I have been left with no choice but to write to the media to express my extreme disappointment given the stress caused to me and my partner whilst flying with Fiji's national airline Air Pacific, soon to be Fiji Airways.
I am a Dutch/Irish citizen, and have a Fijian partner and we currently live in Ireland.
My partner and I had to fly to Fiji at last minute, last December (2011) due to the sudden death of her father who lived in Fiji. We flew all the way from Ireland at an enormous cost of 5,000 EUR!
We were scheduled to fly back from Nadi (Fiji) to Ireland via Los Angeles the following week. To our great shock we found out that my partner required a transit visa for LA. Unfortunately, given the circumstances and the rush in which we booked our flights from Ireland we did not have time nor attention paid to the fact that she might need a visa, let alone having time to request one at the last minute, as the funeral arrangements were already in place. We were told by Air Pacific ground staff at the desk that there was no way of her being able to fly back via LA and so we were told to make alternative arrangements.
I got onto the online travel site with whom I booked our flights and they had to get in touch with the airline in order to see whether we could fly back the same way as we came; Nadi – Sydney – London – Dublin. In the meantime, one of the Air Pacific managers, whose name I cannot recall, advised me that he was going to print out the itinerary (via Sydney) so I could inform my travel agent of the flights. One of the Air Pacific ground staff ladies, Ashwina, a very helpful lady I might add, advised me to call the Air Pacific customer service desk in the morning (as this was now 11pm on 17th of December) to see whether my travel agent had made any changes to my flights in the system.
After a stressful, sleepless night and trying to reorganise flights, I was informed by my travelagent that it was not worth me changing my flights (4,000 EUR each!) and that the best solution was to pay for 2 new SINGLE TICKETS from Nadi to Dublin. As you can imagine, we were very stressed and shocked by this and needed time to think of alternatives.
The following morning, I called the Air Pacific desk in Nadi Airport as suggested by Ashwina and much to my surprise I was informed that we had been rescheduled, booked and confirmed on the 9:00am flight from Nadi to Sydney and ONWARDS to London Heathrow and then Dublin.
We were very confused by this and asked the lady to repeat and she again confirmed that we were booked all the way from Nadi to Dublin. We were now so pleased after all the turmoil of the previous 24 hours on top of the sad occasion of our trip to Fiji in the first place.
We rushed to the airport as we only had 20 minutes left to check in at the desk. When we arrived at the airport I was approached by one of the Air Pacific staff who asked me my name and she informed me that there was a desk free where we could check-in as they were expecting us. We gave our passports to the check-in agent who proceeded to ask me who had booked us on the flights and I informed him that I was not sure but that I had an itinerary printed out by one of the managers on duty the previous night on which it showed that we were confirmed and booked on the onward flights to Sydney, London and Dublin. The check-in agent then went to seek advice from another manager who came back to the desk with him. I asked both the agent and manager if everything was in order or was there something outstanding or whether there was a problem. They both confirmed that all was in order they printed out our boarding passes and informed us we can collect our onward boarding passes in Sydney at the transfer desk.
However from this point onwards, we suffered nothing but stress, concern for our welfare, sadness and worry.
Once we landed in Sydney, we went to the transfer desk and were informed that there was a problem with our booking. The agent asked us to wait a moment as she needed to call her manager as this appeared to be a very “strange case”. Her manager proceeded to tell us that we were booked on the flight to London and onwards to Dublin but that we had to PAY for the flights! As anyone can understand, we were extremely shocked and confused when we heard this, not to mention very angry with Air Pacific for letting us fly to Sydney in the first place! Had we not been able to find the finances to purchase these 2 new tickets we would both have been removed/deported from Sydney and a travel ban of 10 years placed on both of our passports thanks to Air Pacific!
The Duty Manager in Sydney was gobsmacked and shocked at the fact that Air Pacific booked us on flights for which it appeared had not been paid for! If I am not mistaken, Air Pacific could be fined 10,000 FJD (5000 EUR) if a passenger is removed/deported from an airport without having the proper transit visa coming off an Air Pacific flight, as was informed to us when my partner was refused to fly to LA without a transit visa. In this case, we would both have required transit visa’s if we had not got on the flight to London.
I was quoted 6,000EUR per person to fly back from Sydney to Dublin which would have totalled to 12,000EUR! The Duty Manager managed to get this price down to a more reasonable, yet still for me, an extortionate amount. I had to phone my brother in the middle of the night to ask him if he could loan me the princely amount of 3,800 EUR with his credit card, an amount which I am now trying to pay back.
What I am so extremely frustrated and angry about is that there was complete negligence on Air Pacific’s part by allowing us on their flight to Sydney without any confirmed onward flights, which gave me the impression that they were well rid of us and left it to Sydney to sort this problem out.
We came to Nadi for my partners' father’s funeral. I was looking forward to seeing some of the country where my partner comes from but the whole experience ended up being a total nightmare for the last 3 days.
My experience in Fiji was a beautiful one despite the circumstance as to why we were there. But I am very sorry to say that I would be reluctant to ever fly with Air Pacific again and I am not sure if I would not recommend the airline to any of my friends and family who wish to visit beautiful Fiji.
I have since written to Air Pacific to inform them of our disappointment and to seek reimbursement for the extra 3,800 EUR which I was obliged to borrow in order to get my partner and I back home to Ireland. They have come back to tell us that they can upgrade us to business class for a one way journey next time we fly with them again! This is an utter disgrace and mockery of our human rights which were in jeopardy when we were sent to Sydney without any onward travelticket and thus risking deportation which would have cost Air Pacific 20,000FJD! So in the end, Air Pacific, soon to be Fiji Airways (not a good start for them) don't have the decency to give us any kind of reimbursement for the inconvenience caused.
Air Pacific caused us nothing but heartache, extreme stress, countless number of tears, fear of being deported and losing my soul mate and life partner because of the 10 year ban on our passports! My partner is extremely ashamed of what happened given that it was my first time visiting her beautiful home and her national airline caused us so much hassle and distress which she has now had to deal with on top of grieving for her dead father.
Unfair doesn't even come close to it....:(