The “Axianna” spelling is deliberately misspelled from the caution of colleagues who think that getting an airline’s name into the article unnecessarily makes us vulnerable to a possible lawsuit. We mentioned the airline in a previous article before, not exactly in a good light, so mentioning it again might trigger the corporate office’s lawyers, on a slow day, to haul our Micronesian heine to court.
Oh, Susanna is a popular U.S. folk song particularly in the U.S. South, and it was one of the songs I heard from missionaries and post-WWI teachers when I tried my mind on academic English. “Susanna” is close enough of a homonym and the tune does stick to the sound tracks of the brain’s database, so the allusion to the song in the title is a paean on a maudlin note on a peppy tune.
I took the airline to Dalian a year ago on my return to the city where I now tie my shoelaces half of the year’s cold days, Shenyang. I was asked in 2010 to lecture at Hang Gong Hang Tian Da Xue (this is a test on Pinyin proficiency) on economics and did, but ended up teaching oral English when I refused to teach econometrics that no one really uses nor cares about except academics and armchair economists.
We had a 14-hour layover in Incheon once before connecting to Dalian, and having taken Korea’s other airline before that put me up in a hotel for the night, I expected the same service. Instead, I was ignored and brushed aside until I asked to see a supervisor who coldly informed me that I could wait out the night at the terminal lounge if I did not seek out commercial accommodations on my own. I wrote of this in this column (like anyone really cared) and vowed never to patronize the airline again.
Well, what do you know? My host brother who arranged the booking for his Saipan family trip and tour this week just sent me a copy of the travel agent’s schedule in Hanzi, which I conveniently left unattended in my laptop’s travel folder. When it was time to confirm hotel reservation on Saipan, the airline’s code letters looked familiar, and sure enough, it is the one I had vowed never to patronize again.
I relented to giving it a second chance. There were four of us traveling, each entitled to two pieces of luggage each, and since I was staying a little longer than just a weeklong sojourn to work on legal papers, I brought the kitchen frying pan along! Being the non-Chinese speaker, I let the natives handle the check-in procedure, received my boarding pass for the flight to Pusan where the connecting flight to Saipan was nine hours away. I brought enough to do, expecting to be stuck at some lounge again.
The check-in girl was new on the job; four supervisors hovered over her head. She must have been rattled for when I asked if the exit door seats were still available (they were), she was at a loss on what to do to move me from my assigned seat to a new one, so I told her to forget it. I did not notice when I got my boarding pass that I only had one piece of luggage tagged to my ticket.
Getting to Pusan, and being the only four pax out of the plane who responded to the call for “Saipan-bound” passengers, the airline ground personnel who asked how many pieces of luggage we had could only locate seven tags of our claimed eight.
Tasked to make sure our luggage went to Saipan but could only locate seven tagged ones, he discovered an unclaimed bag tagged to another passenger who was honest enough to show his stub but not claim it. The agent snapped a smartphone photo of the suitcase, came up to me at the departure lounge to inquire if I had seen the bag before, and sure enough, it was one of mine. He got the travel bag and I united in cyberspace database.
For those looking for fault, the nervous check-in agent who tagged the bag to another ticket easily gets the incompetence award of the day. But the passenger terminated in Pusan; otherwise the luggage could have gone to another destination. An obvious oversight, the transfer ground crew in Pusan compensated with the extraordinary effort they went through to retrieve the mistakenly tagged piece.
Am I happy with the airline now? Well, the route is scheduled only once a week, and I was looking at the silver lining on the airline to launch a weeklong “oral English” tour to Saipan from Shenyang this winter. The weekly schedule fits our design. I still have to check out the return, though, where passengers overnight in Pusan and if this was another lounging at the terminal, a second thought is in order.
Meanwhile, picky on the inflight food service, the airline might consider adding salt and pepper, vinegar and soy sauce into their servings. The steamed beef and veggie served was rather bland!
The flights from Incheon and Pusan both unloaded planeloads at the same time. The passengers’ quip was: It takes as long to get from Korea to Saipan as it does to get out of the plane to the airport sidewalk. Our next tune is, Don’t cry for me, oh, Axianna!