Thailand Episode 2 and the missed flight nightmare

Okay, this blog post was originally another ‘then we did that and then we did that and after that we did that’-travel description of our long gone trip to Thailand in January/February in the same style as I wrote the Thailand Episode 1.

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However, I will spare you most of my ‘then we had another ice cream’-stories and instead focus on a couple of episodes from the last leg of our trip. Especially the one where we missed our flight home from Koh Samui to Sydney. Jup, it actually happened and if you just can’t wait to read about it – jump straight to the end of this post. Because first we went to Koh Tao via Koh Samui.

ONE NIGHT IN KOH SAMUI

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As I wrote in Thailand Episode 1 we said goodbye to my brother and his family in Koh Chang to continue on our own adventures in Koh Tao.

To make the travel a bit easier we had booked a night at Villa Tanamera in Koh Samui. The villa was just what we needed. It had two bedrooms and two bathrooms! And a living room AND a kitchen (not that we used it). The pool was right outside our door and we were the only guests who used it, so it was basically like we had a private pool villa for a day.

It was lovely. We didn’t realize until we got there, but we all needed that little bit of personal space and privacy it provided.

Next day we left to catch the ferry to Koh Tao. We had not bought tickets yet. Because ‘no worrieeeeees, we’ll buy them later, later…’

Well, as we got to the terminal this random guy approched us. He explained to us that everything was sold out, but if we paid a little bit more than the official price, he could 90% sure get us tickets.

We were sceptical, to say the least. It turned out that all tickets actually were sold out and he got us some sneaky tickets anyway. He even made sure that we got in front of the line, so we could board the ferry first and be sure to get seats onboard. I guess, most strangers actually do wish to help out – even if they make a bit of money on the side too.

KOH TAO

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Our 5 days in Koh Tao were lovely but not so much because of the island itself. We had heard so much good about Koh Tao before we went there, so our expectations were probably a bit out of proportions. To be honest, initially we were a bit disappointed. We did not really experience the chilled and relaxed vibe that we thought we would find. On the other hand we had some great days and evenings in the company of a lovely family from Canada we met at our hotel.

For us Koh Tao was great in terms of meeting new friends – which, in my opinion, is one of the most important things about traveling. We do definitely not regret that we went there. The only thing we do regret is that we went to Koh Nang Yuan (a beautiful little island off Koh Tao) at the same time as approximately half of China. It stressed out the girls and we didn’t really enjoy the scenery as much as we had hoped. But well, we got it ticked off the list, so it’s all good.

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We might get back to Koh Tao one day when the girls are older and we can explore the famous dive spots around the island – along with the other young backpackers…

LAST LEG

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To end, what we thought would be the last two days of our holiday, we stayed two nights in Koh Samui. We went to a market and I had the best papaya salad I ever did taste, we swam in the pool, the girls got locked inside our hotel room and Abby was a trooper and unlocked the door from the inside while Billie was screaming her lungs out. Ohh, and Josh was a real life hero and saved a man from drowning while everyone else were eating their scrambled eggs and croissants on the beach.

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Then it was time to head back to OZ. Or so we thought.

NEVER FLY OUT OF SEQUENCE, KIDS

We learned the hard – and very expensive – way.

As we went to check-in in Koh Samui airport we thought everything was going to go smoothly and that we would be back home in Sydney the next morning.  But ohh, how wrong we were.

The confused look on the check-in girl’s face was the first sign that something was wrong. At first we thought it had something to do with our passports. We’ve had problems with them before due to the girls’ double citizenship. No major issues that can’t be solved relatively easy, so at this stage we were still pretty confident that we would board our plane.

The girl’s expression then slowly changed from confused to a more panicky kind of state.

She still hadn’t really communicated to us what the issue was. She tried. Her English was basically non-excisting. She called a colleague who spoke a tiny bit of English. She explained to us that they would not let us board the plane, because our tickets were not confirmed.

As I had checked the status of these same tickets two days prior and on the same morning I got annoyed. To put it mildly. At this stage the clock was ticking. Fast.

They still couldn’t explain to us what the real issue was, but said the only thing we could do was call Emirates. So we did. The first of many, many calls to Emirates from Koh Samui Airport that day. Initially the Emirates guy said that he could see no issue with our tickets. They were confirmed in his system, so he could not give us an explanation as to why they would not board us.

At this stage we were starting to panic. Our flight was leaving soon. Very soon. And we had still not checked-in. Neither had we any idea why we could not be checked-in.

Things got a bit heated. I lost it. I rarely lose it (at least not in public). I realized that we would not make our flight. Finally, a third lady form the airport came to help. She spoke a decent English and she explained to us that our tickets had been put on hold due to the fact that we had flown out of sequence. At first we were two big question marks. Then the penny finally dropped for me. My sister-in-law had mentioned something about an issue with them changing their tickets, back when we changed our plans about going to Koh Chang instead of Koh Samui with them. I, however, had not given it a thought, that it would be an issue for us. We didn’t change any tickets, we just bought additional tickets as we didn’t use our original tickets from Bangkok to Koh Samui……………

I soon learned what it means to fly out of sequence:

If you have bought a series of tickets in one go – as in our example: Sydney-Bangkok, Bangkok-Koh Samui, Koh Samui-Singapore, Singapore-Sydney – and you miss one of these flights, the airline company is entitled to either completely cancel the remaining flights on your itinerary or they can issue a non-show fee to let you use your tickets –

your own tickets that you have paid full price for(!) 

Our plane took off without us and from then on it was a non-stop battle to get us on another flight towards Sydney as soon as possible. We were on the phone to Emirates for 4,5 hours that day and I do not have much positive to say about their performance. Especially learning in retrospect that we could have avoided most of all the drama and money if they had told us straight away that we could just pay the non-show fee and still use our original tickets.

Instead flight after flight left from Koh Samui without us. The communication between Emirates and the airport staff was horrible. When one part had solved a problem the other part made a new one up and the other way around. It was so frustrating to witness. On top of it all we had two very hot, very hungry, very tired and very bored children on our hands.

‘JUST GET US SOME RICE!’

At one point, as we had been in the non-airconditioned check-in area for around 5 hours Josh lost it so much that he yelled at the staff to bring us some food. ‘ANY FOOD!’ They could at least bring us some bloody rice – because everyone knows that every Thai is never more than an arms lenght away from some freshly boiled rice. It was almost tragicomic.

Then it all started happening. Emirates finally found a flight they could get us on (then they forgot to put Billie on my ticket, so we almost missed our ‘new’ flight), our payment went through in the system, we got checked-in, we literally ran to our gate, and not long after we were in the air. On our way back to Bangkok. Pretty much at the same time as our original flight landed in Sydney, we checked in at the Novotel Hotel Suvarnabhumi – exactly 12 hours after we checked out from our hotel in Koh Samui.

It was a very long day.

At least we got upgraded to a suite. Never have I slept so good in a hotel bed. And despite all the drama, I can’t wait to go traveling with my little family again.

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