Dublin and Sydney are pretty much on opposite sides of the globe, being 17,209km (10,693 miles) from each other. Flying involves 24 to 28 hours of travel time, with one or two stops along the way. Recently this journey took me 70 hours, by far the longest in all my years of doing it.
What happened is that I got caught in a maelstrom of flight cancellations and delays. While I managed to get to my destination, it was a bit of an odyssey through and through. Here’s what happened.
This particular airline ticket went through a whole load of changes. Originally it was Dublin-London Heathrow-Helsinki-Tokyo Haneda-Sydney on the way out, and Sydney-Hong Kong-London Heathrow-Oslo-Dublin on the way back. Separate tickets were booked for the Tokyo to Sydney and Oslo to Dublin pieces, but the rest was a single booking.
The booking was made in October 2021 and the final amendment occurred in May 2022. Eventually I was scheduled to fly Dublin-London Heathrow-Tokyo Haneda-Sydney on 1 July. The final sector was a frequent flyer booking in economy, but the rest was in business class. All well and good.
When The Airline Tells You Nothing
I happened to be looking at Twitter the day before flying and someone mentioned the 10:40 Dublin to London Heathrow flight was cancelled. Since it was not my flying day and I’d received no e-mail from British Airways, I figured it was referring to that day’s flight and not mine.
Something gnawed at me though, so I checked my British Airways app around 9:40pm and lo and behold, my flight the next day was cancelled. Instructed to check the booking, I did so and was given an e-mail address to contact the Duty Office to get new flights.
That e-mail was sent and I received an auto-reply at 9:44pm. At 1:50am I received a reply, saying there were no direct flights available and I was offered Dublin to Glasgow on Aer Lingus, connecting to a Glasgow to London Heathrow on BA. I replied at 2:01am agreeing to the flights, then I went to bed.
After two hours of sleep, I woke, showered and once done, a confirmation e-mail arrived at 4:27am saying the flights were sorted. All was well as I had seven hours in London before the flight to Tokyo, ample wiggle room really. At this point, I had no idea my journey was going to be 70 hours.
It All Goes Wrong
Arriving at Dublin Airport, I spent a little over an hour in the Aer Lingus check-in queue. Once seen, five minutes at the desk, then half an hour in security and I was through and ready for flight.
It’s worth mentioning here that my connection time in Glasgow was exactly one hour and once through security, the board showed my Dublin to Glasgow flight was 15 minutes delayed. Of course, this grew and grew until it was two hours late.
Since I had seven hours between flights in London and as BA have multiple flights per day from Glasgow to London, I was not worried. Certainly they’d put me on the next plane to London and I’d still have plenty of time to connect.
My flight on Aer Lingus Regional to Glasgow was uneventful, and after we landed I was decanted into a heaving check-in hall. What was I going to do now?
In Glasgow, No-one Can Hear You Scream
Nabbing a passing airport staff member to ask about a transfer desk, I was informed there wasn’t one. I joined the long business class queue (which in fairness was nothing compared to the economy line) and rang British Airways Holidays.
After 20 minutes or more on hold, my call was answered, just as I got to the top of the queue. I motioned for the person behind me to go to the desk and I chatted to the lady, explaining my predicament. She advised there was nothing they could do, and that the check-in desk should be able to sort me out and put me on the 3:30pm flight to London.
That they could have, if there were any seats available. It turns out that disruptions and cancellations earlier meant all the flights to London on BA were completely full for the rest of the day.
The outsourced staff from Menzies tried calling somewhere and couldn’t get anyone. I was standing at the desk for so long that another passenger came up and complained they were waiting and waiting and it didn’t seem like the guy was doing anything to help me.
Eventually I was passed to another check-in colleague who said they could try to get me to Tokyo on Emirates, but only to Narita Airport. That was no good, as I needed to go to Haneda Airport to pick up my other flight and Japan was not allowing transfer between airports at the time.
