Thursday, November 19, 2009

(new) 1+1=2 except online.

Dealing with airlines is never easy, is it?

Today was another official do nothing day. We hadn’t planned it that way. But we were still stinging from the cost of yesterday’s tour, and still tired from all the traveling we’d been doing. So both our bodies and our wallets told us to stop. It was good thing. It allowed us to get down to planning our next phase of traveling. Now that we’ve definitely decided not to go to Brazil and getting close to the end of Argentina it was time to look to our next continent, Africa. So we spent the day looking at the cost of hostels and bus travel. After the last month, we don’t need any more sticker shock.

Then it came time to book our plane tickets. We’d been on the South African Airways site a few times over the last few days. But we’d never been able to commit to purchasing the tickets. It felt a lot like when we were getting ready to by our first tickets to Mexico City almost a year ago. We knew we were going but it took almost two weeks of hemming and hawing before we could press that glowing buy now button on the screen. I don’t know why – butterflies, I guess. Today, however, we were going to do it. But first some more playing around with all the flight options. Yes, I admit it was more procrastination. But hear me out, this was good procrastination. Just for kicks I clicked on the return flight option. Back in Mendoza, Dan and Jillian had suggested buying a return ticket if the price wasn’t much more. You see, South Africa is one of those countries that require proof of exit in order to enter. Technically many other countries we’ve been to have required it only Panama demanded it. But it’s not the border officials that are the problem it’s the airlines who are sticklers for the rules. They won’t let you get on the plane if you don’t have the immigration requirements, sometimes forcing you to by a ridiculously hard to refund, last minute ticket in order to get on board. Better to be safe than--- wtf?!? A return ticket is $500 cheaper than a one way ticket? That’s right for $1200 we could fly there and back or for $1700 we could fly there only. Confused? So were we, for about two minutes before we rushed to buy the return tickets, thinking it was a mistake that would be taken down asap.

Faster than you can say “faster than you can say”, we filled in our info and hit buy now. The site thought and thought and then flashed a dreaded error message. We’d had some trouble with the card back in Chile so Adrian placed a call to Visa to find out if there was an issue. There wasn’t. Okay best to try again. The too-good-to-be true prices were still online. We quickly filled in all our info and once again hit buy now. The page thought and thought and… nope. There was the error message again. Crap. It must be the price; it was a mistake and it was crashing the system. Or so we thought. Oh well, on to looking at hostels. The plane tickets can wait until we’re in BsAs (what the lazy cool kids call Buenos Aires) tomorrow. Or so I thought.

I opened up my email to send a few hostel enquires and there in my inbox was a flight confirmation from South Africa Airways. Judging by the time stamp, it was a confirmation was for the first attempt. Now I had a horrible sinking feeling. Did we just accidentally purchase two tickets twice? It really was a good thing we were in BsAs tomorrow to straighten it out. I jotted down the address of the South African office – it was only a few (less than 10) blocks from the bus station so we could stop in as soon as we arrived, provided we got in on time and provided they weren’t closed for that silly Argentinean siesta.

The rest of the afternoon was just hanging around the hostel and chilling before our long bus ride to BsAs. We said goodbye to Deirdre and the lovely staff and trundled down to the bus station. The bus was 15 minutes late – never a good sign – and a little worn around the edges. We were two of 6 people on board but the ayudante was a super nice guy and very attentive – even if communication was strained. He spoke the most heavily accented Spanish we’ve heard since Colombia. But managed to communicate that we had our choice of wine with dinner, as well as offering us whisky before bed. And to top it off, they had a movie other than The Bucket List. Wow, I didn’t think it was possible. Goodbye, Puerto Madryn. Hello, Buenos Aires.

3 comments: said...

It's true that a return ticket will be cheaper more quite often. Not enough people fly one way for the airline to price them the same, selling return tickets makes them thing that there will be seats in bums both ways as opposed to just one way. It's for sure a good option for any longer flights you are looking at and potentially shorter ones as well!

Kate (Again) said...

Clearly I meant "will be quite a bit cheaper, more often than not". Darn that "publish" button!

liz and adrian said...

There and back was cheaper than just there. Considerably cheaper.

I repeat it because I still can't believe it. And I've never encountered this in Canada before. Almost the same price? Yes. But never cheaper.

I'm frightened that if we only use half the ticket that they'll charge us the difference.