Buying a ticket shouldn’t be this hard


I’ve been working lately on cobbling together a rather ridiculous series of flights for our winter vacation this year. The plan is mostly South Asia, focusing on the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka, plus a quick stop in Bangkok on the way home. At least that’s the theory.

Initially I booked the trip using points for award travel round-trip between New York City and India. Since then the itinerary has morphed a bit so I’ll be changing things up (thank goodness for free award changes as an elite!) but I actually need to get a couple of the tickets purchased in order to make those changes, just in case. And it is proving incredibly difficult to buy at least one of the tickets.

If you had asked me a month ago, before I started all of this, I would have bet that the ticket on Sri Lankan would have been the hard one to acquire. I would have lost that bet. The transaction with them was smooth as could be, handled fully online and it was only a couple days later that American Express called to make sure that I really was buying a couple one way flights from Colombo to Bangkok in early January. It wasn’t even a big enough risk for them to call immediately.

Buying the flight from Bangkok to JFK on EgyptAir, however, is proving to be a ridiculous mess. I started with their website which looks pretty slick, at least for the flight selection search bits. It showed the fare I had seen otherwise online (about $150 less for each ticket than any other channel) and I went through the long process of entering in all our personal data to book the flight. At the final payment screen, however, the transaction was denied. Repeatedly.

My first call was to Visa to make sure my card was OK. It wasn’t, but they cleared that up. Waiting two hours didn’t help; still denied. Another 24 hours later and still denied. Even more strange, however, was that the credit card company didn’t even show the most recent transactions. It is as if EgyptAir never even tried to authorize the card; they just rejected the transaction. It took a couple calls but eventually I got in touch with someone in the EgyptAir ticketing office in New York to try to process the transaction. The first agent saw the reservation and the price I was quoted online. She transferred me to another agent to handle the transaction who promptly informed me that the fare was $300 higher. Ugggh.

So long as I was not going to get the discounted fare I figured I’d try to get some other value for the transaction. American Express offers bonus Membership Rewards points for travel booked through their portal so why not give that a go, right? Apparently their system is not robust enough to handle selling a one-way ticket in business class from Bangkok to New York City:

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That’s is simply ludicrous, especially considering that probably a dozen airlines or more offer service on that route with a single connection.

And so I’m essentially left with a bevy of third party online travel agencies through which I can try to book the flight, but now I’m faced with wading through their differing fares and service fees to find the right price. Plus I’m stuck with dealing with one of them for service going forward rather than dealing with the airline directly. What a mess.

It shouldn’t be this complicated to spend money on a plane ticket.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

3 Comments

  1. Just flew Egypt Air BKK-CAI-JFK last month, good price value for their hard product, but nepotism is rife, flight usually delayed and service abysmal if you are not a direct relative of the cabin staff or pilot… on both flights, even if the cabin was empty, all remaining seats were filled with ‘friends’ from economy… Menu did not change between flights either….

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