If they could take the “travel” out of “travel”, I’d be a happy camper!
I just returned from a lovely Rhine River Cruise (Amsterdam to Strasbourg – more about that in a separate post). We flew via KLM (we didn’t have a choice). This airline doesn’t do Ottawa, so they provide a bus service from the Ottawa Train Station to Montreal. They even give this leg of the journey a flight number which made me giggle.
The only thing that worked really well was our Sprinter Van to take 12 of our group from Granite Court to the train station and return. Elite Limousine did a great job – even though we were late arriving at the Train Station on our return.
Two of our group of 20 had requested “wheelchair assistance” at all airports. It simply didn’t happen. At Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport in Montreal, about 6 airport employees stood around with their fingers you-know-where lamenting the fact that there were people needing assistance and there didn’t seem to be any wheelchairs…..even though they had a list of names and the service had been booked in advance.
The flight itself was long and my seat was in the last row, checking out the number of bathroom trips people made during the 6 hours or so we were in the air. I learned that there is economy and then there is “economy comfort” – which one has to pay for. This moves you forward in the aircraft and might, if lucky, give you 4″ more leg room. The upgrade to “comfort” isn’t cheap at approximately $144 per person – per trip (not per return trip either). I also learned that KLM staff (particularly airport staff) are rude and have no idea what customer service is supposed to mean.
Things didn’t work any better in the Amsterdam airport. There eventually was some assistance, but it was in the form of a golf cart vehicle which could only go certain places – and one of those it could not go to was baggage retrieval. Imagine! One bag went missing – and our group leader had gone ahead without waiting to ensure everyone had their luggage. The errant bag was eventually found and we headed into a central Amsterdam hotel where a “waiting room” was arranged since we couldn’t board our ship for hours!!! This room had dreadful coffee from machines that seldom worked and a dismal plate of small biscuits. We had about 6 hours to wait. The hotel wasn’t very happy about having us there since we were a large number (close to 150 people by the time everyone had arrived from various places) and associated suitcases – and our presence clogged up their lobby.
We had time to find a meal and eventually we boarded buses to go to the ship. It was a long day made longer by travel issues galore.
Our return journey was only slightly better. Firstly, up at 4:30am Strasbourg time to get our suitcases outside the hotel room door by 5am. There was a breakfast of sorts – but only 1/2 hour to consume it and then find a bathroom before a 2-hour bus ride from Strasbourg to Frankfurt. Because of tour routing, we had a flight from Frankfurt to Amsterdam and then another from Amsterdam to Montreal, and finally the KLM bus ride from Montreal to Ottawa. Wheelchair assistance was an improved scenario from our initial trip out – but only after a great deal of insistence and lots of waiting – again, this service was pre-booked but it appears that truly means absolutely nothing. We didn’t have time between flights (in Frankfurt) to eat and, due to airport renovation, there were no bathrooms in the area of our departure lounge. The partner of our tour leader chose one of the airport line-ups to have a tantrum of sorts, complaining about whining bitches and how his vacation had been ruined. Geesh – weren’t we customers? Wasn’t it the job of a tour leader to work rather than take a holiday?
The last flight from Amsterdam to Montreal – finally on the plane and this time I wasn`t in the last row of the plane – just in the last row of a section – again beside the washrooms! My Kobo had given up the ghost so I managed to watch a movie and even dozed a little. The flight was late – not sure why – and our KLM bus wasn`t there waiting for us – we had to wait outside in the cold – nobody was impressed and we were all very tired. The bus ride was a quiet one. We were so happy to see our Sprinter Van from Elite Limo waiting for us at the Ottawa train station.
Flying is no longer fun – not even a little bit. Airports are huge and very busy. Line-ups are long and customer service has almost completely disappeared. If you need assistance, you not only need to pre-arrange it, but you must yell and scream at every junction of the trip and that still won`t get you much. Everyone (travellers and airport/airline staff alike) is tired and irritable. Planes are not comfortable (at least in economy class), space is at a premium, getting on and off means waiting, pushing/shoving or being pushed/shoved, meals are barely edible, there are never enough washrooms – one feels like cattle being moved around by box-car – and for this you pay a lot!!
The next time I go anywhere requiring air travel, I want to transform myself into Samantha from Bewitched, wiggle my nose and instantly be wherever it is I want to be. Or maybe I’ll just stick closer to home and drive!