Yesterday I tried to purchase 3 round trip tickets from Hong Kong to Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines. I found the flights I wanted and tried to book the tickets online. When I hit the PURCHASE button, the transaction didn’t go through.

The computer generated message said the name on my passport did not match the name on my credit card. My middle name is spelled out on the passport, but only an initial appears on my credit card. I tried using my debit card and hit PURCHASE again. Another “no.”

Next I fudged my name information and tried again. Still no luck. But this time there was no reason given, just a generic “please try again later” message.

Against my better judgment and years of experience, I called Vietnam Airlines customer service. I gave them all the information about my flights and my credit card info. They told me Visa had rejected the charge. I knew better than this, but made an expensive 1-800 call to Visa-USA where I was told no charge had been put through by Vietnam Airlines, much less rejected.

I had a similar experience booking a ticket with Air Asia last year. The reason for the problem was they would not accept credit cards issued by out-of-the-country banks for international flights. But Air Asia has a Shenzhen office where I could go and buy the tickets for cash. Vietnam Airlines has no such facility.

Neither Air Asia nor Vietnam Airlines has a note on their websites explaining their credit card policies.

So I called up Vivian and asked her to put the tickets on her credit card. She came over and after a couple of hours of messing around online in both English and Chinese we gave up and called a nearby travel agent.

They said they could take care of things so the three of us walked the 5 blocks to the office. Even though we had an appointment and there was on one in line ahead of us, it took nearly 3 hours to buy the tickets. After about an hour and a half of waiting, I returned home, leaving the girls to deal with things.

It is now 16:30. The girls just walked in with the tickets. The entire process of buying 3 tickets to and from Vietnam took more than 8 hours. Nothing is easy in China.

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