Meanwhile, I had also sent a text to a number given to me by check-in to the Duty Office (no reply), sent BA a DM on Twitter (no reply) and e-mailed at 2:15pm to the Duty Office once again.
Sitting On The Floor
By now it was after 3:30pm and I went to find a plug to charge my phone. I ended up sitting on the floor in arrivals, phone in hand, laptop open and on hold once again to British Airways Holidays.
Eventually a guy called Nick answered the phone and I explained my predicament. This helpful human confirmed there were no flights with seats available, but held me a seat on the 10:50am flight the next day (“As there are only two left”) and sent a high priority message to the Duty Office to contact me, assuring me that these get dealt with swiftly.
Reassured, I toddled off to get myself some water and a sandwich as I had barely had anything all day and was beginning to feel it. Sitting back down, I found that the Duty Office had already e-mailed me, hoping I had been rushed through and all was well.
That amused me for some reason, since I certainly had not been rushed anywhere! I sent back a very polite e-mail saying I was stuck still and I outlined the flights, what had happened and asked for advice on what to do. That was sent at 4:12pm.
Tim in the Duty Office called me only a few minutes after my e-mail was sent. He had such a kind and helpful can-do attitude, which was a real relief after all the issues before.
I was advised that I would be sent to London on the 10:50am flight the next day that Nick had held, as it was the first flight out. Next, I was offered two choices to get to Sydney.
Either I could go the same day (2 July) on the BA15 London Heathrow-Singapore-Sydney, but if I did it would be in economy class as only two seats were available on the whole plane. Or I could go early the following morning (so about 11 hours later) on Qatar Airways London Gatwick-Doha-Sydney in business class.
Since I had booked a business class ticket, I chose the latter option. That meant I would have to overnight in Glasgow, get to London Heathrow, take a bus from London Heathrow to London Gatwick Airport, overnight there and then fly out.
Tim said I would need to book my own hotels and that BA would also cover those plus food and drink. He also advised I would be eligible for EU261 compensation as I would be arriving so late in Sydney compared to my original schedule. Luckily I had an empty credit card for all these charges, really.
That was all sorted, so I walked across the road from the terminal and booked a room at the Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport, had room service and went to bed. The next day, I flew to London, then took the bus between airports and had another overnight at the Sofitel.
Did It Really Take 70 Hours?
I was checking my booking on the Royal Jordanian website, and found they have a handy graphic illustrating your travel time. When I noticed that, I realised how long the trip actually was.
Nobody in their right mind would build in stopovers that long (would they?), especially so early in the trip. Seeing this amused me no end and so I took a screenshot and here we are.
The entire 70 hours journey ended up being something different. While I did not appreciate losing a day and half of an 11 day visit to see my family in Australia, I was happy just to have arrived safely.
Regardless of the outcome, it is really distressing to have nobody at the airport who can assist you. I had to make international calls on my mobile to get in contact with British Airways, long hold times and then being connected to people who can’t actually do anything.
While both Nick (in BA Holidays) and Tim (in the Duty Office) were extremely helpful (and if they are reading this, a THANK YOU is well deserved!), having to communicate via e-mail during disruption is not good enough. I’m a frequent traveller and have some clue about things, but god help the once a year person trying to navigate all of this.
Naturally my baggage also went AWOL, and I got that back only after I came home. It has now been two months since I returned and neither my travel insurance nor British Airways have paid out for what I have claimed for. That is clothing under the delayed baggage clause on my insurance, and all the hotels and transport in the UK plus the EU261 compensation from the airline. It will come eventually, I’m sure.
Still, it was an adventure of sorts, even if it was quite stressful and frustrating at times. I certainly have an appreciation for others who have gone through something like this. You can’t beat first hand experience.
Have you ever experienced a trip disruption like this? What happened and how did it end up? Were you taken care of or not? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Kenneth Iwelumo via Wikimedia Commons.