Stuck on Zurich

April 17, 2010

Well it seems that we are going to be seeing a lot more of Zurich than originally planned.   Yesterday I mentioned that we had a flight via Frankfurt to Dublin at 10:30 … well that was to turn out to be incorrect.

But first I want to go back to yesterday…after checking into the Park Inn, Glenda and I had a very welcome shower and change of clothes, some lunch and then decided that we wanted to go for a walk to get some fresh air.  We’d been breathing processed air for so long, we’d forgotten what the fresh stuff tasted like.  Luckily the Park Inn lies near a bridle path running alongside a stream of sorts and that proved to be exactly what we needed.  We headed along that for a while before deciding to head to a church we could see from the road.  This took us into the village of Rümlang.  We wandered through the village noting all the little things that differentiated Switzerland from Australia.  The multi story houses, the shutters on every window, the prevelance of Mercedes, Volkswagens and Audis, the wildflowers growing in lawns, the flowers growing in every conceivable place, the totally foreign roadsigns and road markings, learning to look left rather than right when crossing a road, the lack of fences between houses which leads to a feeling of community, the wooden buildings, the familiar birds [blackbirds, sparrows, coots] and the less familiar birds [mallards, rooks, tits, robins and others I didn’t recognise] …  I could go on, but Rümlang was a very interesting introduction to the Swiss environment.

This morning we checked out and headed back to the airport with our luggage.  We took one look at the queue at the Swiss Air counter and decided to come back later.  We dropped our luggage off at the left luggage station and decided to catch a train into Zurich. After a few puzzled moments at the ticket machine we found our way down to the platforms with our 2 adult tickets plus an extra child ticket which we somehow mistakenly ordered.  The train into town was excellent and we soon found ourselves in Zurich HB.  Grabbed a map from the tourist bureau and then wandered down Bahnhofstrasse for a bit before heading across the river to the old part of town.  We strolled along the river bank towards the Grossmünster.  Once at the Grossmünster, Glenda sat and watched a choir performance while I paid 4 CHF to climb the tower. [Thanks for the suggestion, Prescott]  First off was a fairly tight spiral stone staircase which soon gave way to wooden stairs. The view from the top was quite impressive but would have been better if the sun had been out.

Once down we headed over the closest bridge to the other side of town and wandered through various streets marvelling [drooling actually] at the window contents.  All the while promising ourselves that we would be back in a month and so we would be good and not buy anything.  We then found our way back to the Bahnhof and caught the train back to the airport, grabbed our luggage and headed to the checkin area.  The queue did not look any shorter than it did when we had been there 5 hours earlier, but there was nothing to it but to join the queue and wait our turn.  We already realised that our flight had most likely been cancelled but we needed a change of flight and a hotel voucher for tonight.  After more than 2 hours in the queue, we finally reached the front and eventually managed to score a flight to Dublin on Tuesday morning.  We were also put up at the Hotel Ibis instead of the Park Inn.  After missing the first hotel bus by one seat, we finally made it to the hotel and decided to book our remaining 3 nights here as well.  Seems we were not alone in having to change hotels as we saw two others staying here that we had seen staying at the Park Inn.  The Hotel Ibis while having a much better reception and dining area than the Park Inn, loses hands down as far`as the rooms go.  But its a roof over our heads and at this stage that all that really matters.  More tomorrow.


Well that didn’t go to plan

April 15, 2010

As Robert Burns so aptly noted:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley [Often go ugly]

After a long and tiring 13 hour flight from Hong Kong to Zurich which at times seemed to be a rather convoluted loop through China, Khazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, over the Caspian Sea over Azerbaijan and then along the Black Sea probably designed to avoid Iraqi and Russian airspace, we found ourselves looking slightly dishevelled and in desperate need of sleep in an almost deserted Zurich airport.  Looking to find the transfer station, we checked the departure boards and noticed our Zurich – Dublin flight had a strange red German word next to it. A couple of seconds later that word changed to the equivalent English word.  “Cancelled”.  Our hearts sank.

There then ensued some almost frantic discussions with a couple of airport staff where we discovered that a rampant Icelandic volcano was doing its best to thwart our [and thousands of others] travel plans.  All flights in and out of Ireland, the UK and Scandinavia had been cancelled.

