How We Almost Got Stranded in Myanmar

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.

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Shwedagon Pagoda

Flew to Bagan.

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Hard to get a good shot when you’re being hurried along to the plane

Visited some amazing temples and ruins.

Htilo Minlo, Temple, Bagan, Myanmar, Sunset, landscape

Htilo Minlo Temple

Flew back to Yangon.

View from the airplane leaving Bagan, Myanmar

View from the airplane leaving Bagan, Myanmar

Rode the Circle Train.

On the Circle Train around Yangon

On the Circle Train around Yangon

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.

Our very small and very light souvenirs

Our very small and very light souvenirs

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.

This is the door to the house where Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for 15 years as a political prisoner by the Burmese government. The locals are very proud of her and are impressed if you say you've gone here. Yangon, Myanmar

Doors barring access to or exit from the grounds of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house

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.

AirAsia Carry-On

Clearly, once we had our big carry-ons to 7kg, we were in compliance

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 is the guy who was offended. He's so young.

This is the guy who was offended. He’s so young. The picture is blurry because I was trying to be discreet. Troy wanted to file a complaint against him with AirAsia.

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.

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19 Replies to “How We Almost Got Stranded in Myanmar”

  1. Pingback: How to Prepare for an International Trip

  2. Louise ღ (@louisechelle)

    That’s a very unfortunate experience for you! In general, I never liked AirAsia! I heard how most of their service staff are arrogant and unaccommodating. Too bad you had to experience that. As a manager, shouldn’t he be more understanding and open to what the customer is saying? Yeah, he’s the boss but I really think he handled your situation unprofessionally. You should have gotten his name and put it here so when someone deals with this problem too and this same person is sent to speak with the passengers, they could request another one.

    But I hope this experience will not stop you from visiting other Asia countries like ours, Philippines. I assure you that the airport staff on our country are accommodating and understanding.

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Pass

    Wow, that sounds like a frightening story. I would have cried. Thankfully if I ever go to an Asian country, I make my husband do all the talking anyway, lol. I’m so glad you guys were able to get back home on your original flight. What a crazy story!

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      I wanted to cry at one point. It was just so frustrating. Normally I let my boyfriend do the talking, too, in Asian countries, but this situation was so bizarre that I couldn’t help but interject. And then things just blew up. lol. I’m glad we made it home, too.

      Reply
  4. Reginia Cordell

    I’ve been in a situation similar to this. It stinks. The airlines now are hiring more and more snots, like this guy [because he was definitely a snot] and they are allowed to get aways with such disgusting practices. This is certainly not OK. I would take to social media but if I remember correctly AirAsia’s social media is lack luster. 🙁 Glad you guys were able to get on the flight.

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      AirAsia’s customer service in general is pretty lacking. We ended up going to a local office in Kuala Lumpur because we couldn’t find anywhere online to contact someone. The lady pretty much told us that we’d made it home, so there was no harm done. *sigh* Oh well. While it would be nice to know that guy received a reprimand (or was fired), at least we aren’t stuck in Myanmar!

      Reply
  5. chbernard

    Wow you had me completely wrapped up in this post, I had to stop part way through and come back to it because I NEEDED TO KNOW how the story ended! Though you shouldn’t have had to be the one to apologize that was very well played and very big of you to be the one to say you were in the wrong (even though you clearly weren’t). But it is so true that one statement could be interpreted very differently in various cultures/countries. I found his statement at the end to be quite rude! I am glad you were able to make it home safe and sound! PS your pictures look great!

    Reply
  6. Briton

    Yikes! I hope you filed a complaint with AirAsia because that is crazy! And how scary to have no internet to try to help you explain their own policy to them. Glad you made the flight!

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      My boyfriend tried to contact AirAsia. They basically said, “You made it home, so no harm no foul.” It was frustrating and if they weren’t the cheapest airline by a wide margin, we would have quit flying with them. Oh well. You pay for what you get, right?

      Reply
  7. Jeanine

    Your photos are just beautiful! I hadn’t ever heard of Myanmar before this post. I would love to travel but I’m terrified of missing flights or being stuck somewhere. I’m so glad you were able to get to where you needed to be! I don’t think I would have taken that too well myself!

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      Thank you! We flew a lot while living in Asia and this was the only major issue we had…………aside from an airline person telling us the wrong terminal and missing our flight due to arriving at check-in at the very last moment to get on the flight, but also at the same time as another passenger who threw a massive fit and took 20 minutes to calm down. *sigh* But international flying isn’t so bad. Most airlines are pretty good about helping people.

      Reply
  8. Dia

    Alright, First your photos are beautiful and it makes me want to travel and see more, but after what you went through at the airport, I am having second thoughts. I know my mouth and I don’t know if I could keep quiet. You did right and I glad you were able to get on the plane.

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      Ohmygoodness. It was HARD to not tell that guy he was being a bum. He was being so condescending and we know it’s because Myanmar has had such little interaction with Western nations and the government up until now has spoken very poorly about outsiders. While his bad opinion of foreigners isn’t entirely his fault, he didn’t have to treat us the way he did.

      Reply
  9. Brittnei Washington

    Wow I couldn’t imagine. First, I want to say that these photos are gorgeous. Traveling and being able to share about it sounds like such a fun idea! I didn’t realize you were in Asia until you started to explain more about it. I think I understand where he is coming from. I majored in Foreign Languages in college and I was able to study a lot of different cultures and their religions. In my perception, Asians tend to be extremely courteous and respectful to the point where I could see how he might have taken what you said personally, at the same time, being from America, I know you didn’t mean at all what he was thinking! I’m so glad that it worked out and that you were able to get home safely!

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      Yes, we learned after being in Asia longer just how formal they are. Well, not everyone. I think that is what was to confusing. Some people would be super formal and we could tell that those situations required more respect, but then other situations people were incredibly informal and rude. We had so many people cut in front of us in lines, shove us when we were walking, push us back on the trains when we were trying to get off, be all touchy-feely with me and one guy even smacked my butt. We eventually learned body language indicators to tell us which people followed the typical Asian rules of decorum and which people were of a less traditional attitude.

      Reply
  10. LaShawn Wiltz

    OMG I would have been in tears! Thank goodness you guys got on the plane! Did you ever report the guy to the airline? Or report what happened? Like you said, the rules said one thing and they did another. Definitely worth checking up on.

    Reply
    • Erin Post author

      We tried filing a complaint against him, but the airline didn’t really care about what happened. It was really frustrating. Their opinion seemed to be that we made it home, so there really wasn’t any harm done. Oh well. Lesson learned: be super careful with your words when dealing with airline personnel in Asia, even if what they’re doing is wrong. *sigh*

      Reply
  11. Esme Sy

    I’m so glad that you were able to make it to your flight. I could have been so scared, too if that happened to me. I hate that airlines change their policies however they want.

    Reply
  12. Kita Bryant

    Oh gosh in other cultures whats rude to them is normal for us. I am so glad he had a change of heart and let you all on. This is so scary I know a guy who got stuck in Africa for over a year because of some passport issue. Glad you all made it out safely.

    Reply

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