Diary of a Christmas Travel Nightmare..

22 12 2010

John Candy (RIP) eat your heart out..


In March 2010 Christmas was a long way away and it all seemed so easy, simply book some flights and go diving in one of the most beautiful parts of Thailand – the Similan Islands..

Easy ?

Well, I thought so, until the snow came..

On Monday I watched the boards as flight after flight was cancelled. My equivalent flights that I would be taking on Tuesday were both cancelled, I held out hope though..

Tuesday morning and the Lufthansa board said ‘Scheduled’ for my MAN -> FRA and FRA -> SIN flights.. Chuffed ? You betcha.

Until, I got a text message from Lufthansa. “We regret to inform you blah blah” you get the picture.

These flights are a house of cards built on air-miles spend, additional self funded flights (separate tix) and fixed (pre-paid £2k) liveaboard commitments which meant that any change to the schedule meant much shuffling and no chance of cancellation..

The FRA->SIN flight, however, was not cancelled so a glimmer of hope was still visible.. Just had to get to Frankfurt when all short-haul flights to FRA were cancelled.

Solution ? Buy a ticket to Brussels, get the train to FRA. What could possibly go wrong ?

Managed to get on the 13:55 flight to Brussels (£510) which was subsequently delayed (due to unknown circumstances and missing passengers) to 15:15 takeoff..

Still feasible to get a train at 18:30 to FRA – in theory..

Ran from the Brussels flight to the train station, bought a ticket from the blokey (£179) and ran onto the waiting train – literally !

Got settled and congratulated myself on beating the system.. until we get to Aachen..

..”Meine damen und herren etc etc”

Bottom-line, train ist kaput and we must get off in Aachen and board a new train to FRA..

Problem was the replacement train was 60 mins away..

Eventually it turned up and we all set off again..

The train then proceeded (due to snow) to travel at two thirds it’s normal speed..

Hope was not lost though.. A new text message from Lufthansa telling me the flight was delayed 45 mins meant we still had a chance.. Deutsche Bahn put paid to that though by stopping at a random station for technical reasons..

We were well and truly fcuked now.

When we eventually arrive at the airport it is 22:50 and the flight has gone.. we are directed to the re-booking queue and issued ticket no 839 which is a ticket for service.. only problem is the current service number is 621 !!

By the time we get served, it is 01:10 and they are only issuing hotel vouchers. No flights !

We must come back tomorrow at 05:45 (by that they mean in 4 hours and 35 mins) 😦

Depressed, we go to the hotel and I realise I must now ring eBookers (bunch of useless money grabbing thieving b’stards who have no concept of customer service) and try to shift my SIN->HKT flight..

45 mins later I have moved from number 13 in the queue to number 7.. this is an international call and I have had enough..

It is 3am so I hang up and try to ring Singapore Airlines (embodiment of customer service) – they answer immediately and they happily shift me to a flight on 24th Dec at NO cost to me.. result.

I flop into bed and try not to think about the alarm that will go off in 2 hrs 30 mins..

All too soon, the alarm goes off and we blindly trudge down to the taxi and await our fate at FRA..

Back to the ticket issue system (this time we are only 62 from the front).. We start cat napping and eventually it ticks round to us..

The lady at the desk looks at the tickets, tuts and shakes her head walking off to her supervisor.. I expect the worst.

Shortly she returns and mumbles something to me, I ask her to repeat and she says “Thats all done for you” !!!

We are booked on the 22:10 flight (one day late) and we get exit row seats 😉

All we need to do now is spend 14 hours kicking our heels in FRA and sort out a hotel in SIN..

Not sure what all this, says but it certainly serves as a stark reminder that the infrastructure that we know and rely on so heavily, takes very little to break it..

Also, don’t just assume because a service is run by a German company and (according to British folklore) is teutonically efficient that you will not be delayed..

On another day it all might have worked, but not this time – and it has (so far) cost us an additional £789 and lost us 3 days of our holiday – thanks Mr Snowman !