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Back home after a pitfall trip

AAH and I arrived home yesterday after a long and arduous trip back to Iceland. We left Bulgaria at 7 am on Saturday morning [up at 4, zzzz …] and were booked on an Icelandair flight back that evening at 10.30 pm. After a long day of shopping soaking up Copenhagen consumer culture we headed back to the airport to board our plane back home, only to be told after boarding that there were “technical difficulties” with the aircraft. Another half hour or so of listening to the drunken rants of the Icelander in the seat next to me and we were told the plane would be unfixable that evening and we would have to spend the night in Copenhagen. As it happened, we were booked into the Cabinn Hotel, which has the smallest rooms in the entire universe and which AAH and I stayed at during our outbound journey and swore we’d never do again … proving that the fates do, indeed, have a sense of humour.

Another two hours of baggage reclaim, taking number, waiting, voucher claiming, etc. etc. and we were lying in our bunks at the Cabinn. We were given the option of two flights back on Sunday and opted for the later one to have a few more hours of sleep, which turned out to be somewhat wishful thinking since I was returning from my holiday in the sun with a nasty cold and spent much of the night coughing.

Add to this the fact that, on arrival in Copenhagen from Bulgaria, we found that the locks had been cut from our suitcases and the zip unit on the zipper destroyed. “Security check” was the profferred explanation. Meanwhile, everyone else’s suitcase appeared intact — I figure AAH and I were singled out because we looked significantly different from everyone else travelling on that plane, i.e. were the only ones that didn’t have any tattoos.

Also? It rained into our room at the Cabinn during the night, and the only clean pair of jeans I had in which to travel back were completely soaked.

Bizarrely, our trip TO Bulgaria was fraught with similar challenges, including an hour-long delay at Copenhagen train station en route to the airport, meaning we came dashing onto our plane to Bulgaria with not a minute to spare.

That said, all worked out in the end and nothing serious happened. Well, if you discount the fact that my laptop was involved in a wee accident a couple of days before leaving and crashed [hence my silence here for the last few days].

Still! it was a great holiday. We spent much of the time on the beach reading and hanging out, made some new friends and met some amazing people. We also went to Istanbul for a couple of days and were both completely captivated by the city. I now sort of understand all you folks out there who say you come to Iceland and just fall in love and want to return … I kind of feel that way about Istanbul now. I really want to return and spend some more time — but in the meantime, it’s back to Icelandic day-to-day reality.

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  • Sue August 23, 2010, 1:32 pm

    I hope you feel better soon and Velkomin heim.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford,ireland August 23, 2010, 3:25 pm

    Hell of trip you need a vacation Alda to recharge your batteries, what about a couple of weeks in Bulgaria 🙂
    Never mind back to reality

    1. Wheres our €5 billion you guys owe the world.
    2. Wheres all our mackerel gone to.

  • Joerg August 23, 2010, 7:30 pm

    I have long stopped securing my luggage using a lock as this is very likely to be destroyed by security. I prefer cable tie, so, if they cut it, there will at least not be much damage.

    According to the EU regulations you should qualify for denied boarding compensation of at least 400 EUR for the cancelled flight out of Copenhagen.

    http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/consumers/protection_of_consumers/l24173_en.htm

  • sylvia hikins August 23, 2010, 7:45 pm

    At least they didn’t try to repair the plane. A similar thing happened to me a few years ago in Greece and much to my horror, two mechanics walked out to the stricken aircraft, climbed up a ladder and started to hit the engine with something that looked like an over-sized spanner. I am not a religious person, but right then I started sending up prayers to you-know-who! Fortunately the pilot also had a spouse and family back home and his intervention ensured that we stayed in a crappy hot fly ridden hotel and a ‘rescue plane’ was sent out to gather us all up the next day! That said, I’ve been back to Greece frequently since, and I bet you will be on your way back to Istanbul just as soon as you are able. Meanwhile, take it easy and get over that cold.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • kevin oconnor,waterford,ireland August 23, 2010, 9:14 pm

    @sylvia hikins August 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Way coool dude

  • hildigunnur August 23, 2010, 9:28 pm

    haha, I stayed at Crap Inn once, never again if I can help it!

