Tuesday 9 May 2006
My Travel Dramas
I went back to the Philippines on the 18th of April to visit a sick relative. I stayed for 18 days. Boy was it hot in there. Not the best time to visit the country. It was a scorching 36 degrees everyday and humidity was, as always, very high.


I took Qantas Airways. Since my first flight would be domestic, I didn't have to be at the airport at least three hours prior to the flight. Shane took me. We got there at more than an hour before my flight. I checked in ok.

We boarded the plane at 10:40 am but half an hour had passed, we are still on the ground. Something was holding us up. A few moments later, the captain announced that we are running late because there are two passengers who have not boarded the plane and that the ground staff are already looking for them at the terminal.

Shane was still at the boarding gate then and was listening to the radio communications between ground staffers. He overheard the staff saying, a Qantas ticket operator had made a mistake and put a couple in our flight without the couple knowing it. Ha! We all thought it was the passengers' fault that we are delayed.

I only had one hour transit time in Sydney. I assumed I should make it to my connecting flight to Manila easy since I do not have to collect my luggage in Sydney and check it in again for the next flight. It used to be that, since Melbourne to Sydney is a domestic flight, and passengers exit in the domestic terminal, luggages have to be collected and checked-in again at the transfer desk. It was such a hassle since Sydney's domestic terminal is separated from the international terminal and you have to take a bus to transfer from one terminal to the other.

We landed in Sydney just before 1:00 pm. I was literally running the moment I entered the terminal to get to the transfer desk quickly. But the transfer bus was slow. Passengers transferrring to the international terminal had to wait for 10-15 minutes for the bus. There were three of us going on the same connecting flight to Manila. We had to clear immigration at the international terminal. When we get to the immigration counter, a Qantas ground staff was already there waiting for us. We were the last to board the plane. We made it, thankfully.

Flight was well and good. I read a book and slept a bit so it felt like time flew so quickly. Excited about seeing Manila again after almost two years, I can't wait to get out of the airport. At the baggage claim, I waited and waited for my luggage to show up, wondering why it's taking so long. It was only when the luggage conveyor was practically empty that I realised mine went missing. Well, I wasn't alone. There were a few of us left standing with confused look on our faces.

We were approached by a Qantas ground staff to inform us that if we came from Melbourne our luggages didn’t make it to the plane in Sydney because the carousel carrying them went faulty. Sydney has arranged for them to be in Manila at 11:00 am the next day. D’oh! What an inconvenience for me as I have a connecting flight to Bacolod at 8:00 am the next day. If the flight from Melbourne wasn’t delayed, maybe our luggages would have made it even with the carousel becoming faulty. There would still have time to move them to another carousel.

It was a case of a bad chain of events which started with Qantas’ mistake of the transfer of a couple to a wrong plane in Melbourne, thus delaying the flight, and so no room for error in Sydney connection and there ended up an error with the faulty equipment. So, the bags had no chance to make it in time to Manila plane. We had to fill out forms for baggage re-direction and we were promised in a day or two we would already have them. Since I gave a provincial address, I was expecting to have them in two-three days.

Since I did not have much to carry, I didn’t have to take a cab going to where I was staying in Makati. Two of my friends met me at the airport and we decided to take the bus instead. I thought that was fun. I actually missed taking the bus. And with no clothes to wear for the next few days, it was one reason to go shopping.

When in Bacolod, I got an SMS update from the staff informing me that luggage has now been redirected to Bacolod. Good, now I just have to wait. A day passed and no sign of luggage coming in, so I called Qantas Manila. After a few minutes of being on hold, I was told that the person in-charge is out in the toilet somewhere and that they would check and call me back to update me of my bag’s whereabouts. I was already starting to get angry. Yeah, I was cool all this time. I reasoned it happens to the best of us. In two hours I called again, this time the supervisor named Benjie promised to call me back in a few minutes. What else can I do? I had to believe him. True enough, he called back but I wasn’t too happy with his news. My luggage is already in Bacolod airport but I had to collect it myself. Grrrrrrr…….

The Manila-Bacolod trip wasn't good either. Another looong delay. One of the runways in NAIA was being repaired/renovated apparently, so there was only one runway operating and the arrivals and international flights departing are given priority. We waited an hour to take off.

