Life in TucsonToday I Learn

Hunting for a cheap ticket: Another drama.

I want to share my experience hunting for a “cheap ticket”. It was another drama. Well, my life is full of drama! 🙈😅

As I’ve said in my other post, I’m going to Manila for a conference at the end of next Month. I’ve been hunting for a cheap roundtrip ticket since I received the approval notification from my scholarship. The problem is that it uses reimbursement system and the most they can cover is IDR 15million, which right now equals to around USD $1100. This fee is for roundtrip ticket, conference registration fee, and 3day2night stay at the hotel. The rest? I’ve got to pay everything by myself. I’m okay with this. I want to present in the conference after all. However, I don’t want to spend an extra for things that are supposed to be covered by my scholarship. I.e. if the flight is more than $1100, it means that I have to pay for the registration fee as well as hotel by myself. I don’t want that. The registration fee is $100. The hotel, well, I pick up the cheapest but nearest ones, it’s about $30/night. I stay more than 3day2night, of course, because I anticipate the jetlag and I want to go around Manila a little. It means, I have to pay for the extra days n nights by myself. I can’t stay for long though, because my scholarship only allows me to stay D-2 and D+2 the conference.

Thus, I tried my best just so the total I spend on flight+registration fee+hotel won’t be more than $1100. And this was not easy because every time I browsed, the flight was around $1000. I tried to browse the ticket for Los Angeles-Manila instead of Tucson-Manila, because usually it was cheaper that way, but it was still expensive, and if I did that, I would have to pay the expense for my Tucson-Los Angeles trip, and this was not cheap. Gosh, not sure if I am poor or simply stingy that I have to have lots of concerns about this.

But, well, a friend suggested that if I want to browse the flight tickets, it’s better to use private window or incognito mode just so they won’t keep track of our searches and thus we can get cheaper prices. If we use regular window, they’ll know that we’ve been searching for that flight and so it’s going to be more expensive. Well, I did both. It’s still the same: expensive. I tried different sites, too: Google Flights, Skyscanners, Expedia, etc. The results? Expensive. I tried to find out the price from the travel agent that my previous scholarship used, and it was the same, the flight from Tucson to Manila was simply above $1000, which I couldn’t do. I mean, I’ve calculated everything. The registration fee and the hotel cost me around $160, if the most that can be covered is $1100, then the most expensive flight I could afford should be $940. But, well, as I browsed, the cheapest flight was above $1000 😐

So I kept postponing buying the ticket because 1) I needed the money to stay in my account for my bank statement requirement for my UK Visa application and 2) I thought maybe the price was going to decline. Who knows, right?

But well, it’s getting closer to the date but I haven’t secured the ticket yet. At that point, I was worried that the price was going to increase, becoming more expensive. Gosh, I hated that situation. But, well, I couldn’t rest well if things weren’t settled the way it should be. But I’ve sent my UK Visa applicaton so I thought that it’s okay to use the money now. I browsed again. I even asked my friend in another country to browse for me. I thought, maybe, who knows, that the price was going to be cheaper if bought from their place. That way I could just ask them to buy for me and transfer the money to them. Yeah, I know I’m quite bothersome and burdensome. But, well, of course I was wring, i.e. the prices were the same expensive! But, well, my friend, however, told me that usually the ticket price was much lower when bought 6weeks before departure date, on Tuesday, around 3pm. It was Saturday when they told me that and when I was frustrated for the cheap ticket. And 6weeks before the departure was the next Monday. I thought I could wait till Tuesday to browse again and buy the ticket. But right at that time, when I browsed Skyscanner, it showed me a miracle, that a $841 ticket was available through Hop2. I was extremely happy! I thought I didn’t have to wait for Monday, I thought I could compromise as long as it’s below $1000. So I clicked it, went to Hop2 site, but it wasn’t there. Maybe it was already gone. I chatted the bot, asking about it, Hop2 said that Skyscanner was updated daily not hourly so maybe the information I got was outdated and that the ticket I wanted had already been gone. Damn! I wasn’t fast enough. I should’ve been more attentive to the price notifications. At that point, I kept blaming myself.

