The Flight From Hell .
Generally, I’d like to think my blog posts are pretty upbeat, it takes a lot to make my blood boil. I’m pretty much all about sharing my positive experiences. Showing off at my savvy shopping skills and general ability to source good value but also great service and experiences. I’ve often been told if I were any more laid back, I’d be laying down. Therefor I credit myself that I am not being irrational or dramatic in saying on the Sunday 17th July I experienced the very worst flight and travel experience of my life at the hands of Air Mauritius.
So what..plenty of people have bad travel experiences. right..which is exactly what I’d think had I not seen just how truly bad this company handled a plane load of passengers on this inauspicious day in July.
To set the scene, we were flying out to Mauritius for our honeymoon, along with our 7 year old son whom we’d decided to bring along and utilise all the very many child friendly facilities at our resort of choice upon arrival. We’d opted for the Air Mauritius flights as we liked the time of travel and the fact that it was a direct flight.
Let me summarise events as they happened. But as we sit in yet another heatwave, please bear in mind this was taking place during the first heatwave of the year, a seriously hot and uncomfortable day to be treated as detailed below:
The Air Mauritius flight MK53 was scheduled to leave London Heathrow at 17:00 on July 17th
Passengers boarded the plane but it did not take off until after 18:00 and there were very hot and unpleasant cabin conditions, no air conditioning, just really intense heat.
We were advised that there were a few technical issues such as the seat belt signs not working. They tried for some time to fix this while we sat on the plane with the constant bleeping noise and having eventually relented they couldn’t & that the cabin crew would make tannoy announcements during the flight when passengers needed to put on their seat belts, etc or could take them off. The pilot stated they hoped to fix it during the course of the flight.
That should have been an alarm bell right there. If you can’t fix the plane on the ground, with airport staff at your disposal, how the hell was it going to fix itself mid-air, pixie dust? But at this point we were led to believe we were en-route to Mauritius.
During the flight after we were subsequently advised of further issues to a computer and the inability to fix the original issue that meant we would have to divert back to France. From that moment forward, the cabin crew seemed to disappear.
During the entire time spent on the aircraft, up to the point of landing in France, cabin crew only produced half a cup of water per passenger, despite numerous passenger complaints. A woman in front of us collapsed. Other parents had to demand snacks such as pretzels for small children or people who had diabetes. The cabin crew in Economy just disappeared for the final 30 minutes as more passengers were getting vocal about how unhappy they were and children were crying as they were hungry and thirsty.
Upon landing at Charles De Gaul Airport things became farcical. The cabin crew just abandoned the passengers and there was no Air Mauritius desk open. One representative gave very unclear directions to passengers at to where they should go to obtain vouchers & coach transfer to a local hotel.
We were told first to collect our baggage, then upon entering the airport told not to collect our baggage. The instructions where to go were so confusing that the majority of the 250-300 passengers, including ourselves, spent more than 30-45 minutes trying to find the appropriate desk, which meant literally walking the length of the airport back and forth for the entire duration. By chance our group found fellow passengers at Air France desk who said they were arranging the transfers. After a lengthy queue we were finally given hotel vouchers and a food package and a bay number where a coach would collect us from to take to our hotel. To finally be given a small bottle of water was like manna from heaven! Our son drank a whole bottle in seconds so happy was he for refreshment.
The designated coach pick up point was incorrect and a couple of hundred of passengers spent the better part of the next 2 hours looking for and waiting for coaches and getting no help or assistance from any Air France staff. Our 7 year old son was incredibly upset, crying “why won’t someone just please help us, I just want to go home” hungry, still dehydrated and visibly stressed at the prolonged delay and uncertainty over the transfer. Did I mention the airport had skeleton staff on anyway that day so no one even batted an eyelid at this mass of people walking back and forth.
Eventually after numerous complaints somebody from Air France came out and said the coaches were on their way. When the coaches eventually turned up, our driver could not find our hotel and drove around aimlessly until the passengers spotted where it was and we decanted & booked in to what was a clean but very basic hotel, equivalent of a PTI/Travel Lodge.
The time of arrival at the hotel was 12.30 am British time, some seven and a half hours after our scheduled departure We were allocated 2 rooms each with 2 single beds in them, so were unable to spend the night together as a family unit. Given that this was the first night of our honeymoon you can imagine how upset my husband and I were. To further compound matters the food provided was simply disgusting and akin to poor quality army rations and was simply inedible. We’d tried to look on the bright side of being in Paris and eating our first meal here together, but the hotel restaurant had closed, there was simply a vending machine with snacks and no one had Euro’s having assumed we were going straight to Mauritius! Speaking to fellow passengers the next morning they shared our experience and issues faced.
