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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Sunwing Fiasco

So this wasn't my vacation, but recent research has shown
that boobs as my title picture earns more hits! 
So I'm USUALLY a pretty happy go lucky guy.  Very much go with the flow, enjoy where life takes you, <insert your own inspirational cliche here.>, type dude who doesn't get rattled very easily. 

Often, you'll find me smiling, and high fiving people for fun, and complimenting others on how awesome they are too!  (Yes I know what the 'too' implies, and I'm good with my conceitedness.)

This means Mattie is about to explode...
However if you see me overly happy, like singing 'Sharon Lois and Bram' songs when I have no earth reason to be doing so, that might be a warning.  I don't know why 'Skinamarinky Dinky Dink' is such a good anger release for me, but it really works.  Usually accompanied by a large grin on my face etched on in stone, and a crazed look in my eyes.  This means I'm upset.  (Or possibly I just had an orgasm...  Only I know the difference.) 

Anyhow, I'm going to tell you a tale of a little company called Sunwing, and how they ruined one day of my life.  But as with anything crazy fiasco, I came out with a reasonably good story, so it's all worth it.  Plus my 'Elephant Song' skills got so well practiced, Bram had better watch out.

So...  Last year in July I decided to take a trip to Rome.  I was flying solo as I had been having considerable personal issues, and decided I needed to get away to sort my head out.  I had always wanted to go to Rome, and had the opportunity, so I jumped on it.  (I was told afterwards it was kind of the plot of 'Eat, Pray, Love', but that is not near manly enough, so I will call it 'Rambo goes to Italy').

Maybe my worst photoshop ever.

So I booked a do-it-yourself vacation through the Flight Centre at Limeridge through a kind of cute Italian girl.  She set me up with a hotel, a flight, an assurance that I could take the train from the airport to downtown Rome, and get a quick subway to my hotel with ease, and her phone number.  Well, it might have been a phone number to the Flight Centre, but at my age you take what you can get.  (On a side note, she just emailed me the other day saying she hadn't seen me in a while.  And uh... that she had some great deals to Spain.)  All was set, I was good to go for a weeks vacation in the Eternal City.

This bear represents my level of stress at the beginning of my trip...

Now when you fly from Toronto to Rome, you should know it is about a 8-9 hour flight.  With the time change, I set my flight to leave at 10pm so I could arrive in Rome in the early afternoon and have the evening to explore.  I arrived at the airport early, and had a lovely dinner with my parents who dropped me off.  Calmly meandered through security, laughing at those dopes who were stressed out and late for their flights, generally being in total vacation mode and not having a care in the world!  I found my way down to the gate I was leaving from, checked that the flight was Sunwing Toronto to Rome, and then settled in at the bar to get a beer.  (Tuborg if I recall correctly.) After a couple of pops and a pleasant chat with the bartender, I wandered back to my gate with about an hour until flight time.  (About 9 pm.)

I found it a little odd that they hadn't started the boarding procedures yet, making announcements, getting the old farts and people who need a little extra time lined up and the like, but stress was not a word in my vocabulary.  I updated my facebook, smiled at the woman sitting across from me, and pulled out my airplane novel.  (I always bring a book to read on planes.)  If I'd been paying attention, I'd have noticed that the sign changed from On-Time to Delayed.  I wasn't. 

9:45 rolled around and finally they started making announcements.  (Really late for this sort of thing in my opinion, but at least things were moving.)  First off they apologized for the delay, but they were having technical difficulties and that the flight was to be delayed for 3 hours, and would be leaving at 1 am.  However, for our inconvenience we were more than welcome to help ourselves to a $10 food voucher to get a bite to eat while waiting.  There were upset to angry level groans from all the passengers waiting in the lounge, and that pleasant lady sitting across from me slapped her leg in disgust so audibly people turned their heads to look.  I suspect she got a bruise.  I myself, being Mr. non-stress,  decided that's OK.  I'd rather they fix the plane then put us on defective flight.

While the rest the passengers rushed the clerks at the desk for their coupons, I sat back and read my book a little more.  Hell I knew I was going to be there for 3 more hours at least, no rush, the restaurants aren't going anywhere.  Although the relative level of stress was going up in the room, and that will rub off on anyone.  I did the math and figured that I'd arrive in Rome around 6, which meant my evening stroll was out, but I could still hit some nightlife perhaps.  C'est la vie...  I smiled to myself, not quite a Sharon, Lois and Bram level smile, but the beginning of less than perfect.  After the crowd had left, I wandered up and got my voucher.  The clerk apologized profusely...  I told him not to worry about it, these things happen, thanked him and gave him a winning smile.  He looked visibly relieved.  I'd guess the last 50 people told him where to go, how to get there, and several options of things he could do when he arrived.

