GETTING CAUGHT OUT
I have flown a fair number of times now. I have flown to different countries in far off corners of the world. I have flown in large Airbus A380s and the much smaller Pilatus PC12. If I go by questionnaires on the internet, I could even call myself a seasoned traveller. I have flown enough times to have practised the basics to the point I can concentrate on details, like to avoid getting stuck behind families and old people at the x-ray machines, or which corners of the airport are likely have a power socket I can use to charge my phone. I know I like to sit in the back row of the cabin in a centre-aisle seat and that booking a gluten free meal means I get my food before anyone else. Yes. I’m one of those.
However I still get caught out.
Over the weekend, I flew home to my beloved New Zealand. It was a four day visit with a drive to Mt Maunganui to hang with some good friends, and then north to Mangawhai Heads to see family. Despite it pouring almost the entire time, with breaks in the weather only long enough to take a few photos, I had a relaxing, fulfilling time, as I generally do when I head home.
I’ve made this trip a dozen times during the last two years while living in Sydney. I generally buy cheap tickets when there are flight specials, fly over on Friday afternoon, and back a few days later. I’ve done this so many times, I’ve grown complacent. I have even come close to leaving my passport behind a couple of times.
At the end of the weekend, I thought I would pick up a few things I have left lying around my parents place. I wanted my bivvy bag for some road trips I’m planning later in the year along the Great Ocean Road, Fraser Island and maybe up further up the coast. That fit easily into my pack. I picked up a longboard as well, the skateboard kind. That, of course, did not fit in my pack.
Because I’m so bloody brilliant, I checked the Air New Zealand website and found skateboards cannot be taken as carry-on and will need to be checked in. I read through stories of skaters having boards confiscated at security.
“AHA!! You won’t catch me out!” I cried in triumph followed by maniacal laughter, having found the only possible obstacle in my perfect plan to bring my toys back to Sydney. I wrapped my longboard in bubble-wrap, cardboard, and made sure it was labelled with my name and contact details. And thus, having said goodbye to my parents and not-so-baby sister, I left for the airport.
I dropped off my rental car and wandered into the airport; package under my arm. I scanned my passport at the check-in kiosk, and opted to add an extra bag. I was then struck by lightning, had a minor heart attack, then my brain melted and dribbled out of my ears.
$345.00. Three hundred and forty five New Zealand dollars. Of course. Seat-only fare. What an idiot.
“Fuck that for a game of soldiers” I thought, my brain having been knocked back into the 1950s. “I’ll just upgrade the fare or purchase an additional bag on the website. You can’t stop me!” More maniacal laughter.
Turns out they could stop me by banding together and ensuring all mention of my booking reference would divert to a nice message asking me to call them at their contact centre. I called, then waited. I was patient and I held. Then I was out of time.
With the clock ticking down and my check-in window closing, I checked my options:
- Dump it. That’s a good plan. Dump a large, cardboard box, displaying my name and contact details, in an International Airport. What could possibly go wrong? I’ve never been arrested by the bomb squad before.
- Go to the front desk, push to the front of the queue and yell and scream at them. Maybe that would work. Maybe it wouldn’t. Not really my style.
- Suck it up and pay the cost, which I was rapidly realising was simply an idiot tax. The board would cost a similar amount to replace.
Things I didn’t think of:
- Leave it at the info desk and ask someone to come and collect it. This might have been a good solution, if I had thought of it at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.
- Gift it to some kid sitting around the airport. Maybe I could have, but do I look like Santa? Hah. No.
So in the end I sucked it up and paid it. I now have my longboard with me in Sydney, which is great. I have learned a lesson, which is also just wonderful (sarcasm). From now on I will always remember to check what fare I’m travelling on. I should probably add the word ‘try’ into that sentence somewhere.
At the moment, I am waiting on Air New Zealand to get back to my email, during which I explained briefly that I was stupid and therefore could they please help me. I hope they will be kind and refund this back to the cost up upgrading my seat, but I accept they are under no obligation to do so, other than to be nice. I will be sure to update this post if they do. I will even sing their praises and reward them with my continued business. To be honest I wouldn’t stop flying with them if they said no, but I want it to sound like a win/win.
Anyway, these things happen even to those of us who think they’re hot shit. At least my friends have all gotten a kick out of it. Bastards.