Three airlines (Qantas, Air Asia, and All Nippon), seven airports, seven countries, five flights (the trip from Johor Bahru to Singapore is a bus ride), and a whole bunch more passport stamps. At this point the immigration people are stamping over old stamps, which I suppose solves the problem of running out of pages.
I left Auckland on the 22nd of March, and I still don't have confirmation of my last two flights on All Nippon. The plan is three nights in Sydney, two in Bangkok, two in Singapore, and two in Tokyo. So far I'm in the middle of my Bangkok stopover.
There's been a lot of international fax, email, and phone conversation between me and Qantas, and me and All Nippon, because I bought both sets of tickets through travel agents in third countries and the head offices are confused about how to change my flight dates and how much to charge me. That all started with my calling Qantas's toll-free New Zealand number from tyellas's living room and having a less than satisfying with at least one fairly surly customer "service" agent back in Oz ("your call has been diverted to our call center in Australia"). In the event, she didn't even have the right information about my ticket. "We'll have to contact your travel agent in Bangkok to find out how much it will cost to change your ticket, you know." No, actually, it won't cost anything except the NZ$10 ticket revalidation fee Qantas New Zealand charges *everyone*, and no, actually, my Bangkok travel agent never did have to get roped into this one.
Now, an extremely polite Japanese customer service agent (this description may be redundant) and I are having a phone, fax, and email conversation about my ANA ticket, issued in the States by STA Travel. STA says only ANA can change it, ANA says they have to do the ticket change through the STA New York office. My attitude is: "Here, have my credit card info. Make it happen." It certainly seems that my Ms. Yurugi is working diligently on the problem. Quite a contrast from the unnamed Australian CSR.
Finally, I just booked my Air Asia flight online. Air Asia is so aggressively no-frills they don't allow you to bring your own food on board. If you want to eat or drink, you have to buy food and water from them. Not even People Express kept you from bringing your own food on board, back in the day. I'm curious to see how they enforce this. I'm also curious how they're going to do their "no assigned seating". Ryanair gets away with just having everyone rush the plane because they're dealing with the Irish, not the Thais. (On my last flight on Ryanair out of Dublin I even got into an exit row.)
This should be interesting. Perhaps they should all take a page out of Southwest's boarding procedure book. But maybe handing out little cards would cost too much. Who knows?
Flying into Senai airport in Johor Bahru has gotta be saving them a pile of money over flying into Changi in Singapore, at least. Although Singapore is going out of its way to make life difficult for passengers going to Singapore from Senai airport; they recently impounded the buses that were doing direct shuttle service from Senai to Singapore.
"It seems to be a battle of wills, with business and national interests all being dragged into the picture."
Fortunately I did a dry run to Senai at one point, so I feel pretty sure I won't have to pay US$40 for a taxi to my friend's place. This would be almost double the airfare of US$43. Besides, I dislike cabs.
Oh well, we'll see how it goes tomorrow. It's only a two hour and fifteen minute flight, so I can't see needing much in the way of food on the way anyway. Also, I'm from a First World country, so the prices of food on the aircraft (B.55 for a curry puff, B.33 for a soft drink), while extortionate to Thais, work out to be $1.40 for the puff, and 84 cents for the soda, which at this point is cheaper than what I've been paying in Australia or New Zealand for that kind of thing. "What's that in *real* money, har har", as they say.
I hope Air Asia isn't cutting too many corners on safety, though.
And why is Singapore's planned no-frills airline planning to call itself ValuAir? Guess they're hoping no one from this part of the world has heard of ValuJet...