Saturday, November 24, 2007


Sometime in November 1993, I booked a 6/7 day tour to China for the 2nd week of December for D2 and myself. The travel agency, let me just call it ABC, had been in the business for some years.
Although, the agency was not among the well-established ones, it was not new and I've heard
of them...their prices quite competitive. So I decided to give them a try even though I know quite a number of the more reliable agencies. I also have friends and contacts in that industry.
A few days before the departure date of our trip, our passports were handed over to their
agent for the necessary documentation and safekeeping. We were informed that our passports and the air tickets will be given to us at check-in time. We were told that it was a group tour. When I asked how large the group was ....they were uncertain, maybe 18 or 20 plus people.
[ This should have been read as a reasonable forewarning...and I did feel uncomfortable with that answer given]. Why?
They should have confirmed and finalised the total number in the group since it was only a few days before departure. Still there was no clear indication of any need to be alarmed then.
On Friday, a day before our trip, we received a phone call to remind us to be punctual for the checking-in at Changi Terminal. We were to meet the rest of the group by 8.00 pm at the
check-in counter of XYZ airline.
Saturday...night plane departure around 10:20 pm
We made all the necessary arrangements before locking up our home. Our immediate neighbours, a nice nuclear family, bade us farewell. My neighbours' father whom I respectfully refer to as "Apek" owing to his age ( late 70's ), had a short chat with us....about visiting China. He was an affable and most amiable old man.... bidding us to take good care as we pulled our luggage along.
The time was about 7:00 pm when we caught a passing cab for the airport. It only took about 30 minutes. We were early or so we thought! The meeting-up was scheduled at 8 :00 pm at the XYZ check-in counter. We proceeded straight to that counter. There seemed to be no queue at all. In fact, not a soul was at the counter save the XYZ staff manning their computers.
Perplexed, I asked the front staff about the scheduled flight that was given to us.
They confirmed that, that particular flight had taken off earlier and there was no such flight at the 10:20 time stated. I asked to see their passenger list wondering if our names were on it.
They denied me the request saying it was confidential.
All this while we were there, not a single representative from our booking agency ABC, was present! Unbelievable! Absurd!
We were at a total loss for information! Any information would have helped in some ways.
There we were, all ready and packed to board a plane for what would be our very 1st trip to China. And yet the airline staff were shaking their heads in disbelief that such a situation had arisen....and they wouldn't even let me have a mere look at their list.
We were in the dark. We were in a quandry. We were boiling MAD and FURIOUS.
Where were our passports? Who was holding them? Did they take them to China on the flight??
Those were some of my fears.
I told D2....whatever the outcome, to let me handle them from then onwards.
I called the ABC's travel staff who was the only person liaising with us.
Me: "Ms____, I'm Mr Yip. Where are you right now? "
She: " Hi Mr Yip. I'm at home. "
Me: "Do you know what is happening here? "
She: " No! Is there a problem? "
Me: "My Mrs and me are on time at check-in. No one from your agency is here. The others in
the group are not here. The XYZ airline staff told us that flight had taken off earlier.
There is no such flight at 10:20pm.
What on earth is happening?
She: " WHAT! No one from the other 2 agencies have met with you? "
Me : " What other agencies are you talking about? We only booked and dealt with ABC.
I have no idea what you are talking about.
And where are our passports right now? "
She: " My Goodness! I am sorry for this mess you are in. Mr Yip, please stay put.
I will come down to see you now."
When she came, she quickly explained the fiasco. Apparently they, ABC agency wasn't the conducting agency for this group tour. Their role was merely to channel clients to this GOONDOO company, together with another 2 other agencies. And the GOONDOO agency staff were in charge of co-ordinating everything.
We had no way to check the truth of the matter. Anyway, how they divided their roles or responsibility, had nothing to do with why we were left behind like BIG FOOLS while the others
were properly briefed and departed without problems.
This lady felt very sorry for us.
But she claimed she was in the dark too!
However, she told us she will be in touch with us later that night.
As she was driving, we loaded our luggage in, and she drove us home.
When we unloaded our things, my dear neighbour"Apek" saw us, and could not believe his eyes.
He said," Wah come back from China so fast already huh ?" It was less than 3 hours since we spoke with him!

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