Written on Thursday the 30th of May.
Greetings from Thailand! I have finally made it here, and am writing from a hotel I will be staying until heading over to the elephants this coming Sunday. It has been a long journey to get here, and I have been thoroughly reminded of how much I dislike the logistical side of travel.
I arrived at the Auckland International Airport with family at about 3:30am two days ago. My flight to Sydney left on time at about 6:15 that morning, but what was meant to be a three hour trip ended up taking us eight hours to get to our scheduled destination. A heavy roll of fog had settled over Syndey’s airport at the time we were originally supposed to arrive, so after circling in the sky the pilot decided to head towards Brisbane as we needed to refuel. I admit that the plan was not communicated to us very well, so for those passengers following the Flight Path on screen they remained quite confused for some time – including myself. I told myself that if we were unable to land in Sydney, planes due to leave the airport would also be grounded so perhaps there would still be a chance to catch my connecting flight to Bangkok.
We landed in Brisbane. Of course, we weren’t the only ones who had been redirected so there was quite a cue to wait for refuelling. We also needed to wait until we had the all-clear with the weather before being able to head back down to Sydney. Needless to say I watched a lot of television!
It took us about an hour to get back to Sydney, by which time eight hours had passed after leaving New Zealand. During the journey from Brisbane there was a sincere lack of information about connecting flights; there were about fifty of us needing to catch connections and none of us had any idea if our planes had already left, if we would have a chance of getting on a flight that same day, or if we would need to make other arrangements. I remained hopeful despite having no clue of what the most likely outcome would be.
I don’t enjoy complaining in public, and it’s not something I usually do. But if I am going to be entirely honest about how we were treated in regards to communication and keeping us informed, the service was extremely poor. Don’t get me wrong – the flight crew were great; friendly, chatty and kept spirits high despite the lack of information they were able to give. But as we left the plane and asked for further instruction, they assured us there would be ground staff waiting just outside to inform us further and help us figure out our situations. However, there were no ground staff waiting, so we piled over to the Transfer Desk where there was one woman from a completely different airline trying to understand what we were asking. She served two people before telling us she couldn’t help us, she wasn’t even meant to be there, the counter was closed and we would have to find the other Transfer Desk “Just up the escalator” for information. So, we went up the escalator, only to be told by someone from the Currency Exchange counter that the second Transfer Desk was actually on the other side of the airport – certainly not “just up the escalator”.
Our small mob disbanded, and people wandered off in very different directions. Personally I had no idea where to go. I had never been in this situation before. I tried looking for a staff member of the airline that I was dealing with, but there was no one in sight. I checked the departures screen – my flight to Bangkok was not on there – it most certainly must have left by now. I heard someone mention that there would be flights later on in the day, but I had no idea if a connection to Bangkok was included in that. By this point it was 12:30pm local time – 2:30pm New Zealand time. I walked in circles, looking for someone that could help, and then found a couple I recognised from the plane. They were headed to Shanghai, and were equally as lost as I was. Someone pointed us in the direction of the other side of the airport, so off we went.
Several minutes later we finally found the “Transfer Desk” sign, and were able to speak to an airline representative. She seemed as confused as we were, and was not a great help. She assured the couple they would be on a flight to Shanghai later, and they disappeared. She then assured me that I now had a seat on an Emirates flight due to leave at 6:45pm that night. I was so relieved, I could almost cry. Leaving at 6pm would mean I would get to Thailand at about 11pm their time – still enough time to settle into my hotel room for the night and get some rest before my tour the following day. The airline representative told me to head back to the first Transfer Desk at 3:30pm – that’s when Emirates staff would be there to help me. She gave me a voucher to use for lunch, and I settled in for a few hours’ wait.
As 3pm approached I headed back to the original transfer desk. I saw another couple from the original flight who told me they were also waiting to get to Bangkok. When the Emirates staff opened the counters we went to see them. They told us that yes, our names were there for seats on the plane but they were missing ticket information – we would have to get that from our original airline. They weren’t sure why we hadn’t been given this information earlier, but we had lots of time to head back to the second Transfer Desk on the other side of the airport to see the appropriate airline representative. So yet again I walked across the airport. At least I knew I would be flying out that evening – having that security helped me relax.
I reached the Transfer Desk of our original airline. The couple went ahead of me and spoke to the representative – obviously it was a new shift because they were seen by a different woman. She told us that they didn’t have ticket information for us, and that we were probably on standby. Wait – what? Standby? But we had been assured by the previous staff member that we definitely had seats on the plane, and Emirates had also told us the same information… The airline representative said she couldn’t really help – the best thing to do would be to go back to the Emirates Transfer Desk. So, we again walked across the airport, only to be told by Emirates that they were having difficulty reaching their supervisor to get us what we needed but as soon as they had more information for us they would page us.
