Unexpected delays: The flight from hell! 36



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Recently I went on a trip to South Africa with my oldest daughter her husband and their three sons aged 17, 14 and 7. It was very exciting as we were going to have Christmas with my brother and his family and my sister. We last had Christmas together in 1988. This story is not so much about the trip as my experience with what is commonly known as the top Australian airline.

Firstly on the flight on the 9th December it arrived late in Johannesburg. When leaving Sydney there was a plane that broke down behind us delaying our departure, then with bad head winds we were two hours late. This resulted in us missing our connecting flight to Cape Town. We had made all kinds of plans for our first day in Cape Town, which had to be cancelled. The bad news was that the South African school holidays had started that day so it was hard to find an alternative flight to Cape Town. Finally they arranged a flight late on the next day. One might say well, that was bad luck and just enjoy the rest of the holiday.

The return journey to Australia scheduled for the 4th January can best be described as a nightmare. That morning we woke early and drove from the Addo Game Park to Port Elizabeth and flew to Johannesburg to catch our connection flight to Sydney. The flight started down the runway in Johannesburg and we were about to lift off when there was a bang and we came to a halt. The captain gave us reassuring talks saying things like we will soon be on our way it only takes two screws to replace an engine. Since the flight was scheduled to leave at 7.50 pm we had not had any dinner. Finally after sitting on the runway for two hours they gave us the bad news that we would be ferried by bus to the terminal where we would collect our baggage and go back through customs and immigration. This process took some time but not nearly as long as it took to get all the passengers many of whom had babies and toddlers to the hotel. We were in a queue for two small shuttle buses to take 300+ passengers to a local hotel. This process took 3 hours and as a result we had now been many hours without food or water and the hotel ran out of food so no dinner at all. We remained at the hotel for two days.

A new engine had to be brought from Sydney to Johannesburg and they did this by attaching it to another 747, which arrived with 5 engines instead of 4. The passengers on this flight had to land in Perth for refuelling. This delayed the flight arriving in Johannesburg and we were to take this plane back to Australia once the 5th engine was removed for the plane we had originally boarded two days earlier.

Our rescheduled departure was at 11.00 pm. We made sure we went to the airport early to avoid the shuttle bus disaster we had experienced two days earlier. We were in the departure lounge at 10.00 pm looking forward to a meal onboard. However there were further delays, as they appeared to struggle to remove the 5th engine from the plane. Finally we started boarding at 1.00am and departed at 1.30 am. Then to top it all off we were not given a meal until the final hour of the flight when we were given muffins, which were frozen and hardly edible, and a cup of tea. The airline staff did not announce any of this until the last couple of hours and the explanation was that in Johannesburg the food had not been kept sufficiently cold so they decided that it could not be served (no dinner and no breakfast). And they could not wait for more food as we needed to get underway or we would not be able to land in Sydney because of the curfew of 11.00pm! Thus we travelled for 11 plus hours without a meal. We were told that we were given sandwiches but this was not so in the seat I was in. A family with a baby across the aisle was soaked by water from air conditioning and when we asked that the air conditioning be made warmer we were told it would take about half an hour. This was not true as it continued to be freezing in our section of the plane and we were told there were no extra blankets. To add insult to injury we could smell the food being served to the Business and First class passengers.

It was all untruths that we were fed along the way that really was upsetting.

The question all passengers are asking is what compensation will be offered for the total management disaster all passengers were subjected to during this flight? I am just so glad to be back in Australia and I will not be travelling with this airline in future. I have written an official complaint and now I will just wait and see if there is a response.

Have you had a nightmare flight like this?

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Shaughn Forbes

  1. I can understand the untruths told by that Airline. It is all too common. Most crews just do not care about the passengers at all.

  2. That is shocking! What a nightmare! We have done this trip often with Qantas who has the monopoly now! Of course you would have realised the battle with maintenance staff ,the shuttle bus and slowness and food sourced there, is the nature of South Africa now. The engine failure is the really scary part! We all knew when Qantas cost cut and sacked all their Australian maintenance crews including engineers and outsourced everything,that there would be dire consequences in the future! Seems like the chickens have come home to roost! So perhaps it’s time for a class compensation to make them lift their game! We will obviously now go through Singapore! Thanks for the warning! Shared!

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  3. An awful trip for sure and one that should have been handled very differently. That said, surely after the first debacle with meals, you would have taken precautions to ensure you had something to eat and water with you? Common sense I would have thought.

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    • On my last trip to Syd from JoBurg whilst waiting at the gate to board I bought some water to take on the flight. Before we could board we had to go thru another carry on baggage check and the unopened bottle of water was not allowed! Food was OK at least.

    • On my last trip to Syd from JoBurg whilst waiting at the gate to board I bought some water to take on the flight. Before we could board we had to go thru another carry on baggage check and the unopened bottle of water was not allowed! Food was OK at least.

  4. I had no problems with “that airline” but British Airways was the flight from hell, AND I paid for premium economy.

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    • I’d never fly British airways again. I was going Sydney to London. Never again. Stop over in Singapore. All back on the plane but the luggage conveyor into the hold broke. We sat on the Tarmac for 3 hours. My seat malfunctioned and I had to sit bolt upright from Singapore to Heathrow. No sleep for me. The cabin crew couldn’t have cared less.

  5. We’ve never had an experience that bad but have had enough stuff ups that I have no confidence in airlines. The “best” airlines have been no better than their low cost competitors when it comes to schedules. It works against the airlines as I know I am hesitating about booking a couple of weekends away as there are connecting flights and my recent experience leaves me with no confidence that our whole weekend wouldn’t be spent in airports. In a situation as bad as yours I would hope the airline provided some compensation.

  6. Sounds very like Qantas, an airline I will never fly again, I have had trouble with Qantas previously and the arrogant flight and ground staff and will never use them again, if I want to go somewhere and QAntas is the only airline that flies there I will stay home.

  7. I have never had a bad flight. I fly with Virgin and its always been great. Recently I could not get a Virgin flight to Fiji and used Fiji Airlines. Best part of my holiday. Sorry for your experience.

  8. The old expression ‘shit happens’ comes to mind. I’d have probably slashed my wrists but who would subject themselves to travelling with boys 17, 14 & 7yrs old. You’re a brave woman.

  9. I knew there was a good reason why I do not fly overseas. lol This is disgraceful and I would certainly not fly with this airline again if I were this lady.

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