Throughout life we have to deal with what life throws at us, we learn to accept that their will always be people who look better, run faster, think quicker or learn to suck up to the boss without a conscience. You come to accept that without the use of major cosmetic surgery, Photoshop and a body double you won't look like Brad Pitt or Diane Kruger. Your hopes to become a major rock star, marine biologist, spaceman or the next Steve Jobs fade as the realisation of mundane, normality and survival are all you can hope for - if your lucky.
I accepted this years ago, im lucky, i am relatively happy. I have a good job, a loving family and enjoy luxuries that I should be ashamed of. Of course I always wanted more; my own personal dream came in the guise of looking like Don Johnson, driving a Ferrari, living on my yacht in Miami and being married to Sheena Easton (yes i am ashamed to admit to having been a big Miami Vice fan!) - now of course pastel suits with shoulder pads are out, Sheena's looking a little worse for wear and having to clean up after a crocodile seems tiring. You come to accept your lot, and whilst still having dreams, they lean more towards long holidays, kids at the grandparents and the next update from apple!
This is all fine - except for one thing.
You expect that now you have fallen into a 'Matrix' style life of controlled turpitude at least your on a level playing field, a place that everyone plays the game and the rules are clear enough for you to at least survive without feeling raped. Well the reason for this blog, was one such incident that made me feel so violated that I again wished I still held out for Sheena and a mate like Tubbs. As usual it starts with me travelling, I wont bore you with how i got there, or even why i was in the most boring place on earth - Brussels. I was travelling back to the UK before flying home to Shanghai, joined by a group of colleagues we all headed for the computerised check-in machines that fill the halls of most airports these days. However in this instance I wasn't accepted on the flight, and had to resort to actually talking to someone and trying a more traditional method of checking in, I was told that I was not booked in on this flight as I handn't made the outward bound leg of my journey.
Now this is maybe something you are all aware of? However as someone who considers himself a 'frequent' flyer, it was something I hadn't faced before. Apparently because I hadn't made the outward bound leg of a return flight, the airline had cancelled the seat on my inbound flight and I had forfeited my return flight, infact worse than that they had sold my seat on the return leg. Luckily for me the people at Brussels airline were very gracious and managed to find me a seat on the plane which enabled me to get back to the UK on time - without any additional cost. This of course is only half of the story, the real story begins when I was sitting in Brussels airport lounge, a place so devoid of character that the people who work there - don't. They talk of places that elephants go to die, a hidden place that is away from the pack and allows them to die in dignity and privacy, Brussels airport is a similar place for tired politicians, business men and airport workers. It was a Friday evening and apart from the credit card sellers the place was desolate.
Having been almost stranded in Belgium, I thought about my flight back to Shanghai. I had had a torturous itinerary, covering 6 countries in 7 days, and because of late changes and airline ticket restrictions, I needed to book an additional single flight from Shanghai to London, alongside my return booking. Having not used the second flight from Shanghai to London, I began to wonder if the same rules as my Brussels flight were in place? Surely not? I had paid the price of a small family car for the ticket, and whilst maybe an acceptable practise on short discounted short hops, they wouldn't apply the same rules on a long haul, stupid price flight - right?
Here's where my allegiance and love, yes love of an airline died. Whilst waiting on hold for 26 minutes, I was abruptly told that as I hadn't used this outward leg of my flight, my inbound leg had been cancelled and sold to another mug. But don't worry, for almost twice the price of the seat you had already brought, they would be able to find you with another seat in order for you to get home. I think I need to repeat this, I paid for a return from shanghai to London, costing around the same as the national debt of Turkey. But because I couldn't change the dates on the outward leg of this flight, I paid for an additional single fair with the same airline a few days earlier - however because i hadnt used the outward bound leg of my original flight to London, they had cancelled my booking, without a refund. Thus a return flight would end up costing me the same as one return and two single flights. This was all with an airline I have shown unfrequented love, desire and passion for during the last 10 years, I was treated with such content that I felt like I had my heart ripped from my rib gage, stamped on, set on fire and the remains fed to pigs.
The airline of course was Virgin Atlantic, an airline I had written and eulogised about in the past. it comes to something when Brussels airways, an airline that has less planes than the Switzerland airforce, and one I fly as frequently as I refuse a free drink, would 'ensure a mutually acceptable resolution was found', whereas one that I had slept with on multiple occasions, allowed to look after my children, massage my back and fly me at 30,000 feet a 1000 times treated me like a thief, a vagrant and a despicable member of society.
I have of course checked IATA regulations, witch turn out to be guidelines rather than rules or laws, and yes they clearly say that this is within the airlines rights. But surely there becomes a point when common sense and loyalty takes over rules and regulations? Whatever happened to customer service, doing the right thing and maybe even 'not taking the piss'. Forgive me for thinking that when I book a flight I book seats on two planes - one to get me there and one to get me back! I guess after all I should realise that life isn't fair.