Words you don’t want to hear checking in to the first flight of your mega-trip.
These uttered from the lips of an American Eagle (airline not clothing line) attendant at the check in counter in San Diego, “Unless we have proof that you’ll be leaving New Zealand you won’t be able to board the flight” she stated once again.
Crap! We had glossed over the New Zealand visa requirements after seeing at US citizens have an automatic 3 month travel visa and had missed the part that said you need to be able to show proof of an onward journey out of the country i.e. prove you’ll be leaving within 3 months. We thought they’d take our word for it!
So having arrived only an hour and a half before the flight to Los Angeles (from there we would fly to Auckland via Fiji Airways) I found myself frantically Google’ing ‘Auckland to Melbourne’ flights from my iPhone while Jenna tried to clarify with the desk attendant why they were so set on ruining our trip, er, I mean following policy.
So I booked a flight a little more than a month out to Melbourne from Auckland, breathed a sight of relief and pulled up the confirmation email to show the desk attendant.
Attendant: “That’s not going to do. We need an official ticket number to confirm you’ll be leaving”
Me: “But I’m showing you the confirmation for the flight and (I pull up my credit card app) I’m showing you the transaction on my credit card. I can assure you I just bought a flight out of New Zealand”
Attendant: “I’m sorry that’s not going to do, we need a ticket number”
Still thinking there was a hint of rationale in this policy I return to my iPhone and call up Jetstar, the airline with whom I just purchased the ticket. After a brief hold I reached a representative:
Me: “Hi, I just purchased a ticket from Auckland to New Zealand and am in need of the ticket number to show as proof of an onward journey”
Representative: “I’m sorry we don’t distribute ticket numbers until 48 hours before the flight”
Me: “This flight isn’t for a month – so you’re telling me I can’t get the ticket number now?”
Representative: “Excuse me?”
Me: Hangs up.
Ok so because it’s an impossibility to get our ticket number until 48 hours before the flight, American Eagle has to let us check in…right?
Me: “Jetstar just told me that they don’t give ticket numbers until 48 hours before the flight which is 32 days from now, so we won’t be able to provide that but we do have the confirmation number and email. Are we all good?”
Attendant: “No sir I’m looking at the policy and we need a ticket number”
Me: “So you’re telling me that even though the airline just told me that no one on our flight will have a ticket number until next month, you’re telling me I need one now?”
Attendant: “That is correct sir”
I hope that it’s understandable that I had just shed my last ounce of patience.
Me: “That makes absolutely no sense”
Attendant: “I’m sorry sir that’s the policy”
Me: “It’s a bad policy that’s going to make us miss an unrefundable international flight even after I just spent $200 in front of you buying tickets to appease your policy”
Attendant: “I’m sorry sir, let me talk to my supervisor”
So an older bald gentleman strolls over to the counter and…I’ll spare you the details…TELLS US THE SAME EXACT THING.
I was fuming and struggling to think of a solution when Jenna, who had been keeping her cool the entire time, had a realization.
Jenna: “Our first flight with you guys is only to Los Angeles, it’s not international and therefore we don’t need proof of an onward journey. We’re going to board the flight. Bye.”
Boom. And that was it. We picked up our bags, took the domestic boarding passes they had printed and made for security just in time to catch the flight.
We were a little nervous that we had not acquired our international boarding passes but found that in LA the check in counter found our confirmation email from Jetstar as sufficient proof of our onward journey.
So my suspicion was confirmed; the American Eagle attendant didn’t know what they were doing and almost destroyed the first leg of trip.
So two lessons here; first, know the visa requirements of the country you’re visiting to a T. For the record, New Zealand’s are:
1.) Be in good health and character (that is seriously a requirement; so no jerks)
2.) Have proof of an onward journey within 90 days
3.) Have $1,000 in your bank account (they did not check this)
Second lesson is never to again involve American Eagle airlines with any facet of our lives.