Back at the end of June I found a great price for two direct, round trip tickets to the Philippines over Singapore's National Day holiday on August 9. Kyle was in the US at the time, so there was a flurry of trans-Pacific emailing about whether or not we should take off a few days and spend some time exploring a new Southeast Asian country. I've been researching the Philippines for a while now, so we definitely wanted to go, but we needed to make sure that the trip would work with both of our work schedules.
Turns out the timing was good. Kyle would have Tuesday off. For just 2 vacation days (for him) we could spend Friday night through Wednesday in the Philippines. I was at a good spot in my schedule as well, so on June 30, I bought the tickets direct from Singapore to Cebu on AirPhil Express.
On Monday, August 1--before we were supposed to leave on Friday--I realized that we had a problem.
9:22 am, Monday morning
I just checked this flight to get the exact cost (so I could put it in our spreadsheet) and it's now showing a flight over-nighting in Manila. AUGH. I'm calling now.
Our nice little direct flight? Now replaced with a seven hour layover in Manila in the middle of the night. And no one told us anything. So I start calling AirPhil Express. And keep calling. And keep calling. Sometimes I get cut off. Sometimes the automatic menu won't work. But most of the time it just rings and rings. Finally at 1:30 I talk to someone.
1:30 pm, Monday afternoon
I got someone! She said they'll give me a full refund. And they are "honoring" the flight in that they'll get us to Cebu, just not direct. She was very polite and apologized and looked for other flights for me, but no explanation.
I got off the phone without accepting the refund, because we still wanted to go. And as annoyed as we were that they hadn't told us about the schedule change, at least we still had a flight.
I quit worrying about the flight at that point to get some work done. Monday night, we looked at our options and decided we wanted to keep part of the AirPhil Express flight, but catch at Cebu Pacific flight that would leave Manila earlier. Yes, we'd be flying all night, but at least we wouldn't be stranded in the Manila airport for hours and hours.
On Tuesday morning I start trying AirPhil Express again. After just a handful of tries, I get through.
9:38 am, Tuesday morning
Ok, I just got through to AirPhil and she told me the spiel about the flight being canceled, so you're on the Manila flight, blah blah blah, BUT THEN... oh by the way, you don't have a ticket. Because there was a problem with your issuing bank and your ticket was voided on July 1.
So on Tuesday, before we were supposed to leave on Friday, we had no ticket at all. Room reservations, yes. Flight, no.
In the Philippines there is a national sense of fatalism--bahala na, a phrase that (according to my guidebook) expresses the idea that all things shall pass and in the meantime life is to be lived. Whatever happens... so be it.
After much frustration and prayer, we decided to embrace that spirit. We dumped the whole AirPhil Express experience, booked new (and valid) tickets on Cebu Pacific, and called it a day. We'd fly through Manila overnight, but arrive in Dumaguete, the provincial capital we actually wanted to go to, and bypass the 4-hour ferry I'd planned from Cebu.
You know, if everything went according to plan.