A natural disaster is beyond anyone’s control but it can cause major travel disruptions which is something we can’t plan for but need to learn how to workaround.
On a recent trip to Bali I was all checked in on Garuda 880 to Narita when I found out that the airport was closed due to a volcanic eruption. Ash in the air is a hazard to jet engines and so for safety’s sake I was glad that all flights were cancelled. But from a convenience perspective, not so much.
I was traveling as part of a large group that was working at a new resort, The Leaf Jimbaran. I was developing their menus and hosting their official opening as their healthy Chef Consultant.
My colleagues who were traveling back to various destinations were all on different airlines and so I was able to see the differing responses to this unexpected closure. Frankly I was shocked at most of the responses, especially as none of us were on budget airlines.
Because a natural disaster is beyond an airline’s control they are not responsible for the delay or cancellation of flights. So how they respond to passenger’s needs depends a lot on the corporate culture of the carrier.
The Initial Response:
Myself – First Class Garuda
Informed at the lounge, go home, we cannot take your luggage, airport reopens at 8.45am. I suggested that if it opens would my flight leave then. No was the answer. Go to the ticket office and find out. Can I have a hotel? NO. Called up every day with an hour and 30 minute wait on every call. Being told things like, your flight is going at 11am 3 days later. But it is cancelled. Unbelievable disconnect and wrong information at every given moment.
Friends on SQ
Please meet at SQ check in. Please let us book you into a 4 star hotel. We will contact you when we can leave.
Friends on MH
Please refer to airport every day.
Friends on CX
We will re-book you as soon as we can.
The End Result:
My ticket on Garuda was cancelled with no re-booking. I was told there is nothing they can do and I need a new ticket. After 4 days I booked a Thai ticket to get home.
They were emailed to be in the lobby the afternoon before the airport officially opened, escorted to the airport and were on the first flight out of Bali.
Told flight cancelled, colleagues went to airport in any case and were put on a flight in 4 hours.
All done online and automatically put on the first flight out. Smooth, helpful and the call center actually answered calls.
A Surprising Outcome:
I thought flying on a national carrier such as Garuda would help me with getting out quickly, especially since I was in a premium cabin. I was wrong. The moral of the story is to always book with a really good airline which demonstrates strong ethics like SQ or CX and they won’t do you wrong.
I was quite concerned about flying Garuda in any case as they have yet to prove they are a reputable airline after their safety issues of the past. So I was more than happy to jump on a business class flight on the new Thai Airways 787 Dreamliner and feel like a valued customer.
Garuda, please black list me as I never want to experience anything like your service again.
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.