The time had come for me to leave Australia yet again for another year of travel in Europe to cover the World Rally Championship and start my travel photography projects, I have to admit I am very lucky and fortunate to be doing what I love as I know so many people who are not and will never get the opportunities I am.
For yet another year the WRC and Europe would be my home for practically half the year, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Spain, GB and Iceland, all that in a year, i feel exhausted just saying it.
My first stop, of my 4 months away, Portugal.
WRC Portugal is renowned for its crazy enthusiastic fans, fans? there are so many of them, 50,000 on the last stage of the last day, its crazy, what this also means is if I normally allow an extra 1.5-2hrs to get somewhere I now need to allow double which means less sleep and more coffee.
Unfortunately my dramas and lack of sleep began way before the rally even began.
My first flight to Europe was with Emirates Airlines, leaving directly from Canberra after the ARC.
This was my first time flying Emirates and I was really looking forward to it, my expectations were high, I had the seat free next to me so it was going to be a great flight, well it was great till about 9hrs in en-route to Dubai, we had to make an emergency landing in Phuket Thailand due to a passenger having a heart attack, we later found out the person was fine, nevertheless a 4 hour stop in Phuket meant I missed my connecting flight to Lisbon along with many many many others.
On arrival it was chaos, in this situation I find staying calm to be the best option, there isn’t anything I can do so no point stressing, long story short Emirates wanted to put me on the next day flight to Lisbon, the problem with this was I needed to be there on Monday at the latest as I had plans already set in stone for the Tuesday morning, that flight was not an option, they even tried flying me to Finland to get a connection to Porto, that wasn’t going to happen, eventually they found a flight to Barcelona then a connection to Lisbon, it would mean I arrive in Lisbon just after 11pm which was almost 15hrs later, I then had a 3-4hrs drive north to Porto, sleep? what is sleep.
Emirates were very accommodating in Dubai, I managed to deal with the customer service manager who was extremely helpful, she upgraded my lounge access to the first class lounge for the inconvenience, she tried to upgrade my tickets to business class however it wasnt possible, the next best thing was to block the seats next to me for my next flights, perfect, anyway back to the lounge, wow what an experience, for the next 8 hours I had my own chef, a massage room, shower, cocktails, you name it it was on offer.
After waiting in Dubai for the 8 hours relaxing I was on my way, a quick 5hr flight to Barcelona then a quick connection and I was finally in Lisbon, this is where my world collapsed, ok well it crashed, ok things went pear shaped.
When you fly as often as I do there is always this slight trepidation when waiting at the baggage carrousel, especially when it takes forever for your bags to finally pop out of that magical hole in the wall, in all my years I have never had a lost bag, well it happened, the law of averages I guess, yep bags didnt arrive, I was however positive and after filling in the lost baggage report was hopeful they would show up the next day, my other concern now was that I missed the representative from the rental car company for the pickup, they closed at midnight and it was 00:05, I managed to grab a taxi who thankfully had no idea where he was going, after a 25min for a drive that should have been no more than 5min i finally showed up, luckily for me the guys behind the counter had stuck around otherwise I would have been in an even bigger pickle.
Ok so to summarise, delayed flight = missed connection = new flights = lost baggage = 46hrs travel since I left canberra and I still had 4 hrs to drive, it was 1:30am and I was meeting Andre at 8am to start recce, I eventually got to my hotel at 430am, had a shower and managed an hours sleep, luckily Andre was running late, but… I didn’t sleep.
The rally began and for the next 8 days I lived in all but the same clothes, I grabbed some underwear and shirts, then on my last night in Portugal as I slept in my Hotel room the bags were finally delivered, at 2:30am with my flight to Rome at 8am, great timing.
Now for my little rant, actually before I do that, I have to thank Bruno at the Hotel Azores Lisboa, I met Bruno in Azores last year, he manages the Hotel Azores Lisboa in Lisbon and invited me to stay at the hotel for my last night in Portugal, he also invited me to join him and a few guests for a degustation meal to celebrate Azores, great food, I met some very interesting and influential people, and the hotel fantastic, if ever in Lisbon make sure you stay there, so thanks to Bruno for making my last few hours in Portugal more memorable than the rest.
Ok the rant, not one person was helpful, I called Qantas in Canberra (my connection to Adelaide), Emirates in Adelaide, Emirates in Sydney (Head office Australia), Dubai, Lisbon, Barcelona and Porto and not one could give me information other than that what I already had from the lost baggage company, email address were exchanged for Emirates customer care and lost property and emails sent and i was later told they were all the incorrect areas to deal with the situation, not once did anyone from Emirates ring to apologies, I also had to travel to Lisbon airport to obtain vouchers to purchase essential items, um I am 3hrs north thats unacceptable, the entire situation left me with a sour taste in my mouth two an airline I had heard so many good things about, I honestly don’t think I will fly them ever again, its a pity because they work with Qantas who are my preferred airline.
A little update (20/7/15), still to this date nobody from Emirates Airlines has contacted me even after filing the complaint, absolutely terrible customer service
/End Rant and my return to Italy for the next 2 weeks.
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