Is travel chaos the new normal?

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  • Bath_VIP
    Participant

    It’s easy to see the aftermath of COVID19 is chaos worldwide but is chaos the new normal? The saga I went through at Heathrow yesterday was new to me on so many levels that it makes me wonder.

    I was supposed to fly from Heathrow to Trondheim with a connection in Bergen. The airline was Wideroe and I chose them partly for the different experience but also because their timings were the most convenient.

    I was due to arrive at 2200 in Bergen to connect with the 2250 flight to Trondheim. As I set off from Bath that afternoon, I received a text saying the departure time had been delayed leaving only 20 minutes for the connection but it explicitly said –

    “If this delay causes you to miss connecting flights in your booking, we will automatically rebook you”

    I knew there was a flight to Trondheim leaving at 0745 the following morning which fitted in with my plans so I had no objections to staying overnight in Bergen.

    I get to Heathrow T2 around 1700 and the terminal is busy. The screens said the check in area was zone C but there was no sign of the Wideroe check in. Given the original departure time was supposed to 1900 this was odd and it become odder when I asked staff and one said check in will open at 1800! A number of us were standing around trying to figure out what was going on. Eventually around 1740, a staff member comes and starts calling for anyone who is travelling to Bergen (I thought he was saying Berlin at first). I made myself known and he said checkin was in zone B. Yet at no time did the screen ever show anything but zone C! Never had that before.

    Anyway, I find the checkin desk and in front of me is a women in her mid 20s lying on the floor crying her eyes out. Her boyfriend is calmly discussing with an agent what their alternatives are due to whatever disruption they’ve experienced. The fact that the checkin agent then beckons me forward suggested such scenes were nothing unusual. So I stepped over the wailing woman (some of you will know I am registered blind) and tried to find out what was happening with my connection. The agent said I would find out when I got to Bergen but my bag was checked in through to Trondheim. I was issued with a boarding pass for the connecting flight as well so combined with the earlier text message, I had no qualms going to departures.

    Security wasn’t too bad and I was through by 1800. 5 minutes later I get the following text –

    “Your flight departure has unfortunately been cancelled due to the ongoing strike among flight technicians”

    It went on to say I would receive a full refund as they were uncertain as to when flights could resume normal operations. You can imagine my confusion given it had only taken 20 mins for the staff to go on strike!

    It got more confusing since the departure board was still showing the flight. 10 minutes later another text arrived saying Wideroe was sorry for the change in their itinerary and my new itinerary showed the Bergen to Trondheim was now missing. I checked my emails which made it clear they would fly me to Bergen and then tell me to sod off and find my own way to Trondheim.

    I thought stuff that, I’m going home and Wideroe can refund me. But my bag was still checked in which meant I needed to go to the gate to get it offloaded. The problem was the gate wasn’t going to be announced until 1915 which meant I had an hour to wait. Come 1915 it still wasn’t announced and I resorted to flightradar to find out the plane was late and would land in 20 mins. I realised the gate wouldn’t be announced until the plane had landed and by then I expected insult to be added by it being a B gate which would mean a 15 min traipse out to the satellite terminal.

    In the event, it turned out to be an A gate. When the gate agent turned up, it turned to be the check in agent again. I asked if I was on the first flight out of Bergen tomorrow but she told me I would find out in Bergen. That was no good to me given the text and email I had so I asked for my bag to be offloaded. Then I realised I didn’t know how to get to baggage reclaim from departures in terminal 2. The gate agent didn’t know either but advised me to go back to security and ask someone there to escort me through to baggage reclaim.

    This I did and a border force guard took me in hand. I have to say he was excellent but he hadn’t done this before and whilst in theory he knew the way, he had to keep checking with colleagues along the way. After quite a trek, it turned out I had to go through passport control even though I never left the UK. Another new experience which I bet will confuse the home office computers!

    What we weren’t clear on was which baggage belt my bag would appear on. We went to the inbound Bergen flight belt but nothing appeared. Whilst waiting, I eventually realised the whole baggage hall was full of bags that been taken off the belts and just stacked in groups. I remembered the news from some days ago about the T2/3 baggage system failing but it was startling to see the sheer number of bags still standing around. We’re talking well over a thousand bags.

    We went to baggage services and they said my bag wasn’t in the system yet but they advised that offloaded bags normally appear on belts 7 or 11. They couldn’t tell me how long it would take and by now it was 2000 and the last train back to Bath left Paddington at 2300. The last thing I wanted to do was hang around all night but I decided to give it some time and went to sit by belt 11.

    Before long an unpleasant smell manifested itself. There was a guy a few feet away who at first seemed to be assembling a wheelchair before I realised it was a bicycle. I was muttering to myself that he really needed a bath but eventually I realised the smell was that of fish and I couldn’t see why he would smell of fish. Then it occurred to me the more likely explanation is that one of the thousand or so bags had some fish in it that was now going bad. Obviously trying to figure out which bag it was would be a nightmare for staff but it made me think what else is decomposing in those bags?!

