It was the perfect plan. Ten countries, three continents and I saved a bucket load of cash by buying a round the world ticket (RTW). Or did I?
After 10 weeks of travelling I headed home from a place that could hardly be further from Melbourne – Longyearbyen. This is a village inside the Arctic Circle in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago where the streets have no names and polar bears outnumber residents. With four flights and 48 hours of travel ahead, at check in I was told the leg from Bangkok to Melbourne wasn’t coming up on the screen.
Feverishly I checked the 434 emails stacked up on my phone from two weeks of digital detox.
In Oslo, they said my flight from Bangkok to Melbourne had been cancelled.
In Helsinki the flight was on the screen but is was too early for check in.
In Bangkok, I had a 14-hour layover (the main reason for the cheap ticket). Relieved to see my ongoing flight was listed (and on time), with my Arctic clothing plastered to my skin, sweat trickling down my back and the bags under my eyes big enough to squeeze in my excess luggage, I decided to treat myself to an airport hotel after all I’d saved heaps on the airfare.
“Sorry it’s a busy weekend, all the hotels are booked out. Would you like to book a room in a nearby hotel?”
I handed over $80 (which included free WiFi) and bundled my luggage into a relatively clean but non-air-conditioned van for the ‘short’ transfer. Twenty minutes later along a potholed laneway scattered with rabid looking dogs, I spotted the only building that resembled a hotel amid a tangle of power lines.
The place was reminiscent of lodgings where I once experienced a fire, so when handed the room key, I asked for the fire evacuation procedure. The response was enough to tell me there’d be no shut-eye in this hotel.
Knowing I’m within 24 hours of flying, I logged onto to my computer to check in.
My booking number was rejected. Apparently, I don’t exist.
Although I flew under the ‘oneworld’ banner, the RTW ticket used a myriad of airlines. The online chat robot couldn’t find my booking. I phoned the airline (more money spent) to hear an ‘office closed for the weekend’ message. Same deal at the travel agency where I purchased the ticket.
In desperation, I phoned Qantas for no other reason other than to hear an Australian voice. The non-robotic Sarah was sympathetic but couldn’t help. She suggested to go back to the airport and wait for the flight to come up on the schedule board.
After what felt like days, my flight number eventually clicked over on the departures board. I was first in line at the counter and the news wasn’t good. For some unexplained reason (even though I had the e-ticket in my hand), my booking had been cancelled. I hardly recognised my zombie-like voice arguing the point. No one could explain how or why. However, if I wanted to get home, I had to pay $672 for another ticket.
Thinking I’d be refunded the money back in Australia, I forked out another $75 to collapse in the comfort of a pay as you go airport lounge for three hours of pampering. By the time I boarded, total exhaustion prevailed and I hardly noticed the plane take off or land in Melbourne.
The wash up? Because neither the travel agent nor airline could figure out how my name was taken off the flight, I didn’t get a refund. Apparently, I’m an anomaly. Or am I?
Have you had a good (or bad) round the world ticket experience?
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