Then, I browsed using Google. And I found justfly site. I browsed the flight and found a $941 ticket. I was happy. I clicked it, I filled in my Visa card information, but just as I was going to click submit, the price changed above $1100. I was furious! Then I went back to my Skyscaner app, I kept refreshing the page, hoping for a miracle, when there was this ad from a site called cheapfareguru popping up on the page. I guess this is one of those wonders of Google does for keeping track of what I browsed or searched. It can be scary but beneficial at the same time. And guess what? The cheapfareguru site showed a $914 ticket from Tucson to Manila. And I guess I was frustrated and desperate and so I clicked without checking first. I guess I was too happy to find such a cheap ticket so I just bought it, well, at least the price didn’t change till I clicked the submit/agree bottom. However, I didn’t immediately receive the e-ticket and I started to freak out. I received a call, but as usual, I didn’t pick up a call from numbers I didn’t save. I always prefer text. Then I received a text about the ticket purchase, which I didn’t usually receive when I buy a flight ticket. They also sent me another email asking me to confirm some things about my info and the flight info and it was strange because I had written all required info when I purchase the ticket. No such thing had happened when I bought a ticket before.

I wonder why they need another verification process. I’ve confirmed and verified everything during the purchase!

So I was worried that it was a fraud. Come to think of it. I’d never heard of cheapguru site before and so I browsed Google, my love, for “cheapfareguru scam”. And guess what? There were a lot of bad reviews! Almost everyone suggested not to buy the ticket from the site. I was shaking. It was a freaking $914!!! I’d be damned if it was a fraud. So I called Wells Fargo. It was around 9pm MST already, well, they were supposed to be open 24 hours. I called. I explained my situation. (I was scared but I couldn’t cry!). I said that I bought a ticket online using a third party but my ticket hasn’t been issued and I was worried that it was a fraud. And so I was wondering if they could cancel the transaction for me. The Wells Fargo lady was so nice I really wanted to tip and hug her. She said that at that moment the bank could not cancel the transaction that has been posted even though it was posted as pending transaction. However, she explained that if it turned out to be a fraud at the end, that the company through which I bought the ticket didn’t issue my ticket, they would help me and even take over the case to make sure that I get my money back. She was so nice saying that she understood my situation, understood that I must be worried, and assured me that if things go wrong, the bank would definitely help. She also hoped for me to get my ticket. I thanked her again and again. I couldn’t thank her enough. Even though they could not cancel the transaction at that moment, which I understood, they went all the way to put me rest assured, that was all I needed because in reality, I seriously wanted the ticket so I didn’t really want to cancel the transaction and I was still hoping that it wasn’t fraud, that maybe there was just a technical problem, and that they would eventually send me the e-ticket, because they said the ticket would be issued within 5 hours, and at that time it had not been 5 hours, so maybe after 5 hours I’d get the ticket. I don’t know why I could be that hopeful. I guess I was really a pro at consoling or deceiving myself.

And I don’t know why they need to confirm a certain information. They should’ve put it on the purchase page so I can read before agreeing to it!