    Eventually the smell drove me away and I went for another forlorn hunt. I ended up back at baggage services and this time they told me the bag was now on belt 11. They were right and I managed to catch the 2200 train from Paddington by which time I was hungry and thirsty. I only had 10 mins at Paddington to get something from Burger King and had to resort to taking whatever was already cooked on their shelf which turned out to be an insipid chicken burger.

    So many new experiences for me in that saga but is that the new normal?


    cwoodward
    Participant

    Normal is normal.
    There can be no new normal.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    To answer your question, I think it is what we have to expect for the foreseeable.

    I had a similarly chaotic experience at Gatwick a couple of weeks ago, as did (that day) thousands of other passengers. Lots of flights delayed and then cancelled, IT systems giving different information, little or no (human) support, and then emails left unanswered about alternatives, refunds and compensation.

    I suppose for those it has not happened to, it’s all just ‘one of those things’, but to those it has happened, to, there are a proportion who will be discouraged from either travelling or using that carrier again.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    I think you’re right Tom, experiences like these will put people off travelling. I don’t think we will see the last of things like this.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    I don’t think we will see the last of things like this.

    This situation is expected to persist for months.

    It’s not just the UK. Air service across Europe is impacted.

    You may have read Mark’s copy today about the increased number of Lufthansa cancellations this summer.

    Lufthansa cancels a further 2,200 flights this summer

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    @Bath VIP – a very detailed travel experience from a perspective I am fortunate not to experience.

    Safe and trouble free travels for everyone…

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    Bath_VIP
    Participant

    I’ve just had email confirmation that Wideroe are making a full refund so that’s good to hear.

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    Inquisitive
    Participant

    There is no travel chaos “worldwide”. Of course there were some teething issues post covid lockdown due to differences in rules imposed by various government, but from various forum posts, it seems to me UK and a few countries only have major travel issues.

    Although I have limited travel experience post covid, but travelled airports in SE Asia, India and USA and found airports there are operating quite efficiently.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    Perhaps not everywhere, but it is widespread…

    Flight cancellations stressing weary travelers as July 4 approaches
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2022/06/28/flight-delays-cancellations-travel-july4/?itid=hp-more-top-stories

    Airlines pledged a renewed focus on reliability but tens of thousands already stranded this travel season

    Air Travel Is a Disaster Right Now. Here’s Why.

    The U.S. seems to suffer from chronic Nothing Works Syndrome.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/06/summer-air-travel-flights-cancelled/661385/

    Airport travellers prepare to join the mile-long club

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/airport-travellers-prepare-to-join-the-mile-long-club-crdp29ltp

    Heathrow warns travel chaos will last until 2026 as regulator cuts landing fees

    Civil Aviation Authority orders airport to reduce charges levied on passengers

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/06/28/heathrow-warns-travel-chaos-will-last-2026-regulator-cuts-landing/

    Asia seems a bit better, but then, that’s because China is still more or less closed for international travel.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Even an efficient carrier like Swiss is having to cancel flights over the coming months.


    rferguson
    Participant

    It really is an unpleasant time to travel, worldwide.

    I arrived at Changi last week and spent almost an hour and a half in the queue to clear immigration.

    It was also uncomfortably hot in the arrivals hall, everyone was dripping in sweat.

    I’m not sure if this was just a bad day/time for terminal 1 but two things Singapore prides itself on – air conditioning and efficiency – were both severely lacking.

    The departure experience was much better. I’ve never been a fan of the individual security screening at each departure gate system which seems popular at SE Asian airports but with the current travel chaos with hordes of people trying to clear generic security lanes elsewhere, it was a godsend.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    How Europe Became the Epicenter for This Summer’s Travel Chaos

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2022-07-01/record-flight-delays-cancellations-make-europe-2022-s-worst-place-to-travel

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    There was a new development today.

    At Paris CDG airport workers went on strike disrupting flights. They want better pay and working conditions.

    Youtube video by France 24 English.


    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/07/01/holiday-chaos-airlines-axe-flights/

    “Summer holiday plans are set to be thrown into chaos for tens of thousands passengers as airlines prepare to announce a new wave of cancellations next week.

    The Telegraph can reveal that airlines using Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, are this weekend racing to rework their schedules.

    They have to tell officials which flights will no longer be running by Friday – just as schools begin breaking up for the summer holidays.

    British Airways is expected to bear the brunt of the cancellations, triggered by an amnesty on take-off and landing slots. It previously planned to carry 1.8 million passengers across more than 9,000 flights from Heathrow during July alone”


    Inquisitive
    Participant

    There are a number of articles on the travel situation but not much written about how this can be resolved. Article linked by Tom Otley provides some root cause, but I have not seen any good analysis so far; at least in the news items that I read.

    Are the airport workers paid fairly? Airlines are making profits (or not), the management are pocketing good salary and bonus. However the airline and airport employees may not be compensated to keep up with the inflation.

    Passengers shall not be at the receiving end. Airlines and airport management need to take the blame for this and needs to be accountable to government if they are taking any kind of subsidies.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 96 total)
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