As many of you know, I am on holidays. Officially clocked off and kicking back.
I travel a fair bit, more than most I guess, but a lot less than some.
The last 24 hours was "up there" for the most bizarre in my travelling experience to date.
Dive on in and see why I think we flew in breach of CASA regulations, how cancelled flights get uncancelled, and why I had a wake up call at 1.15am Brisbane time only to face two more delayed flights!
For those of your who follow me on twitter would know that at lunch time yesterday, I was due to fly to Nadi. My flight got delayed, and after a couple of hours with no departure time listed due to engine problems, QF391/FJ910 SYD-NAN was cancelled.
It sounds so simple, but it was far from it. It also turned out not to be true. It was eerily familiar to how my dive trip was cancelled for 24 hours.
My day started with a text book perfect flight up from MEL with Qantas (well not the breakfast - it was a breakfast burrito, and it was revolting). The CSM Christopher was just brilliant. I was chatting to him, he started chatting to me, so the other J crew talked to me too. All very friendly, much laugher, highly enjoyable. The woman sitting next to me ask, after they walked away, "Are you on TV? They are just so nice to you." Don't people realise that if you are polite and genuine to the crew, they are polite and genuine right back? We also had a brilliant tailwind, so landed 10 mins early.
Highly conveniently, we gated right opposite the International Transfer desk, and the driver opened the doors as I came down the escalator. I went to the First Desk, got my express passes and I was through. I was contemplating buying gin (really limited selection) for my dive trip (local beer and wine included but BYO hard stuff) when Ross called. He was already upstairs with Mark. I got in no worries, even after the desk staff asked if we are on the same flight. YAY team! It was Tatts time, then I went to Payot for a massage, but they only had beauty staff available, so I got a manicure. (For the record, I did buy some gin, some No. Ten Tanqueray)
With careful fingers and slippery hands, I had brunch with Mark before his flight to HKG-PVG, then when Mark left, I was joined by Ross. I had some icecream to keep him company (I am just that nice). Much Tatts was consumed, but it was soon time to go. Or maybe not. My flight was delayed, update to follow. Update was a little worrying, engine problems, parts, maintenance staff issues - potentially ON'ed in Sydney. Nothing more Tatts can't cure. I realised I was totally and utterly smashed when I called Ross Mark for about the 3rd time. Cheese plates were ordered and conversations were had with the table next to us.
I must say that the personal attention I received regarding the delay and subsequent cancellation for the Service Desk in the FLounge was fantastic. Paige followed up connecting flights for me, and Michael personally came and told me before the announcement was made in the Lounge to see the service desk. I got VERY clear instructions, and knew about the cancellation before it was announced at the gate so I was right at the front of the business class queue when the announcement was made.
After about 15 minutes during which we were asked to be patient by the Menzie's staff, people were starting to get a bit peeved. Michael had told me very clearly what was going to happen, it sounded messy (we would have to get our luggage, reprocessed back to Australia, given taxi vouchers, accommodation vouchers and rebooked). And while it was tempting to stay in the Lounge for a facial (after hearing all that I thought it would take hours), I decided that since they were not Qantas staff, I should get there and be processed I case they clocked off after this flight. Just as well I did. It went from, “We are just finding out what we need to do,” to a lone of the gate checkin staff letting out a cheer. It was now 3pm and the flight was back on!!
A big thanks to all the AFFers who answered my plea on Twitter for the Air Pacific contact number. I had a separate booking to Suva, so I quickly had to call to make sure it was linked to my coming in on the delayed plane. The girl on the phone told me the flight was cancelled, I told her I was on board, and while it would be close, I could just make the connection if they held the plane for a few minutes. She assured me there were indeed a number of people making that connection and now that the flight was back on, we would be expected.
The families boarded first, and I was the first into business class, planting my drunk self into 1A. The CSM welcomed us aboard and a cheer went up from economy. We thought we were off! Thought. Turns out 4 pax had decided to do something else when the flight was cancelled.... Like I almost did. So rather than the door closing and taking off, their luggage had to be offloaded... Another delay.
