home and win-win airline gamble

so this holiday of just about a month or so is near to the end.  well, it feels funny to write about 'holiday,' as it really does not feel like a holiday nor it is a typical holiday.  i am not a passing visitor.  i am not a tourist.  i am no longer unfamiliar with the place and the people. it's a part of monkey points on the map, of several points where she spends a larger chunk of her days.  i dont have to refer to the map to see where i am and i know what time the local shop closes.  i can picture my grocery store's aisles and the local green grocer's display.  the idea of home being where one's heart is, i have several homes and it always gets a little confusing here and there.  it may mean my toronto residence, or my parents place.  it may mean canada or often south korea.  now it also means chinley, uk.  among the sheeples and rolling hills, weaved by wriggly roads, including one of the most dangerous roads in england.  no wonder i crashed. haha.

well, the holiday was supposed to end yesterday.  07-07-2010, 1355 departure from man to yyz.  but obviously, as i am writing this splat in the coffee room near studio seven of bbc manchester, i am still here. a bonus day.  how, it would be quite a luxury to move flight schedules on a whim- and i say, sometimes it just happens. falls on your lap.  awesome.  so what happened? dont be concerned- i did not miss my flight and hence am stuck here. i have all my paper works and it's all good.  i was even early at the airport yesterday and i have no intention of being late either.  so then you say: tell us monkey, what happened? and i say: okay!

around nine in the morning yesterday, we set off from the hills, monkey to the airport and salamander to the sausage factory (as he calls it once in awhile).  a bit of traffic, the usual morning mess.  only difference i suppose was that i wasnt going to get home for awhile, either way.  after getting dropped at the piccadilly station, i dawdled down to the airport, train journey, a small backpack and a half-filled small lolly bag.  to the check-in desk and etc.  and as i approach my turn with the lady at the desk, i notice a small poster that whispered: would you like to volunteer your seat?

see, i figure what happens is that every airline likes to operate a full flight.  and on this particular plane, i think it seats something like just over 380-400. well, taking the surcharges of the first class to account, let's round it off to 400.  and they said it is four over.  now is it done customarilly (as i think it's blatantly stated in the government books that you cannot overbook) or by glitches (perhaps due to system update, transaction delays whatever the legally allowed reasons may be), no one really knows. but i know they are usually filled to the teeth.  so four of 400. that's just 1 %.  no biggies. then there are people who fails to show up- either moving their flights, cancelling last minute or plain late (believe it or not, i have seen it multiple time, people showing up after the check-in gate have closed...) so the catch-up room of may be 1%.  so in off-peak seasons, it must work alright.  i have rarely seen a really full flight during off-peaks, domestic and international.

but you see, right now, month of july, august and early september, it's peak time (along with christmastide).  actually i booked return on 07-07 because that was the very last day of the cheaper flight.  the next flight that was available was already quite a bit more, with in the same week.  so with premium price and summer schedules (vacations, school holidays, family visits, weddings, reunions, etc), the international routes are often full (trans. overbooked).  and if you are flying with big airlines (of star alliance, one world or skyteam), it is always much easier for them to re-route you.  and if it is within the day, it's a no biggie for the airlines themselves as they arent obliged to financially compensate you (in any large chunks really).  so the chances of getting bumped to another date or completely different route is very rare.  then comes the world of charter flights. because they are smaller and does not have such extensive alliance network, once they have an actual overbooking, they face a bit more serious consequence.  like my airline.  what they have to do is either cut off people at max capacity and offer them a re-route with compensation or look for volunteers.  like me.

i had no time-sensitive engagement, so when i saw the notice for volunteers, i was tickled. as i wished there couldve been someone on the flight to uk who didnt mind to get on another flight, as i was desperate to get here on that day (for mahler 10! for mahler... im really losing it gaaa), quite happily with taxi service to homen or a hotel stay and a bit of compensation.  so i dropped my name as possible volunteer and waited.  most of the passing on crowd was hilarious in bits that one could see. there was a flight check-in for holguin for a jack-jill party (a simultaneous stag/hen party, for brits) and two couples were doing their quiet, we-are-in-the-public-space-gritted-teeth fight about how the boys have to sit with their girls and not talk football after all, because it's a romantic holiday getaway for all of them, with girls digging their nails to sulking boys, walking as fast as they can.  the usual sundry airport entertainment.

and near the cut-off time, came a family of four.  they have not reserved seats and now it is too late- the parents thought the only damage would be that they cant all seat together, that they may have to sit two by two.  ooh then came the slightly nervous reply of the agent- umm, that is only partially possible.


well, the story was that there were only two seats together, and another seat by itself.  and the boys were... 6-7 years olds little kiddies, maternal/identical twins.  they were quite nervous, entangled with one another, arms linked, quietly chattering, looking up with two pairs of brown eyes: we cant possibly be separated, momma!  but the harsh reality was that they would have to split, today, one parent and a child, then tomorrow, the other set.  the parents were flustered, airline counter was sorry and boys were near tears.

but you see, there's always something.  me and the other guy decided to volunteer our seats.  that makes it four. then they'll see if they could create room for four to seat near one another.  we, the normal, uninteresting, economy class passengers suddenly became heroes!  within minutes, the family ran to the gates, i was supposed to redirected to gatwick at 1700, stay over night at a hotel then fly tomorrow back to canada. instead, now they found me a seat on direct man-yyz flight with a polite offer of travel voucher for the future.  awesome.  the company didnt do too bad either as i declined the offer for hotel or meal vouchers, as i was happy to return to manchester city and walk over to the bbc, to be picked up and head back to the hills for a bonus night.

so the bonus night was graced with a quiet tea of miso-haddock-scallop noodle soup and a nice small gathering at the old inn (local pub on next village) with nice bitters flowing about.  and another tuck-in by mr. fish.  shame the morning was too short- hurried, drive to station, hop in to the train, catch breath- then a breakfast at the bbc canteen (which was surprisingly good), start this post, good-byes during break, then back to the train-airport.  now im at the airport, waiting for my flight to declare its gate and take me back home.  which one? doesnt matter. i am so lucky to be loved by so many different people in so many different places.  i am leaving one home in exchange for another.  i am wistful as i dont want to leave home, but also happy to see old home.  love to you all and hello to toronto, and to the green hills of chinley: i will be back soon, please take care of my wee lambs! (so that i may have some awesome lamb stew in the fall, mwuahahaha)


  1. there's a wee empty space in the green hills, will keep it safe along with the lambs. baa!