Saturday, November 05, 2011

Ghana: Day 1 - "Ticket Revoked?"

Portland Airport, 1pm. Boarding scheduled for 1:55 for a 2:20pm departure.

"Joshua, here are your boarding passes, and here are your checked luggage receipts."

The check-in agent then gets a look that I've nicknamed "hereitcomesnowbraceyourself!"

"Ma'am, your ticket shows as having been revoked."

Me: "No, it is confirmed, we are going to Ghana, and that's the only available option, thank you."

Kyle S, United Agent: "Actually, ma'am, it has been revoked. Our system shows this ticket as having been revoked for credit card fraud."

Me: "Clearly, this is a mistake. The flight was purchased, the charge appeared on the credit card and has been paid in full."

Kyle S, United Agent: "Ma'am, the reservation is here, but the e-ticket itself has been flagged for fraud and we can not proceed with your check-in process unless another ticket is purchased."

Me: "So, let me get this straight. I am Canadian, and as such, when it came time to pay United nearly $3000 for his ticket and mine, you would not accept a Canadian credit card, even though you accept Canadian passengers.... so you forced us to have an American citizen purchase the tickets on our behalf... an American traveller who is also paying $1500 to fly on United today, with us, and then you accuse us of fraud?"

Kyle S, United Agent: "I can understand your frustration."

Me: "And I understand that you'll be doing everything to rectify this situation, because we are going to Ghana, that's the only option."

They suggested we call Tia to have her call her card company, as they stated the problem was on the credit card company's end, not on United's end.

I looked at him and said... "Go ahead and call her."

Kyle S, United Agent: "Ma'am, we can't do that directly from here."

Joshua, who has been watching this unfold, turns to me and hangs his head. "Mom, this should have happened to my ticket, not yours -- you need to go to Ghana, you can't miss this."

Me: "Joshua, we will be going to Ghana. Period. There is no other option."

Me: "Sir, I can not call her, but you can, and you will."

Kyle S, United Agent, pulls out his personal cell phone and slides it across the counter. I call Tia, long distance, and explain the situation. She's floored. Not only did the charge go through on her credit card, but she paid it off completely. Kyle advises me to tell her to call her credit card company. She does not have her credit card on her, as we were advised not to travel with credit cards. She's going to try anyway.

Tia to me: "How do I call you back?"

I look at Kyle questioningly and asked what number she needs to call back on. He looks at the United phone and knows that he is not permitted to disclose that number. Having worked at an airline, I understand, but being on this end of the dilemma, I'm expecting a solution from him.

He writes his cell phone number on a piece of paper and passes it to me.

I give it to Tia, hang up, and hang my head down into my folded hands, leaning against the counter, and I begin to pray. It went something like this: "Father, the enemy's being ridiculous. Creative, but ridiculous. We know he has no power over you... let's remind him, ok?"

Joshua is getting a bit concerned and goes to sit against the wall near the check in desk with my laptop to keep himself distracted.

Tia calls back, and explains that the credit card company told her that there was no issue on her credit card, the charge went through, was paid, and there was no fraud flagged on her account. They said the error appears to be on United's end because all is well according to what they can see.


I relay this information to Kyle, who then brings in his supervisor, Jen D. I explain, calmly and kindly, that we can not be expected to cough up $1400 out of thin air when we have already paid this money in full. They said "Well, actually, you would have to pay whatever the current price is, as this price is no longer valid. The current price states closer to $3000."

I shook my head, closed my eyes and tried to envision having to turn around and drive back home empty handed, and I looked at Kyle and Jen and said "No, absolutely not. I just can not accept that. I understand that this issue was not your fault, but as a company, United must make it right. You can't do this to a customer, it's just not right."

I explained where we were going, and why, and how much effort and prayer had been invested, and that whatever they had to do to solve this problem, it had to be done.

We had two options.

