When visiting a foreign country, an important part of your trip is being able to board the flight when you’re done and return home. You arrive, you enjoy your time and then, when you’re time is up, you go home. But what happens when you can’t go home? That almost happened to us in Myanmar.
During our trip around the country we had a really great time.
We wandered around Yangon.
Flew to Bagan.
Visited some amazing temples and ruins.
Flew back to Yangon.
Rode the Circle Train.
And then went to the airport.
When we arrived at the airport we had some issues with our bags. Our bags had been right at 7kg when we left and we’d bought a few trinkets, which added a little bit of weight, but not that much. The trinkets we’d bought weren’t all that heavy, maybe 1-2lbs (.45-.9kg), so we just packed our bags to a little over 7kg and put the remaining items in our backpacks before heading off to the airport.
Getting to the airport was easy. Our taxi driver was pretty awesome and drove us by the house of Aung San Suu Kyi, the famous Burmese political activist who was put under house arrest for 15 years, before taking us to the airport.
Since we had some extra cash and we liked our taxi driver, we gave him all of our extra cash when he dropped us off at the airport. It wasn’t a lot, maybe a couple dollars worth of kyat, but we figured we didn’t need it anymore since we were at the airport to leave the country. haha. Go us.
When we got up to the counter the AirAsia people weighed our bags as usual and frowned at the extra half kilo that the bags weighed. That just wasn’t acceptable, they said. We’ve dealt with this before with AirAsia (they’re hit or miss with whether or not they’ll let the extra half kilo slide), so we just said we’d shift the extra bit to our backpacks. No big deal. We’d done this before.
And they said okay.
So we shuffled things around, put our bags back in the scales and the girl just looks at us. Um, what’s the problem?
We had to weigh our backpacks, too.
Uh, what? We’ve never had to weigh our bags AND our backpacks before. But, we followed instructions and put our backpacks on the scale, too. Yup. Over 7kg. When the girl insisted we had to check one of our bags, we asked to speak to a manager. That’s not AirAsia policy.
But, when the manager came over, he also insisted our bags were overweight and that we had to check them. What the crap? The lady had told us we could shift weight and that would be fine, but now you’re saying it’s the weight of all the bags? That’s messed up. And totally not what the website say. It kinda upset both of us. Especially since my underwear had fallen out of my suitcase in front of a group of Asian men who snickered and scowled. So embarrassing.
We tried talking with the guy and getting him to change his mind. We begged and we pleaded because we had no cash and they didn’t take Visa or MasterCard, but he wouldn’t budge. We tried looking up the AirAsia baggage policy to show him we were in compliance, but internet in Myanmar is very unreliable, so all we could do was protest the charge and tell him that we had no way to pay it.
During the course of the conversation, after I finally got him to look at me and acknowledge I was there, I made the comment that it wasn’t right to have one policy for flying into a country and another policy for leaving the same country, that the rules should be the same both ways. He said he didn’t understand me, so I rephrased and said it’s a dishonest policy ………………….and that’s as far as I got.
Oh. My. Goodness. The guy just about flipped his lid when the word ‘dishonest’ came out of my mouth. He got very offended and said we were very abusive and he couldn’t allow people like us on the flight. He told the girl at the counter not to issue us a ticket even if we paid for the bags and told us we were not allowed on the flight.
This really shocked both of us because nobody had raised their voice, nobody had been argumentative, nobody had been remotely angry. Troy had been a few steps away going through his bag looking for money and just stood there with his mouth open. He looked at me and said, “Wait, what? What just happened?” When I told him we’d been kicked off the flight he tried talking with the guy to figure something out and the guy just said no and started walking away. Before he left Troy asked if there was someone else we could talk to and he said, “I am AirAsia and you can only talk to me.” He said how dare I call him a liar and say he is a dishonorable man. And then he left.
So there we were, kicked off our flight with no other flight counters open and nobody else to appeal to.
Since we didn’t know what else to do we just hung out by the ticket counter and watched other people get their tickets. We were both kinda freaking out because we couldn’t buy a ticket from another airline, we couldn’t get a taxi, we couldn’t get a hotel and our phone wasn’t working. We were very, very stuck.
After a few minutes we started going through our bags again, looking for money. We figured if we could somehow convince the guy to let us back on the flight we would just check the dang bags and be done with it. After about half an hour the guy came back to the counter and when he was walking away I stopped him. I figured part of his issue was that I was a female and Burmese culture puts women as silent observers while the men were the power players, so I decided to just go with it.
I apologized profusely and told him I hadn’t meant to offend and I was very sorry what I said had been rude. I told him that in America we are used to calling attention to things we view as incorrect and our culture is a lot more blunt. I explained that I wasn’t calling HIM a liar or saying HE was dishonest, just that I was disagreeing with a company policy and had misspoken. I told him I should not have been so belligerent, even though I hadn’t even been remotely obstinate, but whatever. I just wanted to get on the plane and go home.
Thankfully, it worked. The guy finally said if we could pay the baggage fees we could get on the plane. He also said to me, “A country’s character is shown in the way it’s citizens speak to each other.” I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be a snot or not, so I just smiled and went back to gathering my bags.
Thankfully we’d found some ringgit in my bag. I’d brought extra ringgit in my carry-on in case Troy’s cards get lost, but had forgotten I had it. It wasn’t enough to pay for both bags, but the guy booked our bags as 1 large bag at 25kg instead of the 2 bags at 20kg and took every last ringgit we had.
Then, about five minutes later, he gave us our tickets and we ran for the gate. Our flight was boarding in 30 minutes and we didn’t want anything else to keep us from getting on it.