After this the most bizarre thing occurred. The airport manager for Air Pacific walked to the front of the cabin and told us his name and position and that the curtains had been closed to Economy... I must admit to being a tad worried. What was he going to say? He started by telling us what we already knew. The flight was cancelled. One engine kept sending a warning to the cockpit and they didn't have the part to fix it before the engineers had to finish ( they were due to finish their shift at 4.30pm ). So he tells us that after the flight was cancelled, they contacted Nadi to advise of the issue and its inability to be resolved. The engineers at Nadi told the crew here the sequence to get the alert to turn off, as the engine was otherwise working. (I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of a tricked system on a packed 747, but I digress).
We (the business class passengers) were exchanging glances that pretty much said, “Why is this guy sharing this information with us?” Why soon became apparent. He told the crew that since the flight was cancelled to have a drink and eat some food. What meals did they eat? The business class meals. He told us that he had eaten a prawn cocktail with the crew, and that he stood by his decision. So what was left? Burja mix (nibbles when you get a drink) some cake and all the cheese plates. He told us he would approve any requests for reimbursement to the value of nice meal in a nice restaurant. It was disappointing, but hey, we were still going, and we had to leave ASAP so that the flight crew didn't go over their hours. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t against the law for flight crew to work a flight under the influence of alcohol? If the drinks (discussed shortly) were made by the crew, they were well over 0.05 IMHO.
It is now 3.30pm, luggage has been offloaded, we can hear the doors shutting. Huzzah!
Captain comes on, we are waiting for a tug.
Shortly after we can hear all this noise under us in J.
After about 15 mins Captain comes on. The tug can't connect. Engineering services are called.
It is now 4pm.
I am resigned to the fact that we are going to get deplaned.
We hear more banging and revving under the plane.
We then see a tug going flat out in our direction. I have NEVER seen one of the big ones move like that.
Banging and we move!
Another cheer erupts from Economy. I am now sobering up and feel a headache coming my way. We need to get airborne so I can drink it away.
We finally push back at 4.38pm (original departure time was 12.55pm so just under 4 hours late). The captain took us high, v high. Fight time was crazy fast. We made up just under 45mins!!!
Overall, it was an OK flight. The funniest part for me was asking for tonic water for my gin and tonic. I think they were pouring heavy, very heavy. When I poured in the Tonic Water, you could see the alcohol move - it was that strong!
I watched a lovely sunset over the pacific.
I get my first bag instantly (Priority Baggage rocks), I then had to wait for oversized (dive gear). Oversized comes out, no bag. I give it another 15mins. I am checking the carousel, but no more pink tagged bags are left and I see nothing that looks like my bag. So now I am at Baggage Services. My bag made it to Sydney, good start. Oh yes, it made the plane. Great. It was oversized. But it isn’t with oversized. I am given a lost baggage claim. I am in the queue now for customs when the Baggage Services guy turns up with my bag! From the look of my bag, I think it fell off the trailer (so much for the fragile tag). It was covered in dirt and a chunk of the black plastic had worn down (photos on the iPad in the room so no pic ATM). So it is now about 40minutes since we landed but I'm happy. My dive gear made it, hopefully in one piece, and I can now find a service desk.
At the service desk (just realised she didn't give back the print out of the my electronic ticket - I needed it twice yesterday Liam, so pleased I printed it all out), I am told I can be on the first flight out... 5.30am. Umm no thanks. The staff agree to put me and all those after me on the 6.30am. I get an accommodation voucher and wait for the van from the hotel near the airport.
It shows up, but it isn't wheelchair friendly, a Fijian gentlemen then can't get in the van. Me, the driver, his wife and 3 japanese passengers (the first group to make it through after me to Suva) finally manage to get the man on board. We then repeat at the hotel, which is like 800m away.
We have a transfer to the airport at 5am, so would we like a wake up call at 4.15 or 4.30am? Thank God I didn’t go for the 5.30am flight. As it was I was rung at 1.15am Brisbane time, some three hours after I got to sleep.