Canadian medical system at it's best.
I wandered back over to the bar, sat down at my seat, and looked at the crazy lineup at the grill.  No way I was going in that thing, another beer is just what the doctor ordered.  I asked my bartender who looked a little frazzled after this sudden unexpected rush if my coupon was good for Tuborg, and he explained calmly that it wasn't.  Not completely unexpected, so I ponied up the cash, settled down at the bar, and took a sip of that icy cold joy.  A brief conversation with my barkeep let me know that he was supposed to close down at 11:00, and now at 10:30 and a lineup to the grill part out the door, there was no way that was happening.  I empathized with him, and let him know he was appreciated.  He laughed and told me that I'd better get some food if I wanted some, as the grill closing at 11 thing might happen if I wanted it too or not, and then my coupon would be for not.  I looked over at the sandwich rack, and saw $10 worth of airport sushi, and asked him if I could pay him for that instead.  He said no problem, so I gave him the coupon, a tip and the last of my Canadian funds for one last beer and enjoyed my meal surrounded by angry vacationers, the smile on my face now locked into place, humming quietly to myself.

So midnight rolls around, and most people got fed and started grumbling and shuffling back to the gate.  Sure this was a pain, but at least we'd be boarding soon and getting on our way.  I strolled back, a little worse for wear, but ultimately still in an OK mood, and sat down on a bench and pulled my book out again.  The delayed until 1 am sign was still prominently displayed on the board, so everything was still status quo.  The clerks were still busy fielding questions from angry customers, but I suppose that was to be a little expected.

Average crowd reaction
Then the loudspeaker sounded again.  I smiled waiting for the soothing sounds of 'We will begin boarding...'.  I was disappointed.  Once again the words poured from the speakers....  "We'd like to apologize."  The crowd groaned worse than before, I wondered if slappy leg lady just punched her husband in the face.  "The flight from Toronto to Rome has once again been delayed and will postponed until 10 am tomorrow morning.  Please return to Terminal 1 at 7am tomorrow morning to get your new ticket and arrive through security.  Those customers who need accommodations for the night please see the clerks."  Or something like that anyway.  There were shouts of discontent and outright anger from the customers, and the mob swarmed the desk of the two unfortunate Sunwing employees who were scheduled to be there with no direction from management who I am sure were sleeping snuggly in their beds made of our money.

One of them asked us loudly to please be calm, while some customer were literally screaming at them.  They had to call the police, which may have been a bit of an over-reaction, but honestly I'm pretty sure one fellow was ready to get into fisticuffs with them.

I sat back on the bench knowing that I didn't want to get to the front of that line.  I had no car, and the drive back to my home was about an hour, so I figured they'd put me into a hotel for the night, so I could at least get a couple hours sleep, and get to Rome about...  2am?  GOD DAMN IT!!!!  Now I've lost a day in Rome because of mother f***'n Sunwing's incompetence.   I mean get a replacement plane in or something.  Then I calmed down.  This sucked, but ultimately it still could have been a lot worse.  Besides, I got a live version of Cops happening right in front of me, and Yelly McYellerson was about to get arrested.  (He didn't, for some reason the spectre of a large peace officer seemed to calm him down two pegs.)  I continued to Facebook the whole experience.  Take a look at my timeline in July 2011 for the full as it happened details.

#Occupy Sunwing
So everyone went up to the desk to get their hotel accommodations, or they were offering limos to those who lived close by.  By my math, if I took the limo, I'd likely get out of the airport by 1:30 to 2, be back in Hamilton by 3, sleep for 2 hours, get up and come back.  That sounded awful, so I figured I'd go for the hotel, and get 4 hours sleep.  I wandered over to the back of the line, and heard mumblings that since it was so late there were no hotel rooms left.  Figuring that the grapevine is usually correct, I started softly singing under my breath...  "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?" and formed a plan on how to handle this.  I got up to the desk and smiled at the clerk who was a little more frazzled than before.  He apologized like he had said it about 500 too many times, and asked if I needed a ride.

Now that's comfort!
I explained my situation, and that a hotel room would be much more suitable for my needs.  His face dropped, and launched into a speech he had also said more that a few times. "I apologize, but we are out of hotel rooms, and we need to reserve them for people who are out of limo range...  etc.)  I said, I understood and then did some math for him.  A limo ride from Toronto to Hamilton runs about $150 each way.  That's $300 Sunwing would have to pay so I could get 2 hours sleep.  How about instead, you give me a $20 coupon for breakfast in the morning, and I'd be happy to curl up in the lounge here for the night, and at least get a little sleep.  He looked at me like I just spoke some sort of crazy moon man language.

