“Thanks for calling United Airlines … “
The telephone hold IVR plays its corporate generic greeting followed by some music. This is where phone calls of this nature go dark. You end up dangling from a thread, with your ear feeling like it has a brick grinding into it as you trying to listen for any indication of life on the other end. United has cancelled my flight, now seemingly I wait – on hold. As a contractor sometimes you never know where you are going to end up.
To my surprise a lively voice identifying herself as “Yin” answered repeating a more personable “thank you for calling United Airlines …”. Did I mention I was surprised? The last attempt at this took multiple tries and lasted “hours” – I kid you not.
After verification reservation information Yin begins processing my travel request changes.
“Indonesia [has] suspend the entry of foreign citizens Jan. 1-14, 2021 to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) strain” with the proviso of making it longer per their state of the pandemic. While this means no one can get in, getting out is equally difficult. In addition to the ever changing testing requirements for domestic travel, international travel is no exception coupled with the ever persistent threat of cancellation. Due to personal logistic preferences my preferred direction of travel was eastward on ANA Airlines via Tokyo. The majority of international flights out of Jakarta currently are westward via Qatar Airlines. Getting stuck in Jakarta isn’t what I wanted to experience, getting stuck in an even more unfriendly location serviced by Qatar was even less desirable.
“Stay on the line, it is giving me an error when I try to re-price the ticket. Let me contact my supervisor.” That never sounds good.
I quickly check the US State Department website, Japan has been raised to a level 4 travel advisory – “Do not travel.” Hopefully unrelated as I would be just passing through the airport, but transients through Japan were banned earlier in the year. Total lock down, no one in, no one out. The new more highly contagious Cov-SARS-2 mutation has only just been announced. Governments are just now reacting.
This was the 4th or 5th reschedule since being stranded-semi-stranded since this adventure began. I have one extension on my VISA left and this “one” I am hoping to take advantage of. Each of the previous itinerary changes were COVID pushed forward. With this one, well … this one was personal. The situation … “my situation” has changed.
While the pandemic has played a role and guided me in my decision for staying here, being here was for the moment apart of a much larger journey.
Less than 10 minutes from the start of this call and Yin is back on the line. “We can get you on a flight Thursday July 1st …” I pay the taxes on the updated itinerary and I’m good to go. I compliment Yin in possibly the best phone call ever to an airlines – probably since trying to fly home during winter in a blinding snow storm from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for Christmas with flights being cancelled across the country, the agent then was fantastic at getting me routed (granted a 3 hour trip turned into a 12+ hour expedition).
I’m pleasantly pleased.
Kudos to United agent Yin in the Philippines, kudos United. With the international airport in Bali shut down, my only hiccup now is in getting from Uluwato to the Jakarta international airport on Java Island. Luckily I have some time to figure that part out. Now to prepare for tomorrow’s monthly visit to immigration for my last visa renewal.
On with the day.