Buying a plane ticket here felt like stepping through the mirror.

We are going to Japan over the break to travel around. For some reason, though you can find fares, you cannot buy plane tickets from Korea to Japan online from any of the webpages of the airlines that fly there. (You can't buy them through the usual American sites like Orbitz either).

You also can't call and buy the tickets over the phone. We tried discount All Nippon airlines, for example, but their reservation lines close at 6 pm. When you can actually reach them a few hours a day they deign to answer the phones, they tell you that you can't buy tickets from them over the phone. Just try shoving money in their hands, no dice.

Japan Airlines has friendly English speaking employees, but they insist that you must call the JAL office in Seoul to buy a ticket. Though that seemed odd, rather like having to call the Maryland branch of an airline to fly from Baltimore, we called the Korea office to find that they don't speak English, and that in any case we have to buy tickets through the BBC travel agency. BBC Travel agency hung up on us when we asked if they speak English.

So, we tried the USO travel agency. They were very helpful at first, though I was disconnected and had to call back. That call lasted for a few minutes, which was enough to get all the details squared away, and the line went dead. The second time I was disconnected I called back immediately and was told the woman who was helping me had gone to lunch in the thirty seconds it too me to find the phone number. They refused to help me. I don't think her name was Milo Minderbinder, but I wouldn't have been surprised.

Eventually, hours later, all is well and the tickets were reserved. I will feel secure in everything once they are actually in my hands.


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