I’m stealing the title from my friend Chris and his blog, but the real point to note in the title is the question mark. Honestly, I didn’t do this on purpose and I didn’t go out of my way to make another memorable airport experience but once again I find myself amused and confused as I sit in the Naver Free Internet lounge at Incheon Airport awaiting my late flight.
Now, I am positive that I booked my flight for a 1:50PM departure time. I will swear up and down upon my grave that the computer screen on expedia clearly stated 1:50PM. Living in Dongducheon there are 9 Airporter buses that I can catch. My options were 7:25AM, 10:45AM or 12:15PM, obviously that last one was way too late since it takes roughly 90 minutes to get to the airport. Easy enough it catch the 10:45, it should get me there with plenty of time.
And it did.
Only, it didn’t.
When I finally amble over to the check-in counter and pull out my ticket, the departure time has magically changed from 1:50 to 1:05PM. It’s currently 12:40PM. This… could be tricky. I approach the duty manager’s counter and explain the situation.
“You are too late sir.”
“No, I’m not, I’ve still got 20 minutes and I don’t have to check my bags.”
“It’s not possible.”
“Why is it not possible? Can’t we at least try?”
“No sir, we cannot.”
Crap. Vietnam, this ain’t.
“Why can’t we try?”
“Well sir, we could be fined by security if we sent you through, they like to have all passengers cleared an hour in advance and if we sent you through now we might have to delay the flight and that wouldn’t be fair to the 200 other passengers.”
“But can we TRY! Trust me, I can make. If not, no worries I’ll return.”
“No sir, I’ve made my decision.”
“Who can I talk to? Who is your superior.” A real edge of… intensity infuses itself into my voice.
“No one sir, I am the top person here.”
“So, accompany me. We can at least try.”
“No, sir. My apologies but I’ve made my decision.”
I’m breathing deeply and nearly grinding my teeth but I capitulate. I concede that unlike the easy-going nature of Hanoi’s airport, the by-the-book adherence to regulations means Incheon Airport is not going to give me the chance to make my flight. I inhale deeply, steadying myself, I hold the breath in for a few seconds and when I exhale I do my best to exhale all my frustration, which to be honest is directed at myself because as much I as I want to blame somebody else for this, it’s my own fault.
They are not going to let me try to catch my flight.
“Alright, what are my options?”
Now since I am not going to catch my intended flight, they could be right jerks and say ‘buy a new ticket for another flight’ or I can pitch a hissy fit and make a spectacle of myself damaging only my own personal reputation or I can walk away and remain stuck in Korea out of petutlant spite.
“Well for 500 000 Won we can change your flight.”
“500 000! That’s way too much.”
“I meant, 50 000 Won…”
“…but sir, you will not make your connecting flight.”
“When is the next connecting flight?”
“Tomorrow at 8am.”
“Okay sir, when you come back, come to the business counter to check in.”
I nod with my second ticket in two days. I have three hours downtime at Incheon Airport in the Departures area. It’s actually a pretty cool airport, I’ve never spent the time to properly explore it, there are restaruants and gift shops. A upper floor of restaraurants I never even knew existed. I end up with a panini and coffee and sit reading from my book and updating my journal of Malaysia.
Plus I ruminate over what happened at the ticket counter. It could have gone a lot of different ways. But it worked out in the end. My ticket cost me $625 Cdn, having it changed another $45 Cdn. I nearly didn’t book this trip until I checked the price and flight time from Vancouver, over $900 and 12 hours. Which means I have $200 free dollars to spend and I’ll be there and back in less than the time it would take to get there from where my family lives.
Then I looked at how I dealt with a bad situation. Things didn’t go exactly my way but I was able to admit my mistakes and deal with them in an adult fashion. Because I let go of my frustration they helped me out by inviting me to come back and help me check in via the business class, rather than waiting in the economy line. They already made their decisions and rebooked my tickets for me, when I returned to check back in, I brought a gift as a way to apologize and to say thank you. It wasn’t a bribe, they’d already done what they were going to do. It was 30 Dunkin Donut Holes. Something small they and the rest of people on duty at Air China could snack on. The duty manager tried to refuse them when I gave them to him. When I insisted he accepted with grace.
Did I have to do that? No. I didn’t have to give a ‘tip’ to the Vietnamese aircrew either. So why do it? I seem to stumble and careen through these adventures and as a traveller I want to leave as good an impression as possible. The only way to defeat the ugly Westerner stereotype is to make ammends when in the wrong and to try to carry one’s self with class.
I don’t always succeed, but I’m adult enough now to apologize when I’m in the wrong.
Even if it means another night sleeping in an airport in China.
I wonder if I’ll be flying business class though…