Archive for January, 2018

January 31st, 2018

Oulu travel woes

When I typically write a travel report, I say that the flights were easy or uneventful. Not when I flew to Oulu last Thursday.

My – and my colleagues’ – aim was to visit Oulu for Pestipäivät, a local recruiting fair, and then I was supposed to visit at Digital Oulu 2018 event. We all had booked Norwegian early morning flight from Helsinki to Oulu.

The flight left at 7.00 in the morning, so I woke up at 4.45 to get in time to the airport. Got there, through the security, and to the lounge without issues and in a fraction of time allocated for that. The only issue was that most of Norwegian self-checkin automats were out of order, but got my ticket.

After having a breakfast at the lounge and spending quality time with company emails, I boarded the plane. Everything was as always except near Oulu airport the captain informed that we cannot land right now. The runway was too slippery due to bad weather.

So, we started circling over the airport. After 20 minutes, we got the next message that the runway is still slippery and the ground personnel continues their work. We could wait around 30 minutes more before the plane has to turn back to Helsinki, as it would otherwise run out of fuel.

And after 30 minutes, we started to climb again and soon the captain informed that we are flying back to Helsinki.

To make things worse, we had no way to communicate to our staff in Oulu that we are not coming. The aeroplane was so new that the wifi was not yet installed. So we waited another hour and landed back to Helsinki before ten o’clock in the morning.

This all is understandable and can happen to anyone. And actually it happened also to Finnair flight that morning. How Norwegian handled the whole issue was not understandable at all.

We flew back an hour from Oulu. The people on the plane had no idea whatsoever what the options are and what we should after landing. Except that everyone needs to leave the plane – it is going to Rovaniemi next – and to talk with the people at the gate. There were no extra people at the gate. Only one person opening the gate for Rovaniemi travellers. She said that we need to go to the arrival hall, there is ground service desk.

Thus I and my colleagues hurried through the airport to the arrival hall. Saw no signs, instructions, or people helping us on the way. Going through oneway gates was nerving experience.

There was nobody at the service desk. I called the number and a very unpleasant lady answered the call and said that there is someone there. When I said that I don’t see anyone, she promised to page the agent. Who just happened to arrive and then I heard from her radio that “Some bloke just called. Can you check what is the problem?”. I was not that pleased to hear it, but nevertheles there was someone now at the desk.

And she promptly asked us to leave the arrival hall and go downstairs to the next service desk. I was there like fifth in the queue and suddenly there was hundred people behind me. It was almost full plane after all.

The service was abysmally slow. Two clerks taking their time with computers. Third guy gave instructions in loud voice and distributed Norwegian information sheets. He said that we could rebook the flight using Norwegian website. I tried that with my mobile phone – several times – and never saw a link to do that.

As I was quite quick with my feet, I got to talk with an agent after ten minutes of queueing. Then the service was swift and I got a new seat to the next flight that would leave around four in the afternoon.

When I went back upstairs to check myself in to the new flight, I got a text message from Norwegian about the issue. Maybe I could have rebooked myself on their website, but it was too late.

The whole experience left me so furious. First, it showed complete lack of planning and empathy. Nobody really cared.

If Norwegian would ask me – I doubt it, but anyway – I’d do the following changes.

1. There would be a person or two at the gate dividing people in two. To those that will cancel their trip – pick up your bags, leave airport, and go to Norwegian website to get your money back – and to those that want still go to Oulu – pick up your bags, go to either Norwegian website or to the service desk for rebooking.

2. Make sure that the text message is sent while the aeroplane is still in the air. Everyone would get the instructions when it has landed.

3. Ensure that the flight is in rebookable mode on the website before it lands.

4. Make sure that the flight crew knows what should be told to the passangers. It can’t be that hard to reach staff on the plane.

The flight from Oulu to Helsinki lasted an hour, so there would be plenty of time to do these things. If there is enough will for it.

At the end, I got my new flight and was in Oulu in the evening. It was slippery there, I lost my footing after exiting the airport, felt on the ground, and rip the arm of my coat.

Now I need to make reimbursement requests to Norwegian and my travel insurance company. I have no high hopes, but maybe I get some compensation.