Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Update: Australian Visa Quasi-Fiasco

What would you do when faced with the following choice:
1. Pay US$1000 to buy a one way ticket from Auckland to the US
2. Get flown back to the US for free, sans New Zealand vacation

I had my credit card out and was about to pay the $1000.

Some background:
US Citizens don't need a visa for New Zealand. I thought that I had checked and found that US Citizens didn't need a visa for Australia, either. I was wrong.
When checking into my flight from Sydney to Auckland, Air New Zealand wouldn't let me fly. The said that they couldn't deliver me to Auckland today because they coudln't fly me out of Auckland (to Sydney) at the end of February, because I didn't have a valid Australian Visa. I had planned a 1 week layover in Sydney.

So no big deal, right? Just get United to eliminate the 1 week layover and fly me out of Auckland on March 4th directly to the US. Unfortunatly, since I booked my ticket using award travel, they can't change any of the reservation for any reason. Well, thats what they said. And then they wanted to change my reservation to fly me back to LAX today. Yikes. I had multiple people trying to do that to me. Who do you think saved me?!

The nice folks at the Air New Zealand Lounge, of course! (The United representatives were amazingly cold and useless to my predicament [which I put myself in, admittedly].) One of them said (after talking to airport immigration, the visa office, and other airlines -- all trying to ship me back to LAX): "Why don't you just jump on our computer and get an electronic visa?" And so I did. After AU$20 and about 4 minutes, I had a valid visa. (I had to lie and say I wasn't in Australia... but was I really telling a lie? I mean after all, you can't get into Australia without a valid Australian visa! ;) )

Now I'm booked on a flight later today to NZ, hopefully in Auckland by nightfall. My dad would give me a lecture, but since he's not here, I'll just smile and say this is the excitement that I was looking for on my adventure.