Yes, it happened. Yesterday was the day we never anticipated. After 5 and a half years of full time travel we met our first major airport related problem. We turned up to board our flight to be told that no, actually, we weren’t getting on their plane today. Our tickets didn’t exist, our flights had been cancelled and we were standing there at the check-in desk with 2 kids and 6 backpacks ( which were, like me, overweight) with nowhere to go.
Our day started around 5am with the usual frantic packing activity that goes with a big airport day. I shouted, grumped and organised 3 people’s gear into packing cubes and bags while Chef just shoved all his stuff into the top of his backpack, as usual.
The kids whined and complained about budget flights, no food, no movies, the usual. I quietly agreed with them, but the budget flight had been a lot cheaper than the premium airlines.
We had time to have breakfast at our Premier Inn in Crawley, near London Gatwick ( which at under 5 UKP each was a real bargain, you’d barely get a couple of coffees for that in the UK usually) before driving to Stanstead, just north of London. A long drive and a crappy one, driving in London has become way worse since we left over 12 years ago, but unusually for the M25 and Dartford Tunnel, no delays.
We dropped off the car at Sixt, no sweat, no bother, no checks, because we’d reduced our excess to zero. After 2 bad experiences using 3rd party excess insurance recently we’d highly recommend you do this.
Another bus ride to the terminal, swaying precariously shouldering heavy packs, and we entered the over-populated mosh pit that is the Stanstead terminal. Seriously, Stanstead is the pits. It’s clean, modern and staff are generally friendly, but there’s nowhere to sit, no power points for charging and some of the toilets were off the scale disgusting. You could treat your customers better than this Stanstead, build seats not more shops. Luckily, I’d remembered just the day before to buy a new power pack, so our descent into insanity was cushioned by juiced up phones and kindles.
We’d spent a few days, over a month ago, figuring out how best and cheapest to get to Nepal from London. We had flights booked on Pegasus, a budget airline, from Stanstead to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Dubai. We then had a couple of days in Dubai before our Dubai to Kathmandu flight in the relative luxury of Etihad. We were looking forward to getting to Dubai, but those 2 budget flights ahead of us, both around 4 hours, weren’t sounding like fun.
Finding Out Our Airline Tickets, and Our Booking, Had Been Cancelled
After handing our passports to check-in guy on the Pegasus desk, we could see something was wrong. Check-in guys don’t normally disappear out the back with your passports.
“Do you have booking details?”
“Do you have confirmation?”
Everything seemed OK to us and the company we’d booked with, Go to Gate were still emailing us confirmations as we were standing at the desk.
Our money had been taken from our account, but our names just weren’t on the list for that flight.
It took a while to figure out, but our seats, our entire airling booking, had been cancelled by Go to Gate with Pegasus. They hadn’t thought to tell us they’d cancelled, nor had they refunded our money or even cancelled our flight on their system. Everything was still ” live” from our end, but our tickets just didn’t exist. We weren’t flying.
The only slight suggestion we had that something may be wrong had been when we tried to check in online the day before. We got a system error. That’s not unusual, it happens regularly, so we ignored it and planned on checking in at the airport, no sweat.
Check-in-guy could do nothing and washed his hands of us, but as we were standing at a nearby counter frantically emailing and telephoning, the Pegasus supervisor appeared and was very helpful so I can’t be down on Pegasus, it wasn’t their fault.
While my husband yelled down the phone at the Go to Gate telephone jockeys in Delhi, Mr Pegasus found me our best option. That had to be a direct Emirates flight, Stanstead to Dubai, that evening. Being last minute, direct and Emirates, it cost a lot, almost 2,000 pounds and Go to Gate were still holding our 700 UK pound booking money for Pegasus. We are now skint.
Screaming down the phone at Go to Gate really didn’t help as operative after operative passed the buck. They had monumentally screwed up and they knew it, but the original problem the root of this cancellation, lay with Barclaycard. We took a while to figure this out, but a combination of Barclaycard and GoToGate screw ups had landed us flightless at Stanstead.’
I would never use GoToGate ever again, absolutely no way. I’m also inclined to say that I would never use Skyscanner again either. It’s a useful tool for finding best days and routes, but I’m not happy to book through them when third parties like GoToGate are involved. From now on we book direct with the airlines and I think we’ll be sticking to premium airlines, not budget for a flight of any length. I’m over budget airlines, after almost 6 years, that time has finally come.
Why Had Our Flight Been Cancelled?
It took ages to figure this out but both GoToGate and Barclaycard were at fault. Barclaycard cancelled our card a few days after we booked our flight because of a skimming or fraud event. We knew about it, we’d spoken to their people on the phone and had a conversation about how our flights MUST NOT BE CANCELLED. They promised it would be fine. But still they issued a fraud alert that caused GotoGate to cancel our flights.
GoToGate were at fault for NOT TELLING US IN ANY WAY that our flights had been cancelled and keeping our flights active on their system while holding onto our money.
Once we got to the root of it, Barclaycard were extremely apologetic and have already guaranteed us 500 UK pounds in compensation. To get the full amount refunded we need to speak to a higher office which we won’t be able to do until we’re back from the Himalayas. We’ve been told that will be fine.
Now we need to get our cash back from GoToGate, which hopefully won’t be an issue, we don’t know yet.
Our Very Expensive Replacement Flights After our Flight Cancellation
We spent a full day sitting in Stanstead airport, it’s not the nicest airport in the world, but still it could have been worse had we not had power packs .
We missed our first day in Dubai and arrived exhausted. Today has been a right-off but tomorrow, hopefully, we can do all the things we wanted to do in Dubai.
Flying with Emirates is always something to look forward to and we made the most of it. A brand new plane, comfortable seats, loads of movies to choose from, decent food and free flowing drinks softened the blow of a crappy day. Chef and I tried to make up a thousand pounds in red wine and rum and coke, but after 2 movies each we all nodded off to wake up over the UAE.
Our hotel in Dubai is good, we’ve used it before and we have a big family suite to chillax in, get our laundry done, indulge in wifi and be ready for a big day tomorrow. The lovely front desk staff at The Golden Sands even let us check in early and have breakfast, finally winning!
UPDATE: We have had 2 idiotic comments ( sent straight to trash) suggesting that having insurance would have fixed all of this. Clearly these people are not travellers. We do have travel insurance, very good insurance, and always have, this one. But that is not, in any way, going to help you get on a plane when you find yourself stranded. It is also not going to be possible for us to deal with insurance nor the above 2 companies when we are about to head up Mount Everest. I also want to point out ( as I already did in the post, but for the slow on the uptake) that none of this is, in any way, the fault of Pegasus. Being a budget airline does not make them a bad airline and in 5 years, hundreds of flights, we’ve never had any sort of problem even close to this. Budget airlines do a great job in getting people from A to B at the best price and an airline’s budget status has no bearing at all on the above issue. But thanks for reading. This post has gone viral thanks to you wonderful people. Cheers.
Onward now, onward to Nepal and Everest Base Camp. Tibet and Bhutan currently have a black cloud of financial uncertainty hanging over them but I’m open to the universe to provide after this disaster as it generally does. I’ve been working like crazy these last few months to get the money together and now a big chunk of our Bhutan and Tibet fund is gone ( hence the new Patreon account that I’m working on.) Expect posts like this over coming weeks, the stories, not the business posts. This website is our livelihood, but it’s also our record of our adventures exploring the world, we always hope you’ll find our experiences useful. Soon, I’m going to write a post on budget v full service airlines, flying premium is just so much nicer all round. Budget sucks in the comfort stakes and I never want to dread a flight ever again, even less, be refused a flight ever again.