Meanwhile, the cheapguru team kept contacted me through texts and emails, well, I told them I couldn’t make or take a call, I preferred text and emails, that’s why. Well, if I had been to accept the call, with all negative thoughts I had at that moment, I was afraid my voice wouldn’t be stable and that I would get emotional. I was trying my best to be in control, to get a hold of myself. So we exchanged several texts and emails, the content of which was really weird. First, they told me that the ticket I purchased had long layover both ways and wanted to confirm if I was really okay with that. I be like, “Of course. I knew it before deciding to purchase it!” So I told them that I’d known it and that I was completely okay with it. I don’t know, maybe I liked to think that they were concerned, though it was unusual. I mean, normally, when someone bought a ticket, they pay, the ticket is issued, and done. The rest, well, the buyer should’ve already known since every terms and agreements and other stuff have been clearly written, right? It means, as long as the company issues the said ticket, they’re no longer responsible for anything beyond that. But, well, they texted/emailed me again. Since I’m not a US citizen, during the purchase I indicated that I held foreign nationality, and, thus, they asked me about my nationality, saying they were concerned if I would need a Japanese visa and stuff, asking me to make sure with the embassy if it was okay, I be like, “DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT! I WILL TAKE CARE OF THE VISA ON MY OWN. JUST GIVE ME MY E-TICKET ALREADY?!” But of course I didn’t write that 🙈😅 I mean, I tried to be nice but at the same time firm signaling that they couldn’t mess with me. Showing that you’re scared and powerless at this situation is not good. And I don’t know why I wasn’t worried about my Japanese visa at all, not like how I am worried about UK visa or Schengen visa. Well, first of all, I don’t think there is islamophobia in Japan. They are pretty rational, nice, and polite. At the least, I can tell they don’t have such thing as white superiority/superiority complex. One of the many reasons I love Japan. So maybe that’s why.

So I told them, the cheapguru team, that I was aware of that, about the visa thing, telling them that they shouldn’t worry about that, that I’d be okay with the visa requirement, etc. And thus, they sent me another email, asking me to write a statement that they will not sue them about the long layover, visa, and stuff. I was mad. I really needed the ticket. I bought it because it’s within my budget. I had no intention, not in the slightest, to sue them or cancel the purchase as long as they gave me the ticket. But I don’t know, maybe they have the same fear for fraud? I know it’s business, they don’t want to go bankrupt. They dont want nasty customers who complain and file a legal suit. I understand. But at that point, I needed to be safe and secure myself. If they couldn’t get me the ticket as advertised, they could just return my money, and I’d be okay. I could try to purchase another ticket even if it would cost me more. As long as I don’t lose the money, I’m okay. Thus, after carefully reading the template, I replied to their email but with more details, as you can see in the pic. I also repeatedly asked them about when they were going to give me the e-ticket. I assured them that that my bank and I wouldn’t sue them. But I emphasized that if they didn’t give me the ticket as advertised, there was definitely this possibility that my bank and I could file a law suit and sue them for it. Then I went to sleep. I was supposed to study and prepare for my presentation but I was too stressed out with all of that.

I didn’t highlight the last paragraph because I don’t want them to be suspicious. But if things went wrong, I thought I could present this as legal evidence.

Then, in the morning, I checked that I finally received the ticket via email. They also texted me about that. I wanted to reply and say thank you but I didn’t feel safe and assured yet. So I checked with the American Airlines and Japan Airlines to make sure that my the flight has been booked with my name, that it was confirmed, and that it was valid and legitimate. The American Airlines lady wasn’t friendly btw. But the Japan Airlines lady, despite the long wait to connect to her, was so nice she even assigned me my favorite seat, a window seat, albeit only one. She said I couldn’t request the seat because my ticket was at discounted price, but I could request my Muslim meal, with which I am okay. Seats are not my main concerns here. Even though I couldn’t get window seats I’m okay as long as I get to go to Manila and back to the states on the right dates. Thankfully, all representatives said that my ticket is confirmed with my name, which is what I’m all concerned about. I felt relieved. I could finally breathe. Thus, I sent them a reply text with a smile emoticon. They didn’t reply, but I understand. Fact is, I felt bad for thinking that it might be a fraud. Maybe, maybe they’re just like me, they want to be safe and secure. They don’t want me to deceive them the same way I don’t want them to set a fraud on me. But, well, now I’m not that assured, not until I really get on the flight and back here later. But at least I know that the ticket is legit n valid. They can’t cancel it or change it to another name/passenger, right? Gosh, it still worries me. But I do hope that this is not a fraud, and that they still get some profit. Who knows that the discounted price is actually much lower than $914, right? If so, then they don’t have to resent selling the ticket to me and they don’t have to do some kind of fraud just to get more profit. Please pray that everything is going to be okay till the D date 🙂

PS: If you are one of cheapfareguru team reading this: I’m sorry and thank you very much 🙏🙇🙏

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