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    Thai kwon do

    Friday, November 2nd, 2007

    or how to pry an airline ticket from the cold, unwilling hands of Thai airways

    We decided that for once we were going to be organised and responsible and plan things well ahead.
    So, at the middle of October we made a day to day plan of the rest of our trip in India and Nepal and began searching for a shipping agent for the bike and cheap plane tickets for ourselves.
    The tentative departure date from Kathmandu was between the 3rd and the 7th of December and we figured that we had a pretty good chance of finding a really good deal with the plane tickets.
    A quick search on the usual websites pointed us in the direction of Thai with the next candidates being Nepal Air and the Indian low-cost airlines.

    The first surprise came when we browsed the Thai website, the ktm-bkk flight were fully booked for this period. We only managed to find some business class seats on the 7th of December. Still, these were pretty good value at about 550Eur for both of us.
    When I made the reservation a little note warned me that I can’t pay over the internet and I must purchase the tickets in the next 72 hours from the Thai office in Kathmandu.

    Surely this must be a mistake, I thought, why have e-booking if you must purchase the tickets at the office in Kathmandu. Luckily, the site advised me that all complaints that I might have will be promptly solved by the 24/7 Thai call-center.

    I’ve recharged my airtel pre-paid card and I called Thai call-center. After only 15 minutes of contemporary thai rock music, a very helpful operator confirmed that I must pay personally at the Kathmandu office. Couldn’t I pay over the phone, I asked?
    After another 10 minutes the nice man said yes, if I just give him my CC number he will charge the tickets to my card. At this point I made a serious mistake, I decided to wait for another day to check the price for the low-cost carriers so I just said that I will call back.
    The next day, after deciding that Thai was the best option (and again recharging the phone card) I called back. By now I knew the drill, I listened to the nice thai music, I explained my problem to the operator and prepared to give him my CC number. At that moment things stopped going as planned as he said that I can’t pay over the phone, I assured him that I already checked with his colleague and everything was ok but he would not budge (still he let me listen to the soothing thai music for another 10 minutes while he triple-checked). By now the booking had expired so I just gave up for the moment.

    Next morning I found two business class seats for the 9th of December so I called Thai again (of course after paying Airtel for another recharge). Again no luck with the payment.
    So I called the Thai office in Delhi, would they be willing to take my money ?
    They would, if I came personally to their office, since their payment system required my signature. While Delhi was closer than Kathmandu it was still some 1000km away…
    After another call to the call-center there seemed to be an easier solution. I should contact an IATA agent and pay through them. I tried a local agent, they could not make the payment but they could book another seats with Thai for the handsomely price of 2000Euro.
    By now the second booking had expired and I was beginning to suspect that the smile Thai Airways was supposed to wear was at the expense of their clients.

    It was time for plan B, namely Jet Airways. Things were much simpler with them, they had free seats, we could pay easily and they were just 20% more expensive than Thai. The only fly in the ointment was the 17 hours stopover in Calcutta. Before making the payment to Jet I took another look at the Thai website and I saw they had 2 free economy seats on the 4th of December. This was too good to pass…

    I started again, another booking, another phone recharge, another call to Thai… the best solution they had, was for me to go to Delhi and buy the tickets there.

    While trying to find a suitable train to Delhi I had a most inspired idea. What if I called a more worldly Thai office, let’s say London or New York ?

    I decided it was worth trying so I called the ticketing department of Thai in London. I told them that I had a booking and I would require an e-ticket. Sure, they said what route ? KTM to BKK. They checked my reservation number and asked for my location. India, I said as if stating a self-evident fact. Would I be so kind as to provide them with my CC number ? Of course I would. Great, they said, the transaction went through perfectly, they will e-mail me my tickets immediately. Jolly good, I said.

    So that was that, after all the bookings and call-center calls and unproductive swearing the solution was just so simple.
    Always pay your Kathmandu to Bangkok tickets through the London office.