Sunday, December 20, 2009

JETSTAR SUCKS: A Bagless Lady in Christchurch

Arrived at Sydney Airport about 3.3o for ourflight to Christchurch at 5.10. We would arrive in the capital of New Zealand's south island at 10 pm or so, but that was the earliest flight I could get on Sunday. Picked up the boarding passes, went to gate 25 and waited with the others.

About 4.30, when we expected the boarding announcement, we hear: "This is an announcement for passengers on JQ151. The flight has been delayed due to infrastructure and baggage room issues. Jetstar regrets the 30 minute delay to the flight and thanks you for your patience."

What is a "baggage room issue", I wonder. Have some pollies been debating on the carousels? I sit and read the paper, glancing up sometimes to watch the munchkins crawl over the carpet. One little blond boy whizzes around making whooshing noises, his grubby security blanket billowing behind him like Superman's cape.

A little while later and another announcement citing the ongoing "issues" with the luggage and regretting the delay. And then we're told we will be boarding in five minutes. People perk up, and then passengers with seats from 15 to 30 are invited to board. Ours are 29 and 30. Even though you'll read in the Wikipedia link for Jetstar that it allows passengers to choose seating when booking online, unfortunately it hasn't perfected that revolutionary practice as yet, and my son and I would be seated one row apart.

The Korean lady, who'd shared with me her occupation (she is a housewife), her recent past (she'd been on a three-day tour of Australia), and her future plans (she was now flying to New Zealand for a three-day tour) asked me what was happening with the flight. Explanation was difficult as her English language confidence exceeded her ability. However, I showed her five fingers and pointed to her watch. She smiled and nodded.

When I got to the front of the queue and handed over my boarding pass, I pointed out Jetstar's mistake in our seating arrangements and asked if Alex and I could sit together. She said that it was impossible change the seating at this time: the plane was fully booked; I might be able to negotiate with other passengers once the plane had taken off. The girl took Alex's boarding pass and placed it back into his passport and handed it back to him. Mine she lingered over.

"Oh, you've dropped off the system," she told me. "Someone else has been assigned to your seat, even though you have a boarding pass."

"What does that mean?" I asked her.

"The plane's fully booked," she told me. "There aren't any extra seats."

I repeated the earlier question. "I just have to speak to my supervisor," she said, and for the next 40 minutes or so, the three staff discussed my situation with the supervisor and among themselves, but not with me. I waited and watched as all the other passengers boarded. I stayed close so that I could listen in to their conversations for news of my plight because they were not sharing anything with me directly.

Finally Carolyne, a beautiful young woman from Fiji, said that they had arranged for me to get a Pacific Blue flight which was leaving soon and that she would walk me to the gate. It was a couple of kilometres over the polished tiles to gate 63. When we got there Carolyne hesitated. I said, "You're staying with me. If you don't organise my flight, they won't know what's happening."

"Yes, but there doesn't seem to be anyone here from Pacific Blue."

She was right. There were no Pacific Blue staff behind the counter, but many agitated people milling around and three of them now appr0ached us.

"When are we boarding?" asked a man from the U.S.

"Sorry, I don't know," answered Carolyne, "I don't work for them. I work for Jetstar."

"We've been calling the Pacific Blue office and they keep telling me they're sending someone, but no-one's come," said a young Aussie guy. "Can you tell them to come?"

"Sorry, I have no connection with Pacific Blue." But she was doomed. Her red blazer made her stand out and every few minutes another desperate passenger approached asking for news of the flight. They'd been in the lounge waiting for an hour and a half with no information and no airline staff. A Pacific Blue guy finally came and asked some of the passengers what was going on.

He went down the passageway with a couple of colleagues, whipping through the self-locking door down to the on-ramp and away from the approaching group of irate passengers. After about half an hour, two Pacific Blue staff arrived. One of them, Marija, had been sent down to solve the chaos, after being hired by the company about five minutes earlier. As I watched them put my details into the Pacific Blue manifold through trial and error, Carolyne suggesting a fix when they weren't able to enter the information, I had an uncomfortable thought that my problems were probably not over yet.

Well, we did finally get onto the Pacific Blue flight and arrived in Christchurch about 2.30 a.m. on Monday. My foreboding when I watched the three inexperienced women on the computers the night before was realised. We had arrived in Christchurch with our carry-on luggage which included this laptop and a camera, but no spare undies or a toothbrush. (From this, dear readers, unfortunately you get a very good view of my priorities.) The taxi dropped us at the Ibis Hotel down the lane from Cathedral Square and right next door to a luggage shop.

Have not heard good news from the lost baggage people at Christchurch Airport. Am off to find a change of undies, a toothbrush, and perhaps something a bit warmer to wear. (It's bloody cold with that wind, though the skies are very blue.)

More information about Christchurch anon.
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  1. There seems to be travel chaos everywhere at the moment, even the pavement is difficult to negotiate here due to the ice.

    We seem to get caught up in systems that nobody can make sense of. I think that the more complicated something is the more likely it is to go wrong and the harder it becomes to figure out what exactly went wrong.

    Hope things are evening out there, travel can be such a fuss when its all out of your own control. Nice view out of the porthole too, that must make up for some of the inconvenience.

  2. Hi john,

    Thanks for you kind thoughts. Ice is not a problem on the pavement here, but it's certainly cooler than in Sydney now. This is a big plus, for me. I suffer in hot weather.

    My luggage still has not been found, as far as I know. (If it has, no-one has contacted me.) The Pacific Blue staff, who filled in the report about my lost luggage, have not been answering their phone over the past two days.

    I went out and bought a few pairs of undies, socks, some tee-shirts and a jacket and we're getting on OK. Still WOULD like to get my luggage back.

    I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

  3. Merry Christmas QOTN!
    Merry Christmas