1. Find a Canadian willing to call United to purchase the ticket over the phone, since Kyle and Jen weren't sure that they could process a Canadian card directly at their counter.
2. Have an American contact Kyle's cell phone and attempt to pay for it over the phone.

United issued an order for a refund on October 3rd and it hadn't yet appeared on Tia's credit card. Uhm, wow.


Tia decided to call her boyfriend, Stephen, and ask if this is something he could take care of... fully knowing he'd be getting to the bottom of this with United and getting the refund straightened out. There's just something about him finding out someone has caused issues for Tia that makes him turn into even more of an awesome guy :D

We tried that option, Stephen called, but it didn't work.


As he was trying to contact someone else to work it out, I grabbed the phone on the counter, called my mom's cell directly, and said "Mom, long story, but can you buy me a ticket to Ghana with you credit card over the phone, I'll explain later." Or something. Can't quite remember what I said, but I was looking at my watch as I said it, knowing we still had to process our checked-in luggage, go through security, and proceed to the furthest gate in the airport (of course!).

She gave them her credit card number, and somehow, by the grace and mercy of God, it accepted it without issues.

By then, Kyle had left to go to the gate to start the boarding process. He left his cell phone with Jen in case we still needed it. He had put tags on two of our pieces of checked in luggage, but not the third, since we didn't know for sure whether or not we'd both be boarding. Well, HE didn't know for sure. I can't say I felt the same way. There was only one option -- it's that simple.

Jen issued our boarding passes, only to realize that our luggage hadn't been put through security. She called over the luggage guy, and had him personally take care of getting our luggage through and brought directly to the plane... by hand.


I took Jen's name and asked her for Kyle's name, and thanked her for not taking the typical approach to "customer service" which usually translates to "Oh well, not my problem." I told her that I was impressed at how well she handled the situation, given the frustration level involved, and the pressure of having this done in time.

She stopped me and said "Actually, thank you, you handled this very well and you were very polite through this entire situation, I wish all passengers were as patient and polite when problems occur!"

I smiled and said "I can't profess to be a Christian and treat someone with anything less than respect and gratitude. You handled this beautifully, and we truly appreciate it. We will be writing a customer service letter for both of you... the GOOD kind of letter!"

We ran to security, nearly stripping down to next-to-nothing to ensure there were no extra beeps, whistles or alarms to slow us down, and then put ourselves back together and ran like mad to Gate 1, which couldn't possibly be further away from security! Who was there to greet us, Kyle S, the "S" is for Super Agent...

"Kyle! Fancy meeting you here!"

As we boarded the plane, Jen took our carry-on luggage, and I handed her a $20 to give to Kyle for any cell phone charges he may have occurred.

Jen: "Have a great flight!"

Us: "That's the only option!"


Washington, Dulles airport... we walk off the plane and into the terminal, and Tia is waiting there for us with the news that something's come up with Debra's flight, and it will be delayed by several hours. She may not be able to make the connection in Dulles unless God intervenes. Will you pray?

(United Problems Continue, Part#2)

Comic Relief:

Flight attendant on Tia's flight:

"We will proceed shortly with our in-flight safety instructions. Please pay attention to these important instructions. I know it's not the most exciting show ever, but you did pay a lot of money to see it!"

Male flight attendant on our flight:

Walking up to a toddler seated comfortably and sucking her thumb, he said in his most enjoyable Jamaican accent: "Miss, that looks mighty good, what flavor is it? I had one as a child, and it tasted like cherry. Does yours taste like cherry?" He then proceeded to ask if he could have some of her candy, and when she nodded, he took one orange flavored piece and stuck it to his thumb, then put his thumb in his mouth and said "Now, it is orange flavored, see? Awesome."

Had us all cheering him!

We don't know that we will be able to connect to the internet in Ghana, but we have several posts pre-scheduled. You can also look for updates on Facebook (Like "Child Slave Rescue Mission").

Thank you for your continued prayers!