Grrrrr. Need to vent! This is about how it cost me $600 to change a $300 flight.
It has always been our plan to get over to Australia before heading home to Canada. At first it was supposed to be during the kids' school break at the end of April, but being the low-man on the totem pole at work, the vacation was all-booked, so I agreed to finish my contract early and head to Oz in the middle of July. For a Canadian, an Australian winter does not sound too scary.
Our flights home were originally Auckland to Sydney, Sydney to Vancouver and Vancouver to Montreal, all on Aug 6, 2011
So today, I decided to try and change our flight leaving Auckland to bring us to Sydney on July 16 instead of Aug 6. This would give us a 3 week stopover in Australia. Sounds awesome!
I was on the phone for 4.5 hours!
Most of this was on hold. So I tried to amuse myself by talking to my Dad and Harrison, playing 4 games of sudoko, cleaning out my Inbox (down to 15 messages!) and eating mushroom soup. I probably would have put a good dent into a bottle of something, but it was Sunday morning after all. I only threw the phone once when the Expedia guy disconnected me after being on hold for most of the 57 minute call. Even my Dad was feeling some sympathetic frustration and he had the use of both arms.
I managed to connect with a very sweet Air New Zealand representative without too much wait. I waited 40 minutes to talk to Air Canada and I talked to Expedia 3 times. They disconnected me twice and finally I refused to let the last guy put me on hold. Each time when I called back and asked to be connected with the previous representative, I was politely told "I'm sorry sir, this is against regulations". Stupid Rule #1.
Sure, I expected to pay $150 per ticket to change even the minutest detail. It's a rip off, but it's routine. Stupid Rule #2. I even knew about having to pay the fare difference which is always higher. The fare you want to switch to is never lower. They may as well add it onto the change fee. I knew this would happen and wasn't too put off about it. Stupid Rule #3. So the total came out to the equivalent of $2310 NZD. Add to that a $105 NZD per passenger flight from Palmerston North to Auckland for a total fee of $2845 NZD. Seems HUGE just to change a flight.
Air New Zealand's web site tells me that tickets from Palmerston North to Sydney via the same flights would cost us $1900 NZD taxes and fees in.
I explained to all 3 of the Expedia guys that their idea of changing flights would cost me almost $1000 NZD more than just canceling that leg of the flight and making my own arrangements, but in their thick Indian accents they explained to me that this was not possible.
Option 1: Cancel the Auckland to Sydney leg of our return. I would make separate (and cheaper) arrangements. I didn't even want a refund. Nabil: "This is not possible sir. We would have to cancel the whole ticket at a cost of $200 per ticket." Stupid Rule #4. Do want to bet that rebooking them would be more expensive than the original fare?
Option 2: Leave everything as is. We just won't show up for that leg of the journey. Amir: "In this case sir, your entire ticket would be canceled as a 'No Show'". Stupid Rule #5.
Option 3: Same as Option 2, but you mark something in the file that says that we aren't showing up. No dice. "I'm sorry sir, this is against regulations". Stupid Rule #6.
Option 4: Give them away to charity? No joke - I tried this. Nabil: "Sir, tickets are non-transferable!" Stupid Rule # 7. I managed to suppress the "I KNOW THAT YOU ASS. I am trying to demonstrate how ridiculous it is that I have to pay $900 to give away a flight for 5 people!" I should have done it anyway as the phone accidentally disconnected at the 57 minute mark. Grrrrr.
So there it is. Asinine airline regulations at their very best. I have to give credit to the last guy. I almost tore his head off within the first minute of our call and he unleashed a thick sickly sweet stream of generic cover-all apologies ("I'm so sorry for all your inconveniences and unhappiness with your day") taken directly from the "Dealing With Hostile Customers" section of his manual.
But they won. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore and waved my plastic Visa card flag of surrender. I just wanted this to be over. I was done talking in almost complete circles interrupted only by dial tones, so fearing the next disconnection, I buckled and read out the Visa number. I could almost hear the cries of victory echoing through the outsourced customer service office building somewhere in Mumbai. I was a defeated man.
On the brighter side though, we're going to Australia!