Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How I ended up on an ALL Business Class Flight

"Welcome to Los Angeles International Airport", the sign read as I stepped onto the escalator heading to the immigration counter. I was all smiles after a long flight which I spent almost an entire day on and it must have been evident as I approached the immigration officer.
An elderly man who held up my passport to match it to my face, and while I was prepared to answer most of his questions, I certainly did not anticipate those that were to follow.

Officer: How on earth did you get on this flight? It's an all business class flight!
Me: *Smile* Erm, well, I had a bit of trouble with my earlier flight, which I had to cancel and with the limited time I had left, this was the flight which could fit my schedule.
Officer: You're here for business?
Me: No, I am here to visit my husband who is based here for work.
Officer: So, do they like, have a swimming pool or a tennis court on the flight? I'm just wondering since this is one unique flight which is fully business class
Me: *Laughs* None that I know of
Officer: *Laughs* I'm sure there must be something interesting on that flight, but sad to hear that they are going to terminate that flight soon. Guess with all that costs to maintain the flight, it might be hard to sustain the operations though...

Officer: Anyway, Enjoy your trip and welcome to the United States of America!

It was certainly a warm and wonderful welcome from the cool-looking immigration officer and also the crisp air as I stepped out into the cool temperature in the late afternoon in the famous City of Angels, Los Angeles. The fresh air was definitely a delightful greeting, and as my mind switches to that of exhilaration and excitement for my upcoming plans, it did momentarily take away all the stress I had just about a day ago, before I boarded the plane bound for US.

I was not kidding when I said that I had a bit of trouble with my original flight, which, by the way, was not even in the business class category. I had booked the flight two weeks ago, flying coach on Cathay Pacific with multiple transits; Hong Kong, Vancouver and finally, the destination.
I had checked all my traveling documents and also packed diligently, and was headed to KLIA on the day I was supposed to fly with excitement in my heart after enjoying a wonderful dinner with my family the night before.

As I approached the check-in counter, I was stunned when I was informed that I would not be allowed to board the flight as I did not have a Canadian visa.
I stared at the ground staff; a lady who was rather impatient, and asked politely, "But I am just there for transit.. and it's less than an hour"
Lady: I'm sorry, but this is the rules in Canada, even transiting passengers will need to have a visa
Me: But I am not entering Canada, I am still going to be in the airport; going from one gate to another!
Lady: Yes, unfortunately, based on the new requirements and legislations set by the Canadian government, all crew, passengers and even the luggages will need to be unloaded and screened through as they pass through Canada's airports
Me: When was this rule implemented?
Lady: Unfortunately, just two to three months ago. I'm sorry, I really cannot allow you on this flight because you will still not be allowed to board the next flight.

I did not blame her for the rules, and I was probably to blame for not verifying my travel details and to look into all these.
I tried not to hold the line but I had to get further assistance from the staff on changing my flight schedule. There was not much help from her, as she just waved me away with the hotline to contact for my flight bookings, and that would be to talk to the Hongkie crew directly.
I tried calling the hotline, but there was no one available and it was not even lunch hour!
I was exasperated, and it was really frustrating with no one ready to assist us, and the lady earlier was deliberately trying to avoid eye contact.
However, I was thankful for the man behind the business class counter of Cathay Pacific who beckoned to me and assisted me with my inquiries. Though I still had to make my phone call to the Hong Kong office, who were very friendly and helpful by the way, the man was still able to wait and attend to all my questions patiently.

Due to the conflicting times in the flight schedules for Cathay Pacific, I had to cancel my entire flight schedule with them which was taken care of by the staff in Hong Kong and I have to commend his efficiency and professional attitude in handling the entire issue. It was a really smooth process and he took care of everything; telling me not to worry at all about the flight and even hoped I would fly with them in the future. I definitely will, with service like this ;-)

I switched to my default and favorite international airline; Singapore Airlines and as most of the flights were booked, I was booked on the business class flight to United States since the fees for the flights were almost comparable to that of my original Cathay Pacific flight which I also booked at the very last minute. It was going to be my first business class flight, but what I didn't know was that my flight, SQ38, was going to be an ALL Business Class Flight.

Yes, it was all firsts; from flying Cathay Pacific, to canceling my first flight with them and to flying business class to being held at the airport and stranded at the airport, and well, not being able to board my flight, for the first time....

As they always say, there is always a first...for everything...

Note:
My personal thanks to the Hong Kong Cathay Pacific staff who helped me through the process and explained and even checked all available flights to meet my schedule.
You are one awesome airline crew who definitely made a difference to the image of the company, and to us passengers *Thumbs up*


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