14 April 2011

E is for Eish! SAA Screwed up my Holiday

Ok, maaaaybe my procrastinating nature helped a teeny tiny bit.  But in this modern age of always-on internet and 24x7 support, I kinda expect to be able to make a booking for a flight the evening before it leaves.  Is that too much to ask of South Africa’s National Carrier?

It’s 6pm and your Hero decides that maybe it’s a good idea to actually make that booking for the Durban to PE flight that he’s supposed to be getting on tomorrow morning.  So I launch my go-to browser and point that bad boy straight at flysaa.com.  The page renders furiously and I clickity-click “DBN. PE. Tomorrow”.  Go!

The web page thinks for a while before spitting out a single available flight.  It’s got a nasty 6AM departure time and only the expensive seats remain.

Whatever, I’m a man.  My credit card can take the beating.  Just hit me baby.  Confirm!

Please wait… processing…

Hummm… hummmm…. hummm…

Please wait… processing…

Dummm… diddddly… dummm…

ERR_TIMEOUT.  This website is taking too long to respond.  Please try again later.

WTF!  So I try again.  Denied!  And again.  Denied!  And 30 minutes later.  Denied!  And 1 hour later.  Denied!  And 2 hours later.  Denied!

At about this time I recall that great one-liner definition for insanity: “repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

Ok, so time to change my strategy and go speak to an entity that can actually be reasoned with logically over the telephone.  I thumb thought my phone book and find the SAA 24 Hour Reservations Hotline.  Fan-bloody-tastic.  This is gonna be just too easy.

I crank out the 0860 number and run headlong into the computer voice menu system.  To be expected from a 21st century bleeding-edge airline.  I listen intently as the confident but polite lady reads me the level 1 voice menu.  Of course the option I want is the last one.  It’s always the last one.

I pass that test and move onto level 2.  Option 1 - no, not the right one.  Option 2 – oh, could be that one.  Option 3 – oh no, definitely that one.  Option 4 – ooh, now I’m confused.  Option 5 – press to listen again.  Damn, which one was it again?

I eventually make it past level 2 and manage to negotiate the level 3 gauntlet with adept ease.  I feel I’m getting close to that elusive human contact.  Victory is near.

Level 4 presents me with a simple challenge.  2 options only.  Pathetic.  Everyone knows the final level always has the difficult boss creature to beat.  This is child play.

Press 1 if you already have a reservation. Press 2 to make a new reservation.

I press 2 and the phone starts to ring.  I’m so excited now.  The labyrinth has been navigated and the beast vanquished.  My heart rate is elevated and my irises are fully dilated.  Off to PE I go!

The phone rings once more and someone picks up.  It’s a female.  An operator.  It must be!

The number you have dialled does not exist.  Thank you for calling.  Goodbye.  Click.

By now it’s 21:00 and I feel my enthusiasm hit the bottom of that long well with a loud gong.  The sound is just like one of those nasty old grandfather clocks.  Really, what is the point of going gong every hour?  It’s stupid.  If you live in the house with the gong, your brain switches it out.  If you’re visiting, it’s just scares the crap out of you.  But I think I may have digressed…

So I phone the 24 hour hotline again but get the same response.  It’s now officially time to accept defeat graciously.  Next time I’ll book earlier.  Of course, that’s what I said last time too.

Postscript:  For anyone reading this outside of South Africa, you may be wondering what the word “Eish” means.  It’s one of the New South Africa’s most amazing words, and I have no idea how to define it.  There isn’t an English word I can think of that captures it’s essence.  It’s all of the following and more: “oh sod, oh wow, sigh, ah man, oh no, really?, bugger”.  Maybe someone can describe it better in the comments.


  1. A fair description for eish: Imaging the most retarded prehistoric man being absolutely flabbergasted by something amazing (good or bad)… He is standing there, witnesses this amazing thing… Now imagine the utterance / sound that drawles out of his mouth. EISH (pronounced eAA-shhh)! It is a sound for flabbergasted disbelief.

  2. enter the helopeter referance Grant

  3. I feel a little bit sorry for ya.. but, that being said, the unspontaneous organiser in me like to book these kinds of things weeks in advance.
    Although, I do feel your pain for the online booking deal - ever tried to book a kulula flight online when they're having one of their specials - EISH indeed!