We waited a little while, but time was creeping on. We decided to take matters into our own hands, and head back across the airport to ask the representative of our original airline to contact Emirates. She told us we shouldn’t be hopeful about getting on a flight tonight. I was astounded; I couldn’t believe we had been waiting for more than five hours by this point only to be told that our efforts were most probably futile – why couldn’t they give us a straight answer? She told us that she couldn’t get us the correct information because she didn’t have access to the Emirates system – but if Emirates couldn’t get us the right information either, then who were we supposed to talk to?
I went back to the Emirates desk, yet another trip across the airport. A line had built up by this point – it was getting close to 6pm. As I waited in line the Emirates representative I had been dealing with came along and spoke to those of us that were supposed to be on the Bangkok flight. There was a second couple from my original flight in the same boat as me – the woman was pretty mad and was going on about how there was no way we’d be flying out that night. I tried to ignore her comments as I wanted to trust the staff. The Emirates representative showed me that my name was on their list, they were just waiting for a bit more information to get me a boarding pass but I was definitely on there and the plane wouldn’t leave until it was all sorted out. I began talking to some passengers who had flown in from New Zealand at about 3:30pm that day – I think they were headed to Dubai but were also catching a connecting flight to Bangkok.
I reached the counter, and was pretty sure that they wouldn’t have gathered the information needed to get me on board yet but it would be nice to talk to someone. It was a different Emirates rep, but the one I had been dealing with was beside her – I was confident they would have the same information.
This is where the final straw approached. This particular Emirates rep didn’t even give me eye contact. She told me, “You’re not on the flight.”
“What do you mean I’m not on the flight? The other lady just showed me my name on the list and assured me that I have a seat.”
“You’ve been bumped off.”
“I don’t understand…”
“You’re on standby. You had a seat, but you were bumped off by Air New Zealand passengers.” She must have been meaning the Air NZ passengers I had been talking to that had arrived at 3:30pm.
“Why didn’t you inform me of this?”
“I’m informing you now.”
I couldn’t believe her rudeness. I understand we were not Emirates’ original responsibility, but to be told time and time again that several of us did have seats on their flight – in fact, to be assured of this – and then in the last moments to be told that actually we don’t… I thought it was extremely poor communication and her manner was less than customer-friendly.
I walked off exasperated. The other Emirates representative that I had originally dealt with told me to stay close – I was on Standby so they might still be able to get me on. I sat down with my laptop, and chatted to Mum. Mum is amazing. She is a true lioness. I’m 25, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to protect me. She called the airline – the original airline I was meant to fly with – who told her I definitely had a seat on the plane and to go back to Emirates. So I did – but no, they told me my situation had not changed. This went on until about 6:45pm when I finally realised it just – wasn’t – happening. Time to give up.
Mum told me the original airline had arranged a hotel room for me for the night. They gave me a food voucher to use at the airport for dinner, a taxi voucher, and off I went.
I think this was a display of truly poor communication and abysmal customer service. Everyone I dealt with had been extremely unhelpful. It is a shame that there wasn’t any staff to meet us after our flight from Brisbane, as the flight crew said there would be, to tell us what to do next. It would have saved me about seven hours of confusion, waiting, walking, and trying to figure things out only to be told I would not be on a flight that day. People I had spoken to were unhelpful and even rude.
Thankfully as soon as I was escorted out of the airport by a different airline representative, everything was fine. Exhausted, I had left my laptop in my baggage trolley and a Sydney Airport staff member ran it over to me as I was getting into my taxi. The taxi driver acted like a tour guide as he dropped me off to my hotel – the Novotel in Brighton. The hotel staff were amazing, and one (another girl called Sam, who was blimming awesome) helped me figure out some things to do for the evening and let me vent a little.
I relaxed. I had a shower. I went out to the Sydney Harbour to look at the fantastic light show on the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge. It was a gorgeous night, people were friendly, and my spirits recovered and improved. I went to bed that night feeling ready to head back to the airport in the morning. The airline had assured me I would have a seat on the 9am Bangkok plane – I tried to get one of the grumpy passenger’s words out of my head (she had told me we may not get a flight for days if flights were full, as the Emirates flight obviously had been). I slept really, really well.
At 5:30 the next morning I got up, got myself ready, had breakfast and got to the airport just before 7am. Yes, I definitely had a seat on this plane. Today was a new day – the staff I dealt with were awesome, friendly and really helpful. Our flight was delayed over three hours because of more morning fog in Sydney – but I finally made it to Thailand!!!!!!!!
So here I am, ready to head off shortly to visit some temples. I am going to relax and enjoy the next few days until I am picked up on Sunday to go to the elephant sanctuary – eek! Today the sky is grey, but it is beautifully warm. Friends back home have told me how winter is definitely settling in – I have never been one for the cold so I’m cheerfully happy to be here. I’ll talk soon when I have actually gone out and seen some of what’s around me!