  • david August 23, 2010, 11:03 pm

    Using the already suggested cable ties to secure your luggage sounds good. You might alternatively get some tats, if that is why you feel you were singled out. Myself, I’d go with the cable ties.

  • alda August 23, 2010, 11:22 pm

    Thank you, everyone! 🙂

    Joerg — that cable tie is a very good idea — I’ll definitely do that next time. As for that regulation, it looks to me like the compensation applies only when you are denied boarding, not when the flight is cancelled. Or am I missing something?

  • PeterRRRRR August 24, 2010, 12:21 am

    Sadly, such is air travel in the 21st century, post 9/11/2001. I suppose that’s the price we have to pay for being able to afford to fly off to Iceland, Bulgaria, etc. on a semi-regular basis, without it being literally “a trip of a lifetime.”

    But, seriously, no tattoos? Or is that just no visible tattoos?

  • Mike Richards August 24, 2010, 12:40 am

    Your luggage shouldn’t have been cut open under any circumstances. If the lock can’t be opened by the baggage people it can be removed, but not by damaging the bag. You might have a claim against the airline or with your insurance company to get replacement luggage.

    One alternative explanation for missing locks is that they can get trapped between conveyer belts and pulled off, but that shouldn’t ahve damaged your bag.

    However, using cable ties for securing luggage is a really bad idea. Following the lead of US security most countries only allow luggage which is either unlocked or is locked using an approved lock. Anything that looks out of place is going to get special attention.

    Meanwhile velkomin heim.

    Mike.

  • Mark August 24, 2010, 2:30 am

    You need to get those TSA locks as explained here- http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-tsa-approved-luggage-locks.htm

    They have them at Eymundsson.

  • Joerg August 24, 2010, 6:54 am

    The new regulations of passenger rights on flights originating from or bound for the EU allow for financial compensation in the case of denied boarding (like as a result of overbooking), delay and cancellation. The latter not in the case of “extraordinary circumstances” (like volcanic eruptions or flight disruptions due to bad weather). There is much quarrel about these regulations and many airlines try to strain the law. But it is definitely justified to claim financial compensation for the cancellation – and of course for the damaged baggage.

  • Paul Hunnisett August 24, 2010, 8:28 am

    When you say a “wee” problem do you mean small or urine related? I’m really hoping the former…

  • alda August 24, 2010, 11:23 am

    Thanks for the tips on the approved locks!

    Joerg — ok, I’ll definitely look into that.

    Paul — “wee” was a deliberate understatement … sadly it now looks like the laptop is beyond salvation. The wee accident involved someone (… not me) pouring juice on and under it. Still waiting for the final verdict, but it doesn’t look good. 🙁

    Thankfully it was an older model that I’d mostly stopped using, but which I liked to have on hand — it was a PC rather than a mac and also good for taking on trips.

  • alda August 24, 2010, 12:06 pm

    Joerg — ok, I’ve just spoken to the consumers’ association and they told me the compensation does not apply when the circumstances are beyond the airline’s control. It’s a different story, however, when e.g. people are denied boarding due to overbooking, in which case people can claim EUR 400 for a flight of this length.

  • GunnarD August 24, 2010, 1:52 pm

    Read this Sunday Times article about denied boarding – your case is very similar and I suspect you should have got compensation.

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/reports/article5742655.ece

  • Joerg August 24, 2010, 8:11 pm

    “they told me the compensation does not apply when the circumstances are beyond the airline’s control”

    This is the loophole, the airlines always love to try to evade the liabilities of the EU regulation 261/2004. But technical difficulties of the airplane are not beyond the airline’s control and no extraordinary circumstances. At least this is, how German courts have ruled in the past. This was apparently neither a strike nor a volcanic eruption or any of this kind.

