You Are Stuck in Malaysia

Me:  "So you are telling me we are stuck in Asia with no way home back to the US?"

Agent: "I'm sorry sir, there is nothing I can do."

... And it's not even 6AM, Sunday morning.

Welcome to the UN-Trip Report

The way this usually goes, I outline all of the reviews that comprised a recent trip.  Each individual report is filled with photos and commentary regarding, food, amenities, annoyances, and clever quips; then each review I put in order starting with my departure flight or preparations, and ending with my final thoughts, safely back at home.

That's not how this one is going down my friend.  As I type this, from a lounge in Kuala Lumpur, I am not entirely sure I am going home today as I had planned.  I am not sure I am going home at all.  In fact, if I do make it home, without moving heaven and earth, there is no other way but for God to do the same, to get the Sherpa and Sherpstress home from Malaysia today. 

So let me invite you back into the end of my conversation at 5:50 AM today (Sunday, Jan 20th, 2013).

Sherpa: "If we don't make this flight, then we can't make our connection in Yangon, if we don't make that, then we can't get back to the States"

Something my readers should know - if you do not fly a segment of your itinerary, anything after that segment is cancelled.  If you were to fly Omaha-Chicago-Pittsburgh, and decide you don't want to go to Pittsburgh, but would rather just stay in Chicago, you can just get out at Chicago (assuming you don't have any checked bags) and be on your way.  However, if you were to book a roundtrip Omaha-Chicago-Pittsburgh and back, you can still get off at Chicago, but the rest of your entire ticket (Chicago-Pittsburgh-Chicago-Omaha) will also cancel. 

The Sherpa knows this.  Here is what the Sherpa's remaining itineraries look like:

1.  Kuala Lumpur-Yangon (one-way on Air Asia)

2.  Yangon-Kuala Lumpur-Frankfurt-Montreal (Malaysia Airlines/Air Canada)

3.  Montreal-Washington D.C.-Pittsburgh (US Airways)

...We are up to item 1 at this point in the morning.

The Sherpa knows that if we don't make the first flight, there is no way to connect to start the second itinerary. If we don't start the second itinerary, we don't leave Asia. 

Let's compound the matter a bit further first. 

Malaysia Airlines (MH), does not want me to fly at all.  And they have good reason, after all, it was due to this mistake fare.  MH would only receive $113 of actual fare (not taxes) for our $247 business class fare for over 11,000 miles of travel.  They know that due to this law being passed they must honor any ticket issued in the United States (for example: bought through Travelocity as mine was), or transiting the US. 

We both know that if ANY change is made, they have the right and will automatically cancel the ticket and I in no way blame them. 

So we have to be on that flight.

Agent: "Air Asia is not a transiting airline, and you need to have your visa sorted before you depart.  I'm sorry but there is nothing that can be done."

This was mostly true and partially false. We could have avoided this fiasco in the first place, by being overly careful, but I didn't see the need and didn't want the hassle.  Three visa types are available for Myanmar, Tourist (only accessible at an embassy prior to departure), Transit and Business, the latter two are both available on arrival.  For visas on arrival, you bring visa pictures, $20USD, and have a legitimate business purpose or a flight out of Myanmar within 24 hours, you can just show up and receive your visa in immigration at the airport. 

- Air Asia does schedule tranists (connecting in another country but not clearing customs as you will not leave the airport), heavily in fact in Kuala Lumpur, their headquarters and the very airport in which we are standing. 

- Air Asia does allow customers who are eligible for visa on arrival to fly without a visa stamp, assuming they meet the conditions.  Here is proof they do that, here is the required documentation according to the government of Myanmar.

We have this documentation in our hands right now.

But it doesn't matter, there is no use arguing the point no matter how right we are.  We know this, and yet here we are in Kuala Lumpur at the Low Cost terminal, throwing a tantrum which has gotten us nowhere.  Literally.

The Sherpa is visibly flustered, the Sherpstress isn't fairing much better. We are stuck in Malaysia and there is no way we are making the flight we have booked, thus our tickets will be cancelled all the way through.  And to think that I was considering titling my book, Traveling Like a Pro.

Put on your Sherpa shoes, what would you do?

Continued Here.


ptahcha January 29, 2013 at 11:11 am

I'm sorry, but it may be obvious in the narrative, but I can't figure out the issue. Is Air Asia, not Malaysia Airlines, deny boarding due to lack of visa? That was not stated in the blog entry.

Also, I am assuming this was mentioned to the agent, but sometimes the lack of paper application can lead to potential denied boarding as well, since this was one of the required conditions for visa on arrival. AA tried to denied boarding for me on the way to Bolivia because of the lack of paper application. After going back and forth, she finally just printed a copy of the application for me and it was done.

Sherpa January 29, 2013 at 11:27 am

Ptahcha - Thanks for the comment, looks like American gave you some good service. Air Asia is a discount carrier. It should be noted that we have used Air Asia for positioning before, just not on a transit visa, we already had a firm Myanmar tourist visa printed in our passports. If we had this, Air Asia would have been fine and flown us.

@Sherpa: Could the problem be that flying KUL to KUL via RGN is technically not transiting? I ran into this problem in Belarus. When returning to the same country, you're literally but not practically transiting.

Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

Haha February 2, 2013 at 06:33 am

I'm not sorry for you. If you what to maximise everything and have to show off while doing this...

Sherpa February 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for your comment Haha. I hope you are able to learn from my mistake.

Sherpa February 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

@Matthew - It literally came down to a RyanAir-esque situation of not wanting to be stuck with a denied visa at the border and being forced to return the passenger unpaid. It was the same as their visa check process in Europe, major carriers were fine with it, as was the Myanmar boarder control. Next week I have the conclusion to this mess... and it was a mess.

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