Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stranded in Cape Town

After a wonderful 3+ weeks in Cape Town, Talya & I were ready to go home. It was time to get back to the routine of ‘reality’ that would begin on Tuesday morning. We arrived at Cape Town’s airport on Monday afternoon two hours before our flight was scheduled to depart for Johannesburg. At the baggage check-in, the lady behind the counter innocently said, “I don’t see you on this flight.” Confused, I pointed to the e-ticket and said, “But we’re right there, surely there’s a mistake.” After asking for some help, the lady sent us to the British Airways (BA) desk to find out exactly what was happening.

This stuff happens. I wasn’t too worried. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since coming to Israel is that you stay calm when these situations arise and try and turn them in your favor – and this is where I diverge from the ‘standard’ Israeli way as I’m not that good at the screaming and yelling part.

We approached the agent at the BA desk and explained what had happened. He started bringing up the data and within a few minutes, a lady had joined to help him out. Struggling to figure out why we were not showing up on the flight, the agent called El Al’s Jo’burg desk to see if they could assist in the matter. While the two were chatting, the supervisor (or at least I thought she was as she had her own room on the side) came in. She looked at the screen and said, “You were supposed to be on the AM flight leaving Cape Town.” “How is that possible if El Al’s flight from Joburg to Tel Aviv is leaving at 8:55pm?” I asked. “That flight left before noon too sir,” she said.

Talya and I looked at each other; we were both caught completely off guard. “Can I speak to the El Al agent please?” I asked the BA agent and he passed me the phone. So this is the story. In December, two months after we’d purchased the tickets, El Al changed the time of the flight. Our travel agent unfortunately forgot to pass this information on to us. What was even more annoying was that when we confirmed the flight with BA on Friday – they never warned us about this either! The balagan (Hebrew for mess) could have been avoided.

Talya & I weren’t too happy about this, but what could we do? We were now stuck without a ticket and the next El Al flight to Tel Aviv was only leaving Thursday (ironically enough, around the same time our flight was supposed to have left at). I asked the El Al agent to please help us and get us on that flight and then called my Nonna. “No,” she exclaimed, “But you confirmed!” I explained it to her briefly and within two hours, we were all back at Nonna’s flat in Sea Point. We had mentally prepared ourselves to leave, so it was odd to be ‘back.’ The next day, the aforementioned El Al agent called back, “We’ve confirmed you on the El Al flight on Thursday and because this was not your fault, there will be no extra fees for you to pay.”

Oddly enough, I don’t think I got angry during the entire episode. I guess there was no point in getting angry – Nothing we could do could change what had happened. The fact that we were getting such excellent service from the BA & El Al agents also helped I'm sure. If they were being well mannered and helpful, surely we could also return the favor. These things happen and despite the few negatives, there are quite a few positives due to this balagan – more time with Nonna and Sea Point.

גם זה לטובה … This is also for the better ...

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