This is November, temperature is 5° C, Christmas holidays are coming fast, terrorist attacks happened, spirit is down and broken, I need to get away. I want to go here:
Every year at this period, this is the time when I plan where to celebrate the end of the year. Except this year, the heart doesn’t feel like celebrating at all, it needs instead some mending and electroshock reanimating. So instead of scanning the planetary globe for a new place to visit and hard party, I’m just going back home, where I come from and where the sun is, in the Indian Ocean. To go there, it is always a battle to find a good flight ticket especially at this period of time because this is the high season, it is guaranteed that you will pay 1000 € and above. In low season you could find a ticket for 800 € and if extremely lucky even 600 € . So it is needless to say that finding the right ticket is an extremely stressing experience. The more you wait the more it is expensive, and you either buy now or you keep searching for a good ticket, but you might end up totally screwed and ruined.
So all this week I have been doing only that: chasing flying flight tickets with a goddamn net with my head spinning in all directions like a dysfunctional and disturbing toy. My eyes were red burned by the mesmerising light from my screen, and my finger was over-massaged from clicking on all the flight deals I could find on all the search engines. The hours and then the days go by, I keep listening to the news, those terribly bleak news, and the pressure to find the magic ticket to extract myself from this sorrowful atmosphere becomes heavier and heavier like a wall shrinking faster and faster on me. Each day, I find interesting deals, but I fail to close the deal because the offers always come from online bookers such as Opodo, Bravofly, LastMinute, eBookers and when I read the reviews online, oh mama, I am more scared than ever, I really don’t trust those sites and for an amount of 1000 € + I will not jump off that cliff.
So, I look for the tickets directly on the websites of the airline companies but I’m only left with impossible flights, with infinite stops or with arrivals at 3AM or departures at 6AM. So much I am desperate, I temporarily book a flight that has two stops of 11h30 and 6h and that makes me take off at 8 AM, the suspicious thing is that at the arrival they don’t even reward you with a special trophy. I kept that flight for three days as my backup plan to be sure that I would leave, but deep down the two stops and savage morning wake-up hassle were melting my guts like aggressive acid. Two more days went by, and each day the price rose by 100 €. But when it’s not right, it’s not right ! I was always hoping to find a better deal like a hopeful addicted gambler.
And then, the miracle. I knew there was a flight ticket Angel in this dark world. I had found the perfect flight. Acceptable itinerary, with only one stop in the Seychelles, with correct departure and arrival times, a very good price of 859 € (rock on !!!) and it was a flight I found on the airline website directly, therefore very trustable – or so I thought. This miraculous and God blessed airline as you might have guessed was Air Seychelles.
“Air Seychelles”, just thinking about this airline, my mind was already in the clouds flying towards the sun’s birthplace. Finally, all the tension was slowly relieved. Very thrilled about completing my treasure quest, I fill all the registration details, the process is very simple and quick, the website doesn’t get in my way. I am almost there ! Finally, I click on the big button “Book”. The button opens up a pop-up window from what I believe is a third-party paying module where I need to enter my credit card details. As I enter my credit card details, with my safety check habit I instinctively glance at the HTTPS padlock in the address bar, and BAM – VISION FREEZE. This is what I see:
Clearly something is wrong. I click to display what Chrome has to say:
When I read this, I reflect for a few seconds. I want so badly to give them my money. I am so close. Maybe I could do like I don’t understand what that means, and go ahead and give them my money !!! I mean, “bla bla bla.. the connection is encrypted using AES_256_CBC, with HMAC-SHA1 for message authentication and ECDHE_RSA … bla bla bla … RapidSSL CA.. bla…cipher suite”, isn’t that just geek stuff to say that everything is fine? I mean why would an airline try to cause you any problems? thousands of people must buy tickets from them here. I think it’s fine. Just go ahead. I believe this is what normal people would think. They want the service. They pay the service and that’s the end of the story. Except for me. With software, I am never normal.
Suddenly, after trying my best to choke it, my real personality emerges and takes over with the big guns. I could not do like I don’t understand, because I do understand this stuff ! Damn. I can’t pretend like I’m not a security paranoid engineer who works in a bank !!! Double damn. I can’t hide my true nature, just because I want to give them my money as quickly as possible. Tears and punishment. All of a sudden, the clouds and the sun’s birthplace vanish and are replaced by a cacophonous noise of banged frying pans and overexcited red lights, my mind is howling “alleeeeEErrrRRRTTTT”.
I reflect for a few more seconds. My evil self starts taking control “Are you not a risk taker?”, “Really, so you’re gonna give up, like an invertebrate jelly fish?” “No holidays for us. Really. It’s just one click away. Why can’t you just click? We’ll just stay here in the fog and the darkness. That’s your big plan for us? Well go ahead, why don’t you just eat expired yogurt so the world can move on without you!” What ! As I am over panicked hearing her, my hand is shaking, I want to close this evil pop-up window, what an evil evil pop-up window ! I hate this website !!! So I click and I close the pop-up window. Phew. The evil is gone. As I am recovering from the evil attack, I tell myself, “Too bad, I’ll find another deal”. Sorry Air Seychelles, but I don’t joke about this stuff, it really spooks me. I wanted so much to give them my money, why did they have to make me give it to cyber hackers too ?!!