"I'm sorry sir we can't do that.  We can get you a limo if you like."  So I again asked if Sunwing was aware that $300 was a lot more than $20, and that this was totally OK with me to be compensated less.  He said again, he was sorry, that he didn't have the power to make that decision.  So I shrugged, said OK, and took my limo voucher.

Airport Security:  Ignoring logic since 2001
Smile glued to my face, singing to myself I started walking back through Terminal to where you the limos are, I spotted a Police Officer leaving as well, so I walked over to him and said hi.  He wondered why I looked so happy, and I explained, I was chalking this up to "Shit Happens" and I could either scream or laugh at how stupid the whole situation was, so I might as well laugh for all the good it would do me.  He told me that was a pretty good attitude and we started chatting while walking to the exit/entrance.  On the way a whole bunch of my fellow passengers came up to him, and explained they had been rebuffed by security because you can't go through security the wrong way.  The officer laughed, and then led us like Moses through the Red Sea of red tape, and delivered us to the limos.  Luckily since I had waiting until the line had died down, I didn't have to wait very long for my ride.  I hopped in and said take me to Hamilton and asked if he had a Raffi tape we could listen to.  I also asked if he wanted to hang out at Tim Hortons for a couple hours and bring me back to the airport, because, really what was the point of going to bed.  It was the end of his shift, so he politely declined the weirdo who wouldn't stop smiling and sang childish songs.

He did however have a limo sent to me at 5:30 am, and dropped me off at home two get my two hours sleep and a Cappuccino made in my Tassimo.  That was as close to Italy as I got that day.

Day 2:

OK bear with me, I know this has been a long story so far, but it's almost over.  I just want to let you know how Sunwing  handled the next morning.
All rainbows!!!

So I got back into my limo, and arrived at the airport at 6:45. Smile still etched on my face, I made my way up to the ticket counter and approached the young lady working the check-in.  I explained that I was one of the happy customers who's flight to Italy was delayed, and who was asked to come back in this morning to continue my amazing adventure.

Her face went gravely serious, and she looked me straight in the eye and said...

"I'm sorry sir, that flight already left."

My reaction

Then she smiled again, and said:

"Oh I'm only kidding, but it did change gates, here let me get you a new boarding pass."

I'm not sure how many times she told that to people that morning, but I'm surprised slappy leg lady didn't get put up on murder charges.  All in all, it was pretty damn hilarious, but wow!  That's some balls.  (Also the fact that she was quite good looking helped.)

Anyhow, I'll save the rest of the details, but I got through security, paid for my own breakfast, got the gate switched twice, and finally got to board the plane on time.  (12 hours late on time that is.)

Ahhhh, who can stay mad at that...
As we were getting on the plane, there was one extra Sunwing employee there this morning apologizing and handing everyone a photocopied piece of paper.

"On behalf of Sunwing, we'd like to apologize for the delays, and we'd like you to have this gift from us to you to make up for any inconveniences this may have caused you, our valued customer."

I was moved...  My angry smile melted away, and a sincere smile replaced it.  Sharon, Lois and Bram were replaced in my heart by something much more appropriate.  Let's say Milli Vanilli.  It's nice to see that the big bad an evil corporation decided upon itself to make a gesture saying, I know we fucked up, and we're sorry.  You have plans and you decided to make Sunwing apart of it, and we dropped the ball.  We can't make up for the day in Rome you lost, but at least we can give you a little something back.

I sat down and got comfortable in my chair and opened the folded piece of paper, and read the following:

"We apologize for any inconvenience, please accept this voucher for $75 off your next Sunwing vacation. Valid until the end of the year."

There is no picture that can explain how angry this made me, so here is a duck.

So I guess my day of lost vacation which I spent multiple thousands of dollars on through Sunwing on was worth a $75 coupon which would expire before I got more vacation time.  As well the coupon was for a Sunwing vacation, which frankly I wouldn't book with again for anything less than free.  (Well I might spend as much as $75 on an all inclusive week to Cuba with Sunwing.)  But really, talk about a bad customer experience.  I threw the coupon out.

Needless to say, I do not endorse Sunwing, and will not being using them any time in the future.  I know this has been really long, but for those who held out through my entire long and boring story,  here's a coupon...

With my sincere apologies for the sheer length of this read.
Good, now go sing the "Elephant Song".