Travel Trauma

During the past almost three decades I certainly booked hundreds of flights without any problems. This changed last week. Read how an ordinary trip turned extraordinary - and not in a good way.

It started innocently enough. I bought a flight from Bucharest to Amsterdam and back at KLM's web portal, which I paid via PayPal. As usual I received a booking confirmation and all seemed well.

As it is my habit I arrived at the airport a bit earlier than necessary and started my first check in attempt and was promptly told to wait another 15 minutes. Fair enough, I thought.

Some 20 minutes later: check in attempt number two. I was happy to jest that I could bore check in ... theoretically . Alas, there seemed to be a problem with my reservation and if I would terribly mind proceeding to the ticket service. I rather did mind, but proceeded anyway.

Once there I was informed to please check in at the check in counter. This was, when I started to get a bad feeling about the whole thing. But I remained calm and patient and explained that I had just been there and was sent here. Eventually I received a printout to trade back to the check in counter.

Check in attempt three and - you guessed it - no luck. Apparently I bought and paid a ticket, but the ticket was never issued. So, everybody very sorry, but naturally I could not check in. At that point followed lengthy discussion with the flight supervisor including me presenting the booking confirmation. All to no avail and resulting in me going back to ticket service.

Back there I received the helpful advice to please call the service desk. If you wonder why somebody, who is standing at the airport in front of real people, would be asked to call some remote service desk, you are not alone. So did I. However, having no other option, I called, dialed my way through the various menus and ended up with a somewhat undermotivated service desk agent.

I explained the situation and received confirmation that of course I could not fly. After all, I had no ticket. At that point I had some 35 minutes left to shirt this mess out and still catch my flight. So I decided to lose my cool a bit. Which prompted the agent to politely put me on hold.

I already bought and paid a ticket and would not do so again just because KLM can't get their shit together.

While listening to shitty music, the physically real person at the ticket service (where I still lingered) kindly offered to sell me a new ticket. Unfortunately (for me) there was only business class available and said ticket would set me back a thousand Euro. I kindly refused this generous offer, explaining that I already bought and paid a ticket and would not do so again just because KLM (the airline in question) can't get their shit together. Right then she looked grateful and/or relieved for being behind a 20 millimeter glass wall.

Still on hold I fired up PayPal, checked the payment history and found the payment confirmation of which I took a screenshot. Not long after that the (still not very motivated) service desk agent mercifully decided to talk to me again. Just to tell me that there was nothing to be done but to buy a new ticket because KLM never received the money.

Congratulating myself for my foresight, I sweetly offered to email the receipt (screenshot) including the KLM invoice IF and transaction ID. She generously declared that I would be welcome to do so and the email address could be found online. At which point I saw myself forced to point out that I was standing at the airport, doing all my research and related work on my phone while talking to her, with less than 15 minutes to catch my flight and would really appreciate if she could just tell me the address. To my everlasting surprise she did.

So I sent the receipt, insisting she stays on the line and confirm reception. Only then I hung up but not without threatening to call again in 10 minutes. Tops!

Turned out, I did not have to. Within five minutes I received an email with my originally bought ticket. Amazingly the flight was not really as full as they had me believe when there was a chance that I would buy a thousand Euro ticket for going from Bucharest to Amsterdam!

In parallel to all that I had tweeted KLM about the problem. To their credit, they actually responded fairly quickly and just a few minutes after I eventually received the ticket.

To cap the whole experience off, the flight was eventually delayed by more than an hour, which I spent with some 200 fellow sufferers on a plane sitting on the tarmac. Of course, this can hardly be blamed on KLM.

So that was fun.

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