Last month I got a call from home to tell me that I had to return to Canada because my Dad was in intensive care and that it was serious enough that the doctors had asked that the family come back to see him. When doctors say that, you know its serious and I knew that I needed to book a flight right away. There was a slight problem in that I had no valid passport, so I waited up from when I got the call at )3:00am, and spoke with the French consulate in Edinburgh and they were able to get me an appointment later on in the afternoon which meant that I could fly next day.
In the meantime, I had to go and get passport photos, pack and sort out childcare for the kids because they couldn’t come with me and I also had flights to find but wasn’t about to book until I had a passport in hand. I was scared that if I booked, that something would go wrong and I didn’t want to tempt fate. So after getting the train into Edinburgh, got information sent to me from the hospital to justify and explain that my Dad was very ill, I had a temporary passport issued and I was on my way home to book my ticket.
I was speaking to the flight centre, as this seemed to be the cheapest flight available and unfortunately my usual company Air Transat, did not fly on a Saturday so they were the next available and earliest flight to book with. I was put under a bit of pressure as we were also liaising via email, and as I was paying with my husbands bank card, we had to provide various forms of identification. It was mentioned at one point that I may need a visa due to flying from Edinburgh-Newark-Toronto but I said that I wasn’t sure but that I would bring my Canadian birth certificate with me. I was also told to “just tick all I the boxes”. The staff member informed me that she would check and if I needed one, that she would get back to me.
I didn’t hear from her. I arrived at the airport the next morning with my e- ticket and when in line awaiting book in for my flight. When i was approached, I was asked if I had my visa or ETSA to which I replied “no”, I wasn’t aware that I needed one. I then burst into tears because I was stressed and didn’t know if I was going to be able to fly out to see my Dad. I was told not to worry, to go over to one of the computers and apply on line which would take a few minutes. Every time I typed in my details though, there was an error. Time was ticking by and I then had to get an employee of the airport who asked me why i didn’t have a visa. I explained the situation and she called the American Immigration dept and was told that I couldn’t fly in, although on their website , in black and white, there is information stating that America and France (amongst other countries) have an agreement and there shouldn’t have been any issue.
It was too early to call the travel agent at this point and the lovely staff at United Airlines , went out of there way to track down other flights for me to book. I had paid over £600 for the first flight and I really didn’t have anything else to buy a new flight apart from my credit card which had just been cleared. When I was able to finally call the Flight Centre, I spoke to a very nice member of staff who empathised with me but couldn’t help me. He said that I would have to buy a brand new ticket and contact them later about trying to get a refund. I explained to him that this was very difficult but I feel that because they knew how important it was for me to get home asap, there wasn’t much more to do. What made me even more angry was the fact that a manager was obviously in the background but didn’t even have the decency to come to the phone and speak to me.
I asked for recordings of the original call to which I was told that “not all calls are recorded”. very convenient. I emailed quite a few times and was told that it was unlikely that I would get a refund because I had ticked the boxes about understanding flight requirements i.e., visas but I tried explaining to them the pressure that I was put under(she was about to finish) as well as having the member of staff tell me herself that she would get back to me if I needed a visa.
I find it absolutely disgusting that a company like this can take full advantage of someone who’s travel was a necessity. I had medical information from the hospital explaining the situation and it added more stress onto an already horrible situation. I will never forgive them for their lack of professionalism and I will never use their “services” again. I have yet to hear back about where they are in the process of obtaining my refund… I urge you not to use their company especially if in a situation where you might be more vulnerable due to their uncaring nature.