    Here is a link to a complaint form of the EU, which might be sent to the airline and the “competent enforcement body” (I guess, in Denmark in this case):

    http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/doc/complain_form/complaints_form_en.pdf

  • WiseWoman August 24, 2010, 10:21 pm

    We stayed at the Cabinn as well this summer. The price was right, but oh my, *bunk beds* – it was like being on a ship, except there were no waves. At least there’s a seat in the shower (= the toilet). I pulled the mattress off the top bunk and managed to squeeze in on the floor between our gear. I was afraid of falling off – at least ships have little railings. Breakfast in the cement cellar (no windows) was bizarre. And 100 DKK for parking for the day?

    Okay, on the second trip we took the train and cursed DSB on 9 of the 10 trains we rode – the Öresund trains. Honestly, they couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery!

    Look forward to the continuing saga of Niceland, and when are you going to get a Flattr account so we can micropay you?

  • alda August 25, 2010, 12:28 am

    Joerg, Gunnar — thanks for the tips. Hm. If it’s just a matter of filling in a form and sending it off, I may well give it a go. However there is a long, drawn-out process involved, I’m sure I couldn’t be bothered. 🙂

    Wise woman — you’ve got me giggling at the thought of the only proper seat in the Cabinn being the toilet. Which one did you stay in? There are 3 or 4 in CPH I think. — Oh, and Flattr — whatzit?

  • Joerg August 25, 2010, 8:16 am

    It’s the stategy of many bargain airlines to exploit the vagueness of the passenger rights regulations in respect of the definition of “extraordinary circumstances” and the unwillingness of the passengers to waste their energy on enforcing the rules and therefore don’t pay any compensation unless the passenger really gets a ruling by a court.

    But if the airline has a reputation to loose, there should at least be some compensation in form of flight vouchers or free upgrades. I had a similar incident – technical difficulties and a delay – with Emirates and received a free business class upgrade to Australia, which is a very good deal, particularly as I hate long distance flights cramped in narrow economy seats. And in a slightly different case Icelandair behaved quite cooperative as well.

  • GunnarD August 25, 2010, 8:17 am

    Alda, who do you think you are asking for a “just a matter of filling a form” when making a legitime complaint to an airline! If it was a matter of just filling out a form, lots of people would start complaining as a matter of routine! No, youll have to work for that money.

  • WiseWoman August 25, 2010, 7:14 pm

    We stayed in the Örestad one, near the airport. We figured that coming down from Sweden it would be fab – get off the bridge, ditch the car, and take the Metro downtown. And these bits were fine. But the rooms were, as you say, microscopic, the parking space exorbitant, and trying to figure out how to (cheaply) use the Metro was an exercise in frustration. Lucky us, we read Danish, and after verifying with a native, we managed to pull a “Stempelkort” and ride much cheaper than the rest of the tourists.

    Flattr.com is a micropayment system. You have to give a bit of money (minimum: 2 Euros a month) and then you can put a Flattr banner on your site. If someone likes the blog or an article, they “Flattr” you. At the end of the month, their Flattrs are divided by the number of Flattrs they gave, and you get your share. Maybe only a penny, but they can add up. The most popular blog in Germany (netzpolitik) raked in 500 Euros this past month, that’s where I heard of it. Anyone can Flattr, but in order to earn something for your content you have to Flattr, too. It’s just started, I figured it was worth a try, so I’m in for a few months to see if a) blogs I like get with it so I can be sending them some cash and b) if my own blog rakes in anything.

  • jóılondon September 2, 2010, 5:07 am

    So glad you are captivated by Istanbul, Alda. I spent time there as a child and returned to live there for a year in my late twenties, and continue to spend a month there every year.
    To share a piece of trivia with history buffs; I got a real kick when I discovered an irrefutible Turkish-Icelandic linguistic link, the loan word for elephant! The Icelandic ‘fíll’ is from the Turkish ‘fil’. Ómar also survived the return journey all those hundreds of years ago.