The same thing happened when I was leaving Bacolod for Manila. The same delay, the same reason.

The worst is yet to come.

I left Manila on the 6th of May. The 8:40 pm flight became 10:45. At about 9:00 pm, the ground staff announce that there is a short delay and that we would be boarding in about 15 minutes. Almost an hour had passed, no call for boarding yet. Everyone is now jittery. When I enquired what was the delay about, the ground staff said they are waiting for a transformer and when that arrives, the place will leave right away. Hmmm, I was thinking, maybe there was something faulty in the plane. It's good that we are not leaving until everything is fixed and working well. At 10:30 pm, we were finally called to board the plane. Seat from 1-50 were all called. As my seat number was 53, I waited for another boarding call. There were a few of us left on the lounge and we're all wondering now what the hell is happening, why are we not called to board yet. No explanation from the staff either. We were told to just wait.

When we finally boarded the plane after several odd minutes, all our questioned were answered. We have a sick person ( an Australian citizen) on board and he is situated in a stretcher at the end part of the plane. That explains why seat number beyond 50 were not called to board right away. The staff and crew had to make sure the patient is secure and comfortable before letting everyone else in. The transformer was for the suction machine for use with the patient.

We took off at 10:45 PM.

At 3:30 am (Manila time), lights turned on followed by the captain's announcement that we are going to be landing soon in Darwin. The flight is diverted because of medical emergency on board. Everyone turned to look at the back see the patient.

All this time I was awake as I too was feeling sick. I have a throat infection and was coughing non-stop. I kept my seatmates awake too. It was a bit embarrassing.

We all thought that we would take off for Sydney the moment the patient has disembarked. How wrong. The captain announced (this is the nth time the captain has spoken to the passengers, felt like he's been talking all night!) that the staff and crew has operated beyond their allowable operating hours and that they can not go on to the continuing flight, and that they are making the necessary adjustments and doing negotiations for a new set of staff and crew for the continuance of the flight. We may be booked in separate flights to our next destination. We have to wait for further announcements. Meantime, we have to disembark and clear customs and immigration.

I checked the flight schedule from Darwin for that day and surprise, surprise, there was no flight direct to Melbourne. I had to go to Sydney and fly out to Melbourne from there. By this time, I was already exhausted from lack of sleep and not having enough food because of my sore throat.

When I checked in, only then did I realise that they have booked us again on the same flight which is to leave at 2:40 in the bloody afternoon. It was 7:00ish am then. That meant another 8-hour wait. Also, the check-in officer was handing us out a food voucher and a memo from Qantas explaining what happened in the flight from Manila.

While being stucked in Darwin, we were all put in an airport hotel for breakfast but unfortunately, as was explained in the letter, we all can't be accommodated as it was peak season in Darwin. Apparently, hotels are busy. Instead, they have arranged for two rooms for us to freshen up.

After breakfast, you can see everyone sprawling around the lobby and the poolside trying to find a place to rest. With two other women, we found a cool place in the poolside with banana lounges. The moment my back hit the lounge, I was asleep. I must have been in deep sleep that my new found companions didn't to wake me up to get some lunch. I didn't feel like eating anyway, my throat was killing me.

At 2:00 pm, we all took turns taking the bus to the airport. It came as no surprise anymore when our flight was once again delayed. We are taking the same plane, so it's already there. The crew for the flight was the reason for the delay.

On board, the captain announced that we would get to Sydney at 7:30 PM. Good because I was booked on a flight to Melbourne at 8:30 pm. One hour should be enough to collect my luggage and transfer from the international to the domestic terminal. Though Darwin to Sydney is a domestic flight, we would still have to exit at the internatinal terminal because the flight was a continuation of the interrrupted flight from Manila.

We did get to Sydney on time. The problem was, we can not land because of a strong turbulence. We needed to wait to get a clearance from the airport authorities so we circled on air for an hour before finally landing.

By then, it was too late for my 8:30 connecting flight to Melbourne. Have to wait again for the 10:20 flight. This was the last flight to Melbourne form Sydney. Imagine if I didn't makeit to this flight. I would have to stay in Sydney overnight. That is just too much.

We finally get to Melbourne at 11:30 and I was home at about 1:00 in the morning.

What a trip.

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