Monday, 19 April 2010

Counting chickens before they hatch

So effectively right now I should be writing this post back in sunny London.

Except I am not. We are still in Brazil, courtesy of Southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano (try saying that after a few drinks) that decided enough was enough and if a referendum about reimbursing investors' losses incurred by the likes of Glitnir and Landsbanki was insufficient to show the might of the people, then it would huff and puff and blow a bleedin' great cloud of ash over Europe and ground the lot of us.

So there. Sorted.

Now I'll be honest here. I had written this post originally on Thursday just gone (that's the 15th of April for those of you losing track of time), and it was a rant of sorts against BA for a number of reasons. However, having seen the effects of this travel chaos on others less fortunate, I have revised my take on our own predicament. Much as I would love to be back home for a number of reasons – kids returning to school and giving me a break from constant demands for one – I can certainly appreciate that being 'stranded' in Brazil, in Rio of all places, is not quite the same as being left without accommodation, food, water and desperately short of money (or even without any at all) in places such as Calcutta, Lagos or even Bangkok where the situation seems pretty dire given the first hand reports on the BBC.

Which leaves me to curtail my 'BA bash' to a certain degree.

Cancelling some 250 plus flights last Thursday alone, given the exceptional circumstances, was understandable to an extent, and I grant you that safety comes first. That much goes without discussion. Being yelled at from every corner of the earth (maybe the call centres now know what it feels like to work for Ryanair, permanently) cannot be much fun either and undoubtedly there will be plenty of candidates for sick leave on the grounds of stress in due course. More fodder for the unions.

Thanks for the text message about the flight being cancelled on Thursday morning by the way, just as I was about to start the packing. Great timing. And the one on Saturday morning saying the same. Terrific. I am now just waiting for the third one to come beeping through tomorrow at 6.30am regarding the Monday night flight.

BUT. And it is a big but this one. After holding on Thursday morning (post text) for some 36 minutes on my umpteenth attempt to get through to BA at an extortionate cost on my mobile (conservative estimate, I am bracing myself for the eventual bill) before 'John' picked up my call and tried to sort us out, did they not think that maybe, just maybe, it would have been more helpful to have a recorded message stating what we are entitled to in light of events, instead of having smug woman and smug man ask every 15 seconds that "If your flight has been cancelled, then please visit our website to manage your booking," (would love to have this option but I have no internet access from my current location which is why I am phoning you) or "please hold the line, your call is important to us," (yes, I effing know that and it is costing me an effiing fortune to even get this far)?

What is even more interesting is that when you do eventually get access to the BA website, not only does it show that you have 'flown' on the original flights (interesting, how does that work?), it states you can reschedule your flight on line but does not allow you to actually do this. Which means another phone call to figure out where we stand, if we can get on another flight, and when this might be. Provided you can get through. Because trying to phone the toll free line today gave a recorded message about high volumes of calls and trying to sort out travellers due to travel imminently (thought we qualified?) and then hangs up. Every time. Every number. Even the one in Brazil.

Have they given up already?

Maybe not because – hold your breath – I was actually called by Luis from BA in Brazil yesterday evening as we drove to the airport to drop off the car (extended car hire, another story suffice to say 'Hertz suck' at present) to advise me that I was entitled to three (yes, three) nights' accommodation (capped, of course) and £25 per adult daily food allowance (£12.50 per child). Whoopee. Pay now, claim back later. Fair enough, better than the proverbial kick in the teeth. Anyone read about my post covering the cost of eating out in Brazil? Obviously not BA.

Just one small problem. The toll free number Luis gave me is the same one that has the recorded message and cuts off after delivering it.

So the variety of suggestions from friends and family back home – cargo ship, swimming, learning to fly my own plane – are amusing but not necessarily helping further.

I think what is possibly most frustrating is that BA can text me about cancellations, but I have to make another very expensive phone call to check about contingency plans (unless we can finally get either Skype or the toll-free number to work) as the website does not allow me to change flights. So it's ok to text if you cancel, but not ok to text to confirm? Mr Walsh, are you running an airline or a dating service? I am confused.

In the meantime thank goodness our host in Buzios was accommodating enough to tide us over for a couple of days. Never mind that half the house lost power and there was a 24 period without water. That just left the extra car hire, excess insurance coverage, calling the credit card companies to advise of our extended stay and other small items to sort out. Like the business meeting and trip Other Half had scheduled for Monday, the next piece of contract work LCM is due to commence next week, the kids' school, the physio appointments... those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. In the chaos of the past couple of days I totally forgot to cancel the babysitter and advise our gracious host back in the UK that we would – understandably – not be able to make dinner on Saturday. Valid excuse this time round.

Now we are back in Rio in a hotel packed with other delayed travellers, biding our time and waiting for the next text message to beep through. The kids are going stir crazy, my mobile has been playing up (love the call centre of my provider, useless as always in sorting out issues, let alone trying to explain what has gone wrong in the first place), Other Half has cut his foot, but at least the sun is shining and we have cotton sheets on our beds – previous experience of poly-cotton bedding and humid climate not a good mix.

It's all so stressful I am going to the beach and will have a couple of caipirinhas before picking up my phone again.*

p.s. And before anyone gets on their high horse and gives me a hard time about my rant, please note that I have a number of good friends who work for BA and am sure they would see the humour in my piece above. I hope. Or maybe they will just ignore me next time we cross paths.

*Provided it still works after one of the brood accidentally dropped it in the sand.

1 comment:

  1. Poor you - it must be very stressful.

    As someone who has been stung by BA in the past (lost luggage, bumped off flights) I can well believe that they are being particularly crap in this crisis.

    Just remember that you are not alone - so many people are affected in similar ways. Tonnes of people I know are stranded, including my sister in Morocco leading a school trip. Let's hope the ash clears soon and everyone gets home.


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