The title of this post is something a cleaner we used to have once told Pooch and I when asked where some missing items had gone. It is a phrase much used in the Byrne household ever since. On Friday, an incredible thing happened. I'll give you my timetable.
Friday 29th August
- 9am: Cab arrives to take me and my very heavy suitcase to St Pancras
- 9.45: Train to Gatwick
- 10.45: Check in with Vietnam Airlines for 13.10 flight to Hanoi, where I'll transfer to a Tokyo flight, due to arrive the next day at Haneda at 3pm Tokyo time (8 hours ahead of the UK).
- 12.10: Due to be given gate number for departure. Departure board changes to "next update 14.00" with no reason given.
- 14.00: No update
- 15.30: Told flight is delayed (no reason given) and we are being put up in the Hilton (really not as grand as it sounds) and they'll phone if we can take off tonight. Otherwise a letter will be put under our bedroom doors telling us what to do next.
- 16.30: Finally get to hotel after fannying about at security and collecting suitcase.
- 17.00: Still queueing to check-in at hotel, who want us all to share rooms.
- 17.30: Get to own room.
Saturday 30th August
- 06.10: Wake up, no letter under door. Call reception who give me a copy of a letter saying the airline is doing all it can to get me to Australia.
- 08.00: Get correct letter which says to check out at 10am and come back to the check in desks at the airport. Try to find a phone number to see what is going on and find Vietnam Airlines's offices are not open at the weekend.
- 10.00: Transferred to Ho Minh Chi (Saigon) flight, due to take off at 13.10. They refuse to book me onto a transfer flight as they cannot guarantee we will land in time to make the connection. They promise this will be sorted out when we get to Vietnam.
- 12.50: Gate number finally given, board plane.
- 14.30: Flight finally takes off.
Sunday 31st August (Vietnam time - 6 hours ahead)
- 05.00: Idiot english guy on plane has drunk too much and vomits 2 rows behind me. Plane smells of vomit and the shoes of the poor woman who was sat next to him are no longer wearable.
- 09.00: Land at Ho Minh Chi. Transfer desk is swamped - half the plane are there and irritable.
- 10.00: Told we are being taken to another hotel as there is no flight until 00.10, and that it is only going to the airport way out of Tokyo, not the central one scheduled. It will get in at 8am on Monday Japan time (2 hours ahead of Vietnam), but it will take me another 2-3 hours to get home.
- 11.30: Finally get to hotel
So here I am. I wasn't expecting to see Vietnam and I don't consider I have really, except some impressive traffic.
It seems like traffic lights are obeyed, but roundabouts are a free for all. No wonder bike helmets are being sold everywhere.
I just really hope the flight tonight does take off when it is supposed to. If it does I'll get back a few hours short of 2 days after I should have done.
Sunday 31st August (continued)
Sunday 31st August (continued)
- 6.30pm: Dinner in the hotel restaurant. I thought this was pretty good but those that had made it to lunch (I slept through it) were surprised to find the exact same food on offer. The buffet style dishes included a large number of variations on 'pig trotters', snails and one dish which was labelled as 'deep fried pig's food'. I didn't try that one.
- 9.30pm: Coach back to airport. Arriving at the Customer Service desk we are asked for our passports, which Vietnam Airlines had insisted on keeping to ensure we came back, since you need a visa to enter Vietnam and none of us had one. After explaining several times that they had our passports, to the blank faces of the staff involved, someone is reluctantly dispatched to look for them and returns 20 minutes later much to the relief of all of us. However, no one has booked us onto the midnight flight. Are there still seats available? One minute please, says nonchalant staff member. Ten minutes later we find out that luckily we can all get on the plane. By now the 13 of us trying to get to Japan are joined in the feeling that we're caught in a cross between 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Carry on Vietnam'. We are sent to check in our bags and 12 of us get through but there's a problem - one guy is not on their system. The fact he is standing right in front of them and they've had his passport all day doesn't seem to count. It's now 11.20pm, boarding is due to start in 10 minutes and we've all sworn that 'no man gets left behind' so all 13 of us are standing around the now deserted check-in desk waiting for him to get his boarding card.
- 11.30pm: In the gate lounge, we are all looking rather the worse for wear. But we're here, and we're alive, and that's what counts in this man's army. We are unanimously expecting this flight to be delayed, or cancelled, but miraculously it takes off, no one throws up during it, and it lands on time.
Monday 1st September
- 8.30am: We're collecting our bags and saying our goodbyes. It's been emotional.
- 11am: I get home, 41 hours after I should have done.
I have since looked online and this treatment by Vietnam Airlines seems fairly common, and they are notoriously awful about compensation. I've sent them a standard letter quoting the relevant EU directive but it could take months to get anything from them, if they give me anything at all. What a company! Please warn your friends that if they are visiting Asia or Australia they should avoid Vietnam Airlines at all costs.