Yeah that happened. The things that went wrong on this trip were so mind boggling that I had to share the multitude of sins in my blog. I hope you, as business owners (and fellow travellers) can learn from this story.
The Slap In The Face
It all started when my whole family woke up in great excitement for our early morning flight to Montego Bay on a Friday morning. Here’s the slap in the face we got: there was a–wait for it–10 hour delay on our early am flight!!! We had taken my 8-year old out of his school and paid extra to have a 7-day vacation and even before we started, we were losing a day. We’d been to Jamaica 9 times before and this had NEVER happened to us. Panicked and disappointed, we called Sunwing, the carrier who we’d booked through.
Having to wait impatiently until the Sunwing offices opened, we were ready to do anything to get on an earlier flight than the 7pm one that night. We were in luck! The customer service rep told us that if one person from the family went to the airport and asked at the counter, that we might just have a chance to get there 4 hours earlier! Excited, my husband went to the airport only to be bitterly disappointed when he watched the last 5 seats being given away. Apparently the ticketing agent was wrong and we ALL had to be at the airport to make this magic happen and we all angrily processed our disappointment until it was time to fly.
Nobody could explain why there was a delay. Everyone we talked to said something else. The 7pm flight now became 8pm with a 1:30am landing in Jamaica. We considered cancelling or flying with another airline but it would’ve cost us double the whole vacation. We were only being offered $75 travel vouchers that we had to use with Sunwing-as if we’d be wanting to touch them with a 10-foot pole. Anxious to get going, we got to the airport 3 hours early as suggested and tried to check our luggage. We couldn’t even find the Sunwing counter until we asked 3 people at the airport. Two heavily made up young women were chatting and laughing at the counter and when I tried to walk up and check-in, they made us wait for their colleague who wasn’t there. After the usual check-in, they walked our luggage to a room in the back. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Insult to Injury
After thankfully an uneventful flight, hundreds of passengers with small children landed at Montego Bay at the unGodly hour of 1am. There were 2 customs agents to process the whole plane because God forbid someone make allowances for the delay and ask for more support. Children were screaming and crying (as were some adults, but on the inside, including me). We were all sweating profusely while carrying our heavy winter coats in the line up. Parents were yelling at their exhausted children. Most people were waiting in stoic misery. It took hours to get through to baggage claim.
It Gets Better
As soon as we got out of customs, we had the great news that every single piece of our luggage had been lost. Nobody could tell us where it was or when we’d get them. Now, we’ve been vacationing about 3x/year for decades and we were completely caught unprepared for this. We didn’t pack extra anything with us. Nothing. No clothes, toiletries, nada. Then we joined yet another lineup for the luggage claim counter. OMG by this point we wanted to lie down on a conveyor belt and let it go round and round!
The Final Insult
Oh it gets better. We took too long in the various line ups so by the time we got out at 3am the tour bus that was going to take us to our 1 hour away destination had left us behind. I mean it’s not like that movie where the dive boat leaves the divers behind and they get eaten by sharks but we had other sharks to deal with. The human kind. Sunwing washed their hands of us and told us to go to another counter. The gentleman there assured us he’d get us to our hotel sometime. By now, we were waiting in the airport parking lot and there was nobody around. We waited in vain and exhaustion in the dark until I started really get desperate to get to the hotel. Not trusting anyone promising any thing anymore, I asked a woman who worked at the airport if she knew any car companies we could call. She quickly found a ‘relative’ on the phone who happened to be up and who asked for $180 US to take us there. The guy was scary looking and when we haggled him down to $100, he went off and started one of the parked tourist minibuses to start loading us (not that there was much to load!) Finally, the airport agent flagged us down and told us he’d found us a ride for free as part of our package. The scary guy and airport guy had ‘words’ each claiming he was stealing the other’s client while we waited to see who would win.
Boots On The Beach
Finally on the free bus, driving like a demon, we got to the hotel and thank God, went to bed–in the same clothes on our back-but still! I woke up to the hot sunshine and my boots. We had to commemorate this unusual occasion of being stuck in my jeans and boots on the Runaway Bay beach with a picture. Our next destination was the hotel shop where we proceeded to spend hundreds of dollars for a simple bathing suit for all and flip-flops for me (due to the boot situation). The Sunwing rep didn’t know and couldn’t find any info on the luggage. We spent even more to be driven to the nearest destination to acquire more ugly and overpriced clothes we’ll never wear again since we couldn’t go to dinner in the swimwear and stinky travel clothes.
After 3 days in the same underwear, we finally got our luggage. The only way I was able to get info on where the luggage was, was through Twitter. Their social media managers were more on the ball than their agents.
What’s the business learning for people who are reading this? Things go wrong in EVERY business with customers but for the love of God, have a contingency plan. Go the extra mile to make sure if you’ve screwed up, that people are looked after. Follow up to make it up to them instead of giving away more of the service that people have sworn off using again. Sunwing, never ever again….