The Joys of Travel
It’s always struck me that in the world of travel (of which I do rather a lot in the course of our business) there are some wonderfully bizarre words, phrases and euphemisms. This has set me wondering:
Should I in fact invite passengers to “board” my car rather than just “get in”...... “At their leisure” of course – provided they are “executive club card holders”...... In which case should I extend them “a special welcome” – although I’m not sure how exactly that differs from a normal welcome...... Why do trains “terminate” when they arrive at their final destination?...... How exactly should I “disembark”? And is that different from just “getting off”?
Anyway, a new one was sprung on me late one Friday evening at City airport. The 8.15pm flight home after a week in the Capital. It had been a good week. Lots of interesting training and coaching and conference speaking. But it’s fair to say I was tired and very much looking forward to seeing my wife and kids and chilling out over the weekend.
I’d arrived – with only hand baggage and with my boarding pass pre-printed (this was before my recent acquisition of an i-Pad). I’d navigated security (those searches are getting quite intimate these days aren’t they). I’d enjoyed a Friday evening libation (and even managed to stifle my innate Scots instinct to shout “how much for a pint of beer!?”). The flight was called for boarding on time. It was all looking good.
I arrived at the holding pen (oh they call that the “gate”) peering into the mass of bodies squeezed into the box and wondering as usual why all airports seem to have designed these areas to have insufficient space and seating for the number of passengers who regularly have to wait at them.
I dutifully handed over my weekend pass to freedom (for some reason Mel Gibson and Braveheart have just popped into my head). The lady from the airline held it under the bar code scanner and the computer said…….”uh ohh”. You know the noise. It’s the one the computer used to make in the TV show Family Fortunes when someone gave a ridiculous answer to a question which clearly wasn’t going to be one of the possible winning answers that would come up on the screen. Hmm. This was not good I thought. It’s definitely supposed to go “beep”.
Perhaps the computer was on the blink?
“Ah ha” announced the initially surprised lady from the airline on looking at her computer terminal screen.
“That explains it – you’ve been un-boarded. Next please”
Hang on a minute. “Un-boarded”?
That was a new-one, even to a seasoned travel veteran like me. So I enquired as to the meaning and implication of my new found status. The conversation went something like this:
“Sorry – what do you mean ‘unboarded’?”
“You’re no longer booked on this flight. You don’t have a seat on it any more”
“Eh? I’m here. I definitely do want a seat on it. I’m booked on it. That’s why I’ve got a boarding pass”
“Well your booking must have been cancelled. Did you cancel it?”
“No! Why would I have done that? I want to go home tonight. I’ve got a boarding pass. I came through security without any problem.”
“Well, someone must have cancelled it. Is this the return portion of a journey?”
“Were you booked to fly with us to London and then also to fly back as part of the same booking and is this the return portion of that booking?”
“I don’t know. Someone else in our business books all my travel for me. But I guess it probably is. I was due to fly down to London with you guys on Monday”
“And did you fly down with us on the Monday flight?”
“Hang on. The only reason I didn’t fly down with you on Monday is because you cancelled the flight. At very short notice. I got a text from you late on the Sunday night. It was lucky I happened to check my ‘phone just before I went to bed or I’d have missed it. I had to scrabble around finding a flight on the internet for the Monday morning. So I managed to get one booked with Easy Jet and flew down with them instead on Monday”
“That’s why you’ve been unboarded”
“Because I flew EasyJet?”
“No. Because you didn’t fly down on the outbound portion of your booking, your return flight booking was automatically cancelled. That’s why you’ve been unboarded. Next please”
“No. Hang on. That can’t be right. You cancelled my flight down here. I didn’t cancel the return flight”
“The system does that automatically.”
“The text telling me my flight was cancelled didn’t say anything about that. It just said ‘your flight no XYZ has been cancelled. Call this number if you need assistance’. Look – here’s the text on my phone. I tried calling the number but got a recorded message telling me that your bookings dept was open between 9am and 7pm and it was now closed until tomorrow. So I got on the web and checked possible flights the next morning. You didn’t have any others that suited me. So I booked one with EasyJet. No-one told me anything about your cancellation of my flight down here meaning the return flight I’d booked would automatically be cancelled too.”
“Yes I know. I’m sorry. Our system doesn’t tell you that”
“So……..what happens now?”
“Wait over there. The flight is overbooked tonight already but if you’re lucky there will be some ‘no-shows’ and we’ll give you a standby seat if that happens”
“And if everyone shows?”
“Then you’re not going home on this flight tonight and there aren’t any more until tomorrow”
But this story has a happy ending. Thanks to a “no show” at the gate I got the one and only unoccupied seat on the flight and so I did get home to Suz, Sandy and Julia.
Ah the joys of travel!
I share this story for the benefit of fellow travellers. Be warned. Beware the cancellation of outbound portions of return journeys. Lest you too find yourself unexpectedly “unboarded” late one evening at an airport somewhere in the world.
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about the author
Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.