Being left stranded in Goa will NOT be a holiday
PUBLISHED: 11:28 20 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 20 April 2019
Who remembers Eyjafjallajökull? If you know that it's the Icelandic volcano that caused global air travel mayhem in 2010, top marks.
If you can pronounce it, too, you lose a point: nobody likes a clever clogs.
Eyjafjallajökull blew its top while I was in Florida with my wife, four children and my parents. We were lucky: we had friends who put us up in Naples for the 10 extra days before we could get a flight home.
But it was still a stressful and disorienting period, as we were not sure when and how we'd get home, whether we'd lose pay at work, and how much school our children would miss (it was A-level year for one).
Right now, thousands of people are stuck in India because Jet Airlines cancelled all of its flights.
I've heard loads of “lucky them” comments from others, who add: “I'd love to be stuck in Goa.”
Yes, “lucky” – if you're rich, retired and have no reason to come home. If – like a friend of mine who IS stuck in Goa – you and your partner have to work, your children have school, and you have no magic money tree, it is a total nightmare.
The thing is, unless you had a ticket on Titanic or have featured on a “From Hell” show, the worst thing about a holiday is having to come home.
For the final couple of days of your break, you psych yourself up for the return trip, making endless mental notes about tickets, times, connections and passport.
At the same time, there's the process of weaning yourself off your holiday location, so that landing at cold, wet Stansted is not too much to bear.
The other worst thing about a holiday (if it's possible to have two “worsts”) is the journey home. Why is it that getting there always seem so much easier than getting back?
I had a wonderful week in Provence last year, but by the time I'd taken various wrong turns en route to the airport, handed over the hire car, gone through French customs, sat on the plane on the runway for three hours, flown to Stansted, got through UK customs, got a bus to Stansted, endured hours of drop-offs around East Anglia, called a taxi, got a taxi home from the bus station, then finally arrived, I was in desperate need of a holiday.
But that is nothing when compared to the worst of the worst things about a holiday – not being able to get home.
If your flights are cancelled, being in a foreign country rapidly goes from a novelty to a foreign country.
Hotels quickly catch the mood of desperation and hike their prices, knowing that the stranded tourists have no choice but to check in. The cost of flights goes in the same direction – if any are available at all.
The final day of the holiday, then the first few days of limbo, are spent online and on hold: the stress levels are off the scale.
It's at this point that you realise how little the travel agents and airlines actually care about the human beings who finance their businesses. Their offhand customer service and shameless profiteering are modern life at its worst.
My friend was quoted £4,000 per person to fly home.
Many people save all of their spare money to afford a holiday in a place like Goa. There isn't a spare £16,000 lying about for four seats on a plane.
But the agents and the airlines know that people are not in a position to negotiate, and that they'll beg and borrow in order to get home.
Is it too much to ask that travel agents and airlines act with compassion and fairness? They should treat getting us home with the same level of urgency as getting us there.