It is 11.15pm I am checked in at the most horrendous hotel (Trans International at Nadi Airport AVOID!), but I am so hungry! I had lunch with Mark at 11am, and with no real food on board and waaaay too much champagne, gin, and baileys, I need to eat. My meal voucher was good to $26FJD so I got some grilled chicken and mineral water. Apparently I couldn’t just have a sandwhich (which was all I wanted).
It is now 12,20am on Wednesday Jan 11th (I am supposed to be asleep in a 4 star resort on Lami Bay just outside of Suva, instead I am in a barely 2.5 star hotel) - my wake up call is 4 hours away.
After such a day of random happenstance, I need to sleep.... here is hoping there are no problems toorrow morning since I don't have my print out of eticket anymore.
I finally got to sleep after 1am (10pm Qld time), and woke up a few minutes after 4am.
I was at the airport a few minutes after 5am, and saw that the 5.30am flight to Suva was still accepting check-ins. SCORE!!! I have flexible fares, they have inconvenienced me, I was gunning for this flight.
"We are sorry, Miss, but that flight has been delayed till 7.30am departure."
I think, no problem, I am still going to get there before the 5.30am plane - SCORE!
"We are also sorry that the 6.30am plane has also been delayed. It will leave at 7.30am as well, we are combining the flights."
He then tells me I have excess luggage.
We had quite a conversation, with me pulling up my international allowance, and that this ticket is indeed linked to my international booking. He calmly circled the 15kg allowance. I calmly point out I had 63kg on the way here, and under international economy rules, I have 32kg, of which I am using a little over half. In the end, he realised I was saying after I highlighted the fact that I was delayed, missed my flight and have had only a handful of hours sleep. (I choose to ignore the fact that it was indeed on a separate ticket and he was right, because I was tired, inconvenienced and I won).
So it is 5.10am (though Apple insists it is 4.10am), I have had 3 hours sleep and there is no lounge. I settle in for the 2 or so hour wait.
Interestingly, the Fijian gentleman (disabled) and his daughter were given breakfast vouchers, but no one else was from our merry band received them. The disabled gentleman was quite upset about it and wanted to go tell them whatfor. I just said I was so tired, I didn't think I could eat without throwing up. I was so tired my eyes were watering and I just wanted to die (I didn’t sleep very well the night before I flew out, only 4 hours, and again 4-5 hours at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport).
Finally we are called, I am screened and we board the cutest little ATR that ever was for our 22minute flight to Suva.
We land, and wait for the luggage.
Only my dive gear turned up.
I look around and see one of the three Japanese still waiting for his bags and 2 Fijians.
The ground crew go back to the plane and unpack the tail luggage section. SUCCESS!
Both my bags have made it through 4 flights, 2 close calls of going missing but they, and I are here, all be it late.
I jump a taxi and make it to the hotel 12 hours behind schedule.
I don't ask for an upgrade, I didn’t care. I have the second best room available anyway. Fully refurbed, wonderfully cool even without the AC, brekky, unlimited wireless and broadband. I need for nothing, just sleep and food (and gin).
My room over looks the pool and the beautiful bay with its sailboats and islands with low hanging trees. You can see a panorama of it by clicking this link.
The order of business today is as follow:
Nap or swim (whichever comes first once I finish breakfast).
Swim then nap.
Stroll to the local store and buy some balcony snacks and some Fanta and Coke so I can make a Spezi.
Nap then swim.
Drink in the bar.
But for now, breakfast is over and hopefully an internet password awaits me.
I spent the day napping, swimming and lying by the pool. Glorious.
I am two cocktails into the lobby bar’s cocktail list. I was happily surprised that all the cocktails had gin in them… Turns out it is a Gin Lounge!
I better eat soon or it could get messy. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.
I have ordered and sunset just got amazing. Final pic....
PS More photos to come when I get myself organised.
Overall rating - trip to Suva if you take out catching up with great people with lovely food and champas, it would rate a #oneandahalfpandas
PPS. You can be damned sure I am writing one hell of a complaint letter to Air Pacific and copying to Qantas.