoying, the talk became more like a fight. During the argument, Feliks seemed about to explode like a molotov bomb and ready to punch the officer’s face (to help you visualize the situation, he is a laywer and from North Sumatera where the people are known for being super frank). Thank god no bad words came out of his mouth and either of his wrist was nowhere near the officer’s face!

After a very long negotiation, the airline agreed to book other flights, so that we could arrive in Singapore tomorrow noon at the latest. The officer said that we were scheduled to flight with Dragon Air to Hongkong that night, and later flying with Cathay Pacific on its business class to Singapore.

The news changed our mood immediately from disappointment to euphoria (of course we were trying to look cool in front of the officer). Firstly, none of us had been to Hongkong before, and secondly, none of had been seating in business class (you know, we are that type of economic travelers :p). The officer gave us boarding pass from Dragon Air from Khatmandu to Hongkong, and a letter containing his signature and and e-ticket numbers for Cathay Pacific’s office in Hongkong to issue 6 seats of business class from Hongkong to Singapore (let’s say the “Order Letter”).

I think it is important to know your rights as passenger, especially due to delay or cancellation. For your information, it is not uncommon for airlines to giving replacement for economy tickets with business class tickets due to cancellation flight (of course except force majeuere). If you are flying within or between European Union countries, the airlines are even obliged to compensate the passenger for any delay or cancellation. In our case, daily flight Khatmandu-Kuala Lumpur seems not a very profitable one (I think). From our flight to Nepal, maybe around three-fourth of the seats are empty. I can imagine how much operational cost they could save for one ‘unprofitable’ flight, and simply move the passenger to the next flight. Anyway, I could be wrong, just a thought.

This is what we get to go back home once the flight was canceled.
This is what we get to go back home once the flight was canceled.

When we arrived in Hongkong’s airport, as instructed by the Malaysian Airlines officer in Nepal, we went straight to Cathay Pacific’s check-in desk in transit area to pick up the boarding pass for Hongkong-Singapore flight. When we gave the Order Letter from Malaysian Airways to the Cathay Pacific’s officer, the officer clearly did not look delightful and  was resistant to receive the letter. There were a lot of phone calls made by the officer to verify the information in the Order Letter. Long story short, ultimately the Cathay Pacific refused to give us the boarding pass and we were suggested to consult with the Malaysian Airways’ costumer service in Hongkong’s airport.

Until now, I’m still not sure what is the practice in airline business if we were facing the similar situation (ie. being transfer to other flights, with different airlines), especially what documentations we should obtain from the airline that transferring the flight. (Should anybody know about it, please also let us know! Thanks! :D) When our Order Letter were rejected by Cathay Pacific, I just regreted why we naively accepted the Order Letter in Nepal and assumed the Order Letter will be accepted by Cathay Pacific to issue 6 business class boarding pass. There was also a Nepalese guy who will go to the Phillipines who faced the same situation with us. He said that he experienced a couple of similar situations before, but normally the airline that receiving the Order Letter will accept and issue the boarding pass accordingly. Well, there is always first time for everything right? If I come across the similar flight cancellation experience in the future, I will not easily accept that kind of Order Letter and ask for and issued ticket instead.

Malaysian Airlines’ customer service in Hong Kong were quite cooperative though, and quickly arranged us to flight with Singapore Airlines instead. The officer, however, said there are only two business class seats left. Another bad move, we all agree to be seated in economy class. Later I was wondering, if we really want to know how it feels to sit in the business class, we should just take the two business class seats, and take the turn during the 4 hour flights (to take selfies maybe :p). Nevertheless, flying with economy class of Singapore Airlines economy class is still a pleasant experience.

....and this is our flight back to Singapore!
….and this is our flight back to Singapore!

Later that day we arrived in Singapore, just around 2 hours before our next flight to Jakarta. No time to explore Singapore as we previously planned, but at least we all can say that we have been to Hong Kong (only in the airport, but it still counts!).

Overall, it was quite an exhausting drama just to get home, but we were so happy that finally arrived in Jakarta safe and sound. (RA)

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