Sam shared her recent experience of booking with Travelstart, an online agency she wishes she never used.
She had to book flights and accommodation for Gamescom2017 and working on a budget, and being a frequent flyer with a BA Executive club member so she wanted to ensure she received the benefit of this by booking with a One World Alliance partner.
Her aim was to stay as close as possible to the Gamescom convention to limit the spend on taxi fare; knowhing exactly what she needed she contacted Travelstart and arranged her requirements booked and paid.
She did contact a walk-in travel agent but their cost was R7000 over her budget, she felt Travelstart was her saving grace – but her nightmare was just about to begin.
Here’s an extract of what happened
For starters I decided to bite the bullet and just handle the two stop overs on the way. I’d fly to Abu Dhabi then on to Berlin before a one hour flight to Cologne. I figured I could handle it. I landed in Abu Dhabi with my second ticket but couldn’t find my flight number on the boards at the airport. I went to one of the desks and was informed the flight had been cancelled and I should have been moved to a flight leaving two hours later but somehow I’d been kicked off the system.
Thank goodness for helpful Etihad Staff (who Air Berlin partners with), they began to make plans and got me on the flight. But it meant I’d land with 30 minutes to get through Berlin airport and on to my Cologne flight before it took off (it was scheduled to take off at that 30 min mark). The Air Berlin staff were horrific to deal with on landing in Berlin. Usually when this happens the airline assists in getting you through transit. Air Berlin was possibly the worst airline I’ve ever dealt with. No help and on requesting assistance from the ground staff to get off the flight and through security quicker their response was “no, just run.” So I did. Not that it mattered because on arrival at the gate, hot and sweaty, no one was boarding. 30 minutes later no one was boarding. The information signs didn’t reflect anything and I was confused. Finally I asked an air hostess what was going on?
“I don’t know.
Oh, do you know when we’re taking off? I need to change my hotel transfer.
I don’t know.
Do you not have any indication?
A few hours later we took off. I’d emailed Travelstart to request they change the transfer. As it was working hours the agent I had been dealing with jumped on it and got it done. To be honest, she has tried her hardest through all of this but I believe the tools at her disposal are fatally flawed and she has to deal with the brunt of unhappy customers. It actually isn’t fair. I digress. I arrived in Cologne much later than planned and my bag never came off the conveyor belt. Back to information. They don’t know where it is. I pointed out that, for starters, because of my one world alliance frequent flyer miles my bag gets a priority tag to ensure it comes off the plane first. All my flights were delayed, so it couldn’t have been a timing issue. Still no one could help or apparently even track my bag.
And then the cracker: Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy on 15 August 2017
The staff at Berlin airport informed me that I’d probably not see my bag again because the airline was notoriously terrible with this because of the bankruptcy issue. They also suggested moving my flights to another airline if “you want to get home with your stuff”. At no time did Travelstart notify me between the 15th and my flight that I was getting on an airline that was basically falling apart. Truth is, I do not believe they cared, the flights were probably super cheap for them. After having a small break down at the airport and filling in lost baggage forms I walked outside for my transfer. I was greeted by a lovely lady who could not speak a word of English. I figured it was fine, until an hour later, when we discovered she had no clue where my hotel was. She was just randomly driving around. I used Google Maps and 30 minutes later we arrived. Again, I tried to remain positive. This happens right? Airport transfers to hotels get lost all the time… right?
Some incredible folks at the hotel saw my distress and took over the bag hunt. They dealt with some other incredible humans I know on the other side of the world and my bag arrived the next day. Which is about the time that I found out my hotel was actually nowhere near Gamescom. In fact, it was 8km away from Gamescom and the traffic in the mornings meant I’d need to leave an hour earlier than planned every day. A one way trip in a taxi cost 23 Euros.
By now I’m a little frustrated with Travelstart. I’d trusted them with this booking and spent in excess of 30k. I was starting to feel like I was being scammed. More so when the hotel staff explained to me that they actually just use Experia to book everything and this organisation is notoriously “bad, cheap and unreliable”. Deep breaths. I mailed my Travelstart agent and conveyed my concerns. I was worried that I wasn’t going to get home on Sunday and miss important meetings on Monday. Because of this I asked her to try find me earlier flights to Berlin in the hope this would help.
Read the full story here