“C” is for Cancelled

Dear Ctrip,

Thanks to you I won’t be seeing China. It started back in the winter. You changed my departure date for Guangzhou, from where I couldn’t wait to fly to Bali. Maybe you sensed how fed up I was with your country and decided to derail my plans a little bit. Since you generated the change, you didn’t charge me any extra fee, so I let that incident slide.

Now, months later and after much soul-searching, I made peace with the fact that it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of sacrilegious to leave your country without seeing some places. The Great Wall was a great contender, top of the list, until I saw your prices and, considering what I’d heard about the crowds in Beijing, relegated that trip to “later in life”.  You don’t need to be in China to see the thing anyway; you can see it from the moon! And if I don’t make it to China again, there’s always the moon. One is as good a stand-in for the other.

So, with a list narrowed down to Yunnan province  – for its famed cultural diversity, and Xi’an – for its famed Terracotta Army, I made my bookings way in advance. For some reason you save your dirt-cheap prices for buyers 55 years and older, a demographic that likes to stay home if you ask me, but I didn’t argue that point. I bought your decently priced tickets for Wenzhou-Xi’an and Xi’an-Kunming, leaving the last part, Kunming-out of China, up to the gods of land travel.

All was quiet until you started with your flight cancelling disease again.

First you cancelled my Xi’a-Kunming flight and told me I wouldn’t see my refund for another thirty days since I had made the apparently-earth-shattering choice of using my foreign-issued credit card – a choice you happily make available to your customers without making them aware of this little detail. I said fine and still searched for rebooking options. The more I looked, however, the more a pain it became with the new dates and prices, so I gave that up. No Chinese diversity for me, I said, and settled for touring just Xi’an instead. I booked a flight from Xi’an to Guangzhou – destination of the minor booking hiccup of last winter – intending to exit China from Guagnzhou.

I consoled myself with looking up Xi’an on wikitravel and elsewhere online, and was happy to see that some likened coming go China and not seeing the Terracotta Army to going to Egypt and not seeing the Pyramids. Whew! I said, good thing I won’t be one of the ignorant masses. That is, Ctrip, until you sent me the next ominous SMS, saying there has been a change with my Wenzhou-Xi’an booking, and I need to call you right away. So I did, immediately. Surprise, surprise, “the airline” has cancelled that flight, would I like to choose a different date at no cost? Now I was starting to steam, but I stayed friendly and, after reviewing my options, picked a flight at the crack of dawn the same day. Oh but no, I can’t just book that flight and receive the price difference (since that flight was actually cheaper) because – there it is again – I used a foreign-issued credit card. I will have to buy that new ticket outright while they cancel the former one and start the 30-day process of refunding my credit card. Are you kidding me? And supposing, since you are obviously in the habit, you cancel that flight too? What am I? A bottomless well of credit? (Well, in a way, yes. But that’s getting off the point).

You know what, said I, my voice quivering with a slight attitude, I don’t want to book a new Wenzhou-Xi’an flight, just process my refund already. And while we’re at it, since I won’t be going to Xi’an anymore, change my Xi-an – Guangzhou flight to depart from Wenzhou instead.

Oh Ctrip Ctrip, that’s when you pulled out your show-stopper. Sure, said you, we can make that change, but you can only change that ticket seven days before the departure date and the new date has to be seven days after the original departure date. Bless her soul, at this point the operator herself couldn’t suppress a comradely chuckle. Basically, said she in her softly accented but flawless English, you can’t change this ticket. My options were either I buy myself into another corner with a new Wenzhou-Xi’an ticket, or cancel my Xi’an-Guangzhou ticket and lose 80% of the price to you, my darling Ctrip. I almost threw in the towel and did exactly that…until I realized I could play this game too. Chances are you’re going to get twitchy again and cancel the Xi’an-Guangzhou flight too, in which case 100% of the cost will come back to…you guessed it, moi! So I’m going to sit tight and bide my time, not to overuse my store of idioms, and wait for you to shoot yourself in the foot once again. And while I’m at it, stop sending me SMS nudges to re-book the very same flights you snatched from me for now cheaper prices.

I’m sorry China, I tried. With limited time on hand and Thailand waiting in the wings, you lose out. Here’s to better customer service on the moon. Peace!

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