At this point, I am really mad at this website and the irresponsible IT crew that developed it. I can’t believe something this big would allow that, it’s like a banking service with a weak HTTPS encryption, unacceptable. Rage against the SSL ! Anyway, I was so mad at this false hope, I felt a little down about my quest. The ticket was there, I just couldn’t pay it. How could I force my money on them ?! After thinking a bit, my next idea was to pay the same ticket through bookers who, I hoped had strong security (if not, I will eat the goddamn yogurt !!). So I search for the same ticket on bookers, but it’s about 150 € more expensive. And I still don’t trust those bookers anyway, apparently they charge you more than the price they display and you thought you paid – I told you I am paranoid.
So, I got bottom desperate and you’ll never guess what I did. Since I don’t want to pay an online booker service I don’t trust, I went to a travel agency with a physical store in the 3D real life. Because, you know, at least there will be a place to go to if anything goes wrong, I will not have to deal with ghosts who send emails. Also, since I’ve never done that before, who knows, maybe they have deals too.
I don’t know if you ever did that yourself, but since this is really new to me, this experience deserves a full-on narrative so much it cracked my head.
So, I went to this small agency after work, it was already late and the place was empty. I enter the store, and as I have absolutely no idea how that works, I go towards the first living person who smiles at me from the distance: a woman in front of her computer.
She looks at me like I’ve just landed on this planet, and she replies:
It is imperative that she knows I have been living on this planet for a long time and that I am well aware of the human system so I quickly react:
I give her the details of my dream flight. And before she initiates her search, she tells me:
After a few minutes her search resolves, and she gets back to me:
As she says that, I cannot see her screen. She just says that as a universal truth.
Damn. As I was looking at this woman, clearly she just wanted to get back home and she was absolutely not being helpful at all. I kept asking her to change the dates and find me the best deal, but she was always categorical even though I didn’t see her search with a lot of effort. On top of that, not seeing her screen was frying my frustration into annoyance. You know that grid we see on flights search engines that shows you by dates the tickets price so you visualize when it’s best to plan your trip? Well, in fact that’s all you need ! Dealing with a person to find a flight ticket is just a crazy thing to do, what was I thinking ! Thank goodness for the sorting algorithms ! Anyway, seeing that this was going nowhere, I politely left. The only thing the woman told me before I left was, “Be careful, the more you wait the more expensive it gets.” Kill me.
Later though, out of curiosity, I checked that agency website, and in fact they had their own search engine too. I bet this is what the woman was using. Unsurprisingly, when I searched I found cheaper deals than the ones she told me about. But I still couldn’t find the magic Air Seychelles one.
Still hung up on the Air Seychelles magic ticket, I try to find their physical agency where I could go to give them my money. I still really want to give them my money even if they burnt all their credibility points already, it’s the flight I want. So there is a physical agency but it opens 9h to 13h and 14h to 17h mon to fri. The week end is approaching, there is no way I can go there. I try to call, no answer. Finally I send an email to the customer service, which sounds like “Hey, I want to give you my money, when can I come to your office?” I didn’t drop in the background thought “WTF with your FFF website that doesn’t have FFF HTTPS ?!!”. And then it was the week-end. As I gave myself one week to find the ticket, I was pretty sure the Air Seychelles ticket had already gone bye bye.
No worries, my goal was to find the right flight for me, so in the end I found it, and finally paid with a booker that I used before and that I trusted (and that has physical stores). Of course I paid the price, but at least I will not have my stomach dissolved by the worries of endless connections and unreal hours. I do, I do like comfort, but I prefer calling it efficiency. Ha!
So to conclude on the dream I was chasing of Air Seychelles. This morning I got the reply to my email. It reads exactly with those words:
Please assist customer for the payment completion online.
Thanks for your assistance.
Mr. Travel agent.
But no one has helped me yet. In fact I will be a little embarrassed if they do come help me because their online system is so weird that it books you on the flight before you actually pay, at the “Book” button. So I have 4 flights that I have booked like that. Sorry I have totally corrupted your database :P !
So I found my ticket, it’s not the one I was chasing, but it’s definitely the one I am the most comfortable with, and the one around which I can be myself, that’s all that matters. I am talking about a flight ticket yes ! To Air Seychelles I say, with your dreamy name and all, it is a shame that you accept to lose money by not caring enough about your technology. I shake my head in disapproval. Shame, shame, shame !
Anyway I keep my eyes on the prize :
HTTPS will NOT spoil that for me !
I used google.com/flights combined with lilligo.com
Also I have heard of “virtual credit cards” that could be used for only an amount of money during only a period of time. This could be a solution for the dodgy HTTPS problem.