/ Wednesday 21st April 2010
Wow, what a day Tuesday was. Passengers still stranded in Malaga
, Madeira and Crete, and domestic flights grounded.
Madeira and Crete passengers are still in their resort hotels being well looked after by our agents. The big group in Andalucia
are the main worry and we spend all morning looking at options to get them home. About mid-day we find out that a friendly British Coach Operator (Epsom's) has an empty coach in Bilbao
in the north of Spain that is heading back to England on Wednesday morning at 0600 local time.
There is no sign of any change in the 'No fly' situation, and the earliest Easyjet
can re-book any return flights is around the 3 - 5 May!
We swing into action to look at all possibilities at getting our passengers up to Bilbao.
Michael the Tour Manager has been sent to the airport in Malaga
to see how things are on the ground - and has to wait hours in a queue. Meanwhile I take a call from one of the passengers in Malaga
who is calm and appreciative at what we are trying to do.
I speak with our Agent in Madeira who is very downhearted - he has had a lot to deal with, especially after the floods in Funchal a month ago - and now this.
All passengers have booked to stay another night near Malaga
, and have been told the next meeting with the Tour Manager is at 8.00pm and that they should go out for the day or relax at the hotel. Two passengers take it upon themselves to leave the group and make their own arrangements.
Meanwhile we confirm that Epsom's definitely
are free and willing to help, but their drivers are on an 11 hour rest break.
Jenni is a blur on the Internet
looking for flights between Malaga
and Bilbao, and finds availability on a flight leaving Malaga
at 21.50hrs getting into Bilbao at 23.30hrs on an airline we have never heard of before. OK so we can get our passengers there - but will they go for it? We think it is our best option.
We try and contact the airline to see if we can hold the seats - no response from any of their numbers.
Meanwhile our internal UK domestic flights are another issue and we look at options and quickly realise train is the only viable option - so Kerry phones all the northern passengers who are travelling on Thursday to inform them that they must travel by train. All passengers are OK about that - but we must contact all southern passengers to inform of new timings.
One passenger has gone missing en route
to Cornwall - who was supposed to be flying from Leeds/Bradford, but he seems to be a resourceful chap - we are confident he will turn up at some point. (He does - arriving at St Mary's at 7.00pm).
Back in Malaga
we realise that time is running out if we are to catch the evening flight, and we tell Michael to bring forward his meeting to 5.00pm local time, and tell passengers that we are prepared to get them to Bilbao and home by coach. So we start phoning as many passengers as we can, and tell them if they see other passengers to get them to the Hotel's lobby at five for instructions. Half the group have their phones switched off. I speak to one passenger's daughter-in-law in Glasgow to see if she has another number. (she doesn't). Andrew arranges a coach transfer to the airport.
All passengers agree to travel by 5.15pm (UK time) and we try and book the flights online with Vueling
(the previously unknown airline) Jenni types in all the names and presses the 'buy' button, while we hold our breath - System error! We try again - System error! We try another card - same problem. Alison phones a contact who is a Flight Broker in London to see if she can help.
Meanwhile we a have still not made contact with 2 passengers in Malaga
. One of the passengers who made their own arrangements has re-appeared and wants to be part of the group again.
The flight broker is making a killing on our booking (but what can we do?) - then she cannot get payment from our cards - I phone the Bank to see if there is a security problem - there is none.
The last two passengers turn up in Malaga and pack in five minutes.
Andrew eventually gets through to someone at Malaga
Airport who says no tickets can be bought online for this flight, it must be purchased at the airport. By now the group are at the airport and change queue from Check-in, to the Booking Desk.
Confirmation comes in that our hotel in Balbao
will hold the rooms until midnight no problem and they have arranged a coach to pick them up from the airport.
Alison, Andrew and myself slump on our desks at 7.30pm somewhat exhausted. Jenni gets the giggles.
Of course while all this has been going on the day to day life of the office has been going on with people requesting brochures for holidays, paying balances etc.
As I write this blog 0900hrs Wednesday we assume that the group made it to Bilbao
and are en route
through France - but they are not home yet - I am sure there will be further developments as the day unfolds.
On the ten o'clock news last night it is announced that the air closure has been lifted and it is over. The political ramifications
are about to begin.