It was a day of Murphy’s Law being in overdrive; everything that could go wrong went wrong.
Long story short: I had a trip to South Korea booked with Malaysia Airlines. But a last minute work trip had me flying directly to South Korea via another airline. I only realised the day before I was meant to fly home that my ticket had been cancelled. Which was already a blessing in disguise. Imagine if I had shown up for my flight, oblivious to the fact that it had long been cancelled, and then been forced to buy a ticket on the spot.
Truth be told, it was stated in the fine print: “The ticket must be utilized in sequence. Failing which, MH reserves the right to deny passenger from boarding.” As a result, I was stranded in South Korea with no flight back. And no way of calling the relevant hotlines without chalking up a huge phone bill (For ticketing and reservations, press 1. For flight times, press 2. Repeat ad nauseum).
Here’s everything I learnt during this series of unfortunate events, so you don't have to suffer the same expensive and inconvenient fate I did.
Always, always do this. It’s the worst thing to show up at the airport expecting to fly and being told you can’t because something went wrong with your booking. You can avoid that potential inconvenience and upset by checking in online. The option will open up to you some 48 hours before your flight is due to depart and makes the physical check-in process so much easier. Plus, you can strategise on seat-selection so you get empty seats to stretch out on.
Most importantly though, it’s the best way to see if something has gone wrong with your booking. It has happened to me on two occasions: this being one, and another time with a travel agent getting my name wrong on the reservation.
Never assume that all’s good with your reservation even if you’ve received the usual reminder in my email to check in online, which I did even when MAS had cancelled my ticket. The only sure way of checking on your reservation and having some buffer time to react is to check-in online once that option opens up.
Use Google Flights in case of emergency
While I was juggling the entire mess and trying to get MAS to reinstate the last leg of my flight by sending them frantic emails, I knew I had to find a back-up flight home.
I could either trawl through the numerous airline sites out there or have Google Flights do all the fingerwork for me. There are other flight search sites out there (Skyscanner, Expedia) but I used Google Flights to get the direct quotes from the airline sites themselves. At that point in time, I didn’t have the headspace to deal with more fine print, or third-party booking sites. All I wanted to do was to go to the source and book a flight back, with the relevant information that Google Flights turned up for me (shortest transit time, flight times, etc).
Plus, since I was a little flexible with the dates, the calendar feature displaying the lowest fares by date came in really useful. After a quick scan, I settled on an Air China flight. The fare was reasonable, the timing was right, and I frankly didn't have much choice left.