We had been told to return to the airport for a 3pm flight the next day French time & got to the airport by shuttle bus. At no stage did anybody from Air Mauritius or Air France visit any of the hotels or speak to passengers by any communication to either find out how they were or to apologise for the poor service. We understand that one woman had to rush her son to be was hospitalised that night upon landing having been ill and suffered a very high temperature on the plane (no surprise) and that nobody from the airline accompanied her to hospital or advised her and she had issues over transport & payment for the treatment she received.
We checked out from the hotel after a very welcome breakfast and headed to the airport.
We had been told to retain our original boarding passes as we would be sitting in the same seats going out from France, but we were issued with different seat number. On embarkation it transpired that some tickets had been duplicated and it became a free for all where passengers would sit. The pilot then made one announcement to informs to just stick with our ordinal seats, whilst half the plane was still boarding and didn’t hear it, it was left to the other passengers to communicate this message to everyone else.
We took off an hour later than the planned time and finally departed at 4pm French time. At no stage during the flight was there any apology made to the passengers for the unscheduled stop & disruption to passengers, it wasn’t even acknowledged. The lady who’d collapsed the day prior was still struggling with the flight having hit her head the day previously and the crew had to put out a tannoy announcement asking if there were any medically qualified passengers who could assist. Thankfully there were 2 passengers who were doctors who helped treat the woman.
I realise that on occasions there will be issues with flights and we’d all rather arrive safely than not at all, machinery isn’ perfect, **** happens. But the manner in which Air Mauritius dealt with this was quite frankly appalling customer service.
Their poor communication with passengers, or showing any apologies or empathy for the disruption caused, failing to provide food or drinks to passengers, failing to provide any effective support on the ground in France, either at the airport or passenger liaison was extremely poor.
The impact for us is that we lost one whole day and night’s stay in our 5* resort which we’d booked on an all-inclusive basis, suffered from significant and lengthy disruption, had been physically neglected in terms of food & sustenance on both days had to spend a night in an inferior hotel separated from family on our honeymoon and we arrived in Mauritius pretty exhausted from the whole extended travel arrangements and physically distressed (I personally suffer with MS, believe me exacerbated by this treatment). It took a few days to get over that horrendous journey.
It could have been handled so differently. Clear instructions, directions, visible staff, some ownership of the problem and your passengers! Leadership. One has to question the motivation in holding us on the plane and taking off in the first place upon reflection and finding out many insurance companies don’t cover this journey as they see it as not technically being delayed (can you believe that) because you were taken on a plane that though able to fly eventually, clearly was not fit to fly (should probably never have departed) and some might argue was it likely to ever make the full 12 hour journey? The customers had no choice whether to continue, whether to return home, basically at the mercy of an airline who in this circumstance showed very little mercy or concern for it’s paying customers, it’s passengers.
So, Air Mauritius in the insurers (in this case my husbands policy was with Columbus direct) eyes may not have delayed departing with you more than the long hot wait at the boarding gate and sat on the runway trying to fix the plane, it just took a day or so longer to arrive? so flights and missed accommodation are your financial loss? (but we’re assured that had there been a medical emergency, it would be covered…so basically you buy a world wide policy annual for medical insurance). Thankfully we have more than one with mine which covers us also is with different insurers. Air Mauritius feel, they performed as required, providing sparse water food and accommodation all those hours in their charge let alone any other care.
Were our rights violated? Well, some passengers including myself certainly felt that they had been upon discussion. This airline could take a lesson form Virgin, BA, Emirates, a little more concern, better hospitality and customer care would have turned a fiasco into a bearable experience. Your customers would have been rooting for you to get things fixed and supportive when they were had they been treated better. It’s not rocket science, whatever you do, keep your customers on side, keep then at the forefront of your decisions rather than making them feel like an after-thought and inconvenience.
However, we made, had a wonderful holiday in Mauritius and the hospitality we experienced throughout was not reflective of our experience on this outbound flight. What was more surprising, dreading the return as we all were, with a totally different crew, it was not problematic, the staff were very competent and hospital, efficient at handling everything. Which just goes to show, it’s the people that represent your company and our interactions with them will forever impact our perception of a brand / service. Unfortunately for Crew number two, the outrageous mistreatment by crew number one, has pretty much scarred a lot of peoples minds.
(Our thoughts, feelings and experience have been relayed to Air Mauritius by via our travel agent and tour company upon our return…..as of yet, they are still looking into the matter).