When we got to the transfer station we worked out where everyone had got to.  The queue at the transfer station rivalled the best that Sydney airport could ever hope to throw up.  There was nothing for us to do but join another 2 hour queue to finally get a new flight to Dublin [via Frankfurt] tomorrow.  So Swiss Air have put us up in the Park Inn near the airport for the night,  including vouchers for lunch and dinner [breakfast was included in the room charge].  This was very decent of them considering that the volcano had nothing to do with the airline.  For those that have ever stayed in Formula1 hotels, the Park Inn is a slightly upmarket version.

So what this all means is that we will be arriving in Dublin at 10:30 pm on Friday rather than at 9:20 am on Thursday.

Slight scare

March 31, 2010

Yesterday we had a slight scare re our trip.  Glenda has been bugging me for about a week to check our seats with Qantas as they were not showing up on our booking on their web site.  I told her not to worry so much and that they will be fine.   Yesterday she decided that rather than bug me again, she would ring them herself.  When she rang Qantas and asked if she could confirm our seats on Flight QF87 from Sydney to Hong Kong leaving at 2:20 PM, she was told “Oh, that flight was cancelled about 8 weeks ago and we moved you to a new flight leaving Sydney at 10:45 AM”  This presented a slight problem as our connecting flight from Canberra to Sydney was scheduled to arrive in Sydney at 10:40 AM.

When asked why Qantas had not advised us of the change, Glenda was told, that because we had booked through FlightCentre, Qantas had informed FlightCentre and left it to them to call us.   In fact, as it turns out, our flights had been changed twice.  When the flight was first cancelled, we were moved to a flight leaving at 9:00 PM.  Then Qantas realised we were connecting to a Swiss Air flight in Hong Kong and would therefore miss that flight if we left Sydney at 9:00PM, so they moved us to the 10:45 AM flight.

Well, those of you who know Glenda can imagine what happened next.  Yep, she got a tad worried and more than a tad annoyed.  She rang Swiss Air and confirmed our flights with them hadn’t changed, which they hadn’t.  Then she rang Qantas back and asked them to change our Canberra to Sydney flight which they did.  (We are now leaving Canberra at 7:30 AM instead of 9:50 AM).  Then she rang me and organised with me for us to go into FlightCentre at lunchtime to “discuss” why we had not been informed.

When we got to FlightCentre we spoke to one of their agents who listened while Glenda explained what the problem was and how annoyed she was.  The agent then spent about 10 mins typing at her keyboard,  probably checking all our flight details, before finally saying she was new and that we should probably talk to the Manager.  We then stood and waited about 15 mins while the Manager saw two other people, [one of whom arrived after we did, but who had an appointment].  By this stage Glenda was getting extremely frustrated, so that when we finally got to talk to the manager she let fly.  The guy was a little taken aback at the sudden onslaught and got defensive and a little annoyed himself.  Once she had calmed down, and he had calmed down, we explained the situation.  He then spent another ten minutes at his keyboard, we assumed he was checking the same facts that the previous girl had checked.  He then told us that a voice message had been left on Glenda’s phone the 2nd of February asking us to call.  Now as far as Glenda was aware she never received any message on her voice mail and its extremely unlikely that if she had received it that she would forget such an important message.   We asked him why they hadn’t called my number and he said that Glenda’s number was the only one they had on file.

He then tried to shift the blame to us and said it’s every travellers responsibility to check their flights for changes and/or cancellations.  He said the best he could do was print off the new itinerary for us which he did.  Frustrated, we left with the new itinerary and without any semblance of an apology.  It was only later that we found printed at the top of  the itinerary were not only Glenda’s phone number and our residential address, but also my phone number and email address.  Telling us that they only had Glenda’s number on file was either an outright lie or a display of total incompetence.  Also, I’m not a customer service expert, but I would imagine it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to notice that we had not responded to their original phone call and either to call us back again or to try another contact.

So the upshot of all this is that we now leave 3 hours earlier from Canberra, we have an extra 4 hours in Hong Kong waiting for our connecting flight to Zurich and have a much lower appreciation for FlightCentre.  Oh, and when bugged by Glenda to check some detail or fact, I will trust her instincts a little more.