TRIP FROM HELL: Qantas debacle that left me ‘traumatised’
THEY were thrilled to be jetting off on a dream holiday to Canada but instead a series of problems spanning two different Qantas flights left a family reeling.
And now Ted, 35, from Sydney, has spoken out about the nightmare trips he endured with his wife and two children.
"My family and I have been deeply traumatised from both flights," Ted told news.com.au. "To this day, we still get nightmares about the flights.
"We didn't need to experience that. We were just flying home from a wonderful Christmas holiday in the snow."
Ted has gone into detail about the horrible flight experiences, including conflict he claims he experienced with some of the crew. However, his account has sparked a war of words with Qantas who, while not disputing the issues occured, claim he was in fact disruptive during the flight - which in turn, Ted denies.
Qantas also claims the plane's diversions were not described as an "emergency landing".
So what went so wrong?
The dramas began when flying between Sydney and Vancouver in December. First, Ted claims there was a seating mix-up which saw everyone allocated the wrong seat. They had booked the back row with a bassinet but were instead ended up seated by the window.
Finding it a difficult location with two children in tow, Ted asked to be moved. They were then reseated to a middle row but Ted's jaw dropped when he laid eyes on the new seat.
"There was vomit on my seat from the previous flight," he said, and was left disappointed in the crew's response. "They didn't know where the disinfectant spray was. One crew member touched the seat and told me it wasn't wet - he was wearing gloves, and that didn't change the fact that there was vomit on the seat. This crew member then gave me replacement cushions, which I was then left to change myself."
The flight took off about two hours later, and about an hour from Vancouver, the airline announced they would have to divert to Seattle as they had not anticipated the fog at Vancouver. Ted claims the announcement was described as an "emergency landing".
After landing in Seattle, two hours later, with passengers still on-board, Ted claims there was another announcement. This time that they had damaged the front door of the plane while refuelling and needed to get it recertified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) - hence there would be more delays.
"This in itself was highly stressful to my family and I, and we began to question the safety of our aircraft," Ted said.
Then, another two hours later, came an announcement that would make even the most seasoned travelled sweat - engineers were convinced the plane door was safe to fly with, but they were reseating the passengers to the rear of the aircraft away from the door.
Ted said this heightened his family's stress levels.
"Thankfully, we made it to YVR (Vancouver) safely, though traumatised."
Ted's sister Monica and her family were also flying on the same plane to Vancouver, however they were seated in business class. Monica and her husband were travelling with her two-year-old daughter and 11-month-old son, and said they were given little assistance by the crew during the delays.
"The flight was all right until we stopped over into Seattle when we were grounded for quite some time," Monica said. "This was when I was most surprised at the way in which Qantas handled the delay.
"I was told they were not sure how long we would be on the aeroplane for at which time I have noted to the flight attendant that beyond the next hour, I only have a bottle of formula left for my son as I had not expected the flight to be so much longer than it was and also the lengthy delay in Sydney - so had not packed much more excess than what I had.
"I informed them that the supply I had would not be sufficient for my baby if we were in Seattle longer than an hour as he would need a feed before I would get my luggage in Vancouver.
"I explained that he could not yet take cows milk to which they said to me repetitively: 'Well it's either that or nothing.' I asked if they could please see if any other passengers had some they could spare me and was told to go around the plane to check myself, they were too busy with other important issues.
"So I did and it was chaos in the rest of the plane with everyone free to roam in a tiny space."
Luckily another mother had some spare. By then, they were also low on nappies so were told to ask around for a spare too.
"I found one in economy from a lovely lady. There were another two women I had asked in business class downstairs as they had babies but it became very clear to me that they had not as the downstairs business cabin smelled of faeces."
Then, they started running out of food.
"They apparently had no more food left outside of a couple of packets of potato chips. Not even a bread roll left over. I found this hard to believe but as I had my screaming hungry toddler wailing in business class, I fed her the packet of potato chips.
"This was all very unbelievable and completely unacceptable ... We feel like we were robbed.
"No one was allowed off the plane and when we discussed if we could obtain a visa could we please disembark in order to provide proper and adequate care for our kids and were told that it was not an option."
But the flight dramas weren't over yet - when Ted returned to Sydney later that month his family rather unfortunately flew into further troubles.
They started the trip happily after being given two rows in the back of the plane by a crew member who they say was aware of the "shenanigans" on their previous trip.
"Our flight experience was going well, until midway, when everyone was asleep. All the lights suddenly turned on. The pilot announced the weather radar had failed and the plane would be forced to divert to Honolulu."
Half an hour later they were on the ground - unfortunately, it was 11pm local time. Then passengers were allegedly told that due to US Customs, nobody was allowed to leave the plane. This made the family "extremely stressed and anxious".
A few hours later, Ted claims they were told to fill out their ESTA applications online using their mobile phones, while crew looked at rebooking the flight. And then, Ted claims the following announcement was made: "As US Customs has now closed, we regret to inform you that you will all have to remain on-board the aircraft until 5.30am."
The engines were switched off and the air became muggy and thick, and they camped on the plane for the night.
Ted said he then had a disagreement with the crew who weren't happy about him making notes of the events in his phone, and taking photos for insurance reasons. He claims he was screamed at and intimidated by a crew member until he agreed to delete it all.
"At this point, everyone but us has disembarked the plane, and all we want to do is disembark with them. Fearing for our safety, mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, I comply and delete the documentation."
He alleges the family were yelled at all the way off the plane and berated by a crew member.
They then spent an extra five hours in line to rebook their flight and were then sent to an airport motel, which Qantas paid for.
Upon complaining about his experience over the phone after landing back at home, Ted says he was interrogated over why he took photos. He was told crew would be considered for retraining and offered an apology but no compensation.
"When I asked for some form of compensation for what we experienced, all she could offer was an apology," he said.
Qantas denies making annoucements regarding emergency landings and says no emergency landings were made.
The airline also claims that Ted was disruptive - an allegation which he strongly refutes.
A Qantas spokesman told news.com.au: "We have followed up with customer care who spoke with him on the 12th of February. No compensation was offered and we have told him that if he needs details of the delays for travel insurance purposed then we are happy to provide him with that.
"While we know that while delays can be frustrating, the passenger was rude and disruptive to crew and other passengers. When the captain informed the passenger that authorities would be called to the aircraft, the passenger changed his behaviour and was respectful to cabin crew.
"We will not tolerate anti-social behaviour on-board our aircraft in the interests of the safety of our crew and passengers."
* Full name withheld upon request.