Eastern Hemisphere, Travel

comedy of errors trying to leave Phnom Penh

The priority for November 10 was getting Beth safely to the airport on time for her flight to return to the US. I slapped together some travel arrangements at the last minute to go to Siem Reap so I could at least do a quick tour of Angkor Wat before returning. Getting on my flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was one of the most bizarre “comedy of errors” type stories I have.

I booked my ticket using online service Orbitz, for a flight on a tiny airline called Cambodia Angkor Air. The email confirmation I received said on it “this isn’t an e-ticket, and you’ll get your e-ticket by e-mail shortly.” Well, I never saw that second email, but had no other indication something was wrong until I went to check in for the flight. The flight was scheduled to depart at 1:00pm, and since it’s such a tiny operation the check-in desk doesn’t even open until noon.

When I went to check in, they said there’s a record of my name in the system but my ticket isn’t confirmed. I didn’t know what that meant, since Orbitz had already taken my money for the ticket. The airline agent said to sort it out with the company where I bought the ticket. So I spent 30 minutes on the phone with them (mostly on hold) before they finally admitted there’s nothing they can do to fix the problem. They didn’t know why the purchase processed fine on their side, but wasn’t accepted by the airline.

Orbitz apologized, canceled my order, refunded my money, and told me I’d have to buy a ticket directly from the airline. OK. So I went back to the counter. Now it’s about 12:40.

“Sure, you can buy a ticket from us. That will be $136. And we take cash only.”

“Uh, OK, but I don’t carry that much cash on me. Where is an ATM?”

I learned that the only ATMs in the airport (three of them, side by side) are in the other terminal, not this one. Oh, and there is a massive construction project between the two terminals. So to get from one to the other you walk outside to the parking lot, down the road, and then back in. The first time I tried to get there, I took a wrong turn and ended up in the construction zone, where some guys in hard hats yelled at me. Then I took another wrong turn and got to the domestic departure security; that clearly wasn’t the way. Finally I found the right path through the construction zone to the ATM.

I got a couple hundred bucks from the cash machine and hoofed it back to the other terminal to buy my ticket. At this point it’s now 12:55pm. The gate agent already had my bag checked and my ticket printed, so I handed over the cash.

“Hurry, everyone else is already on board the plane,” he told me. So I went to the escalator. Oops! Wrong place. This is international departures, only. The security guard pointed me back to the construction zone for domestic departures.

So I hurried back across to the other terminal, get to security, and I’m the only one. “Why you so late? Everyone else already on plane!” exclaimed the security screening officer. Do you want me to explain, or do you want me to hurry onto the plane?

I set off every security buzzer possible, since in my frazzled mental state I forgot to take my cell phone out of my pocket, and forgot to take my earbuds out of the other pocket, and forgot to dump out my bottle of water, etc. They eventually just waved me though, where I rushed to the gate. The gate agent was standing there waiting for me as well. “Why you so late? Everyone else already on plane!” asked this guy as well.

I tried to explain that his airline canceled my ticket after I paid for it, but there was no time to explain the part about “oh, and some asshole designed the airport so there are no ATMs in this terminal, oh and some other asshole at your company decided to not accept credit cards, oh and some other asshole at your company decided to not allow me to even attempt to check in until 60 minutes before the flight, oh and some asshole at Orbitz put me on hold for half of that one hour, oh and some other asshole put a construction zone in between the terminals without any signs how to get from one to the other.” Writing this, I feel like I sound like a whiny bitch. Any one of these things would have been surmountable, but it was just one thing after another after another that morning.

As soon as I stepped over the threshold into the aircraft, the closed and sealed the door behind me. They started the safety briefing before I even sat down. But at least I made the flight. Sorry, other tourists, for almost making your flight late!

I looked at my phone after I buckled myself in and it was exactly 1:00pm. But I haven’t had time to grab any lunch, and I don’t have anything to drink because security confiscated my water, and I really need to pee because I’ve been dealing with Orbitz instead of going to the bathroom before the flight.

Lesson for self: Orbitz sucks if anything goes wrong with your purchase.