Hoorah we made it to Chile! New Year, new country.
It was a tough journey. In fact, as a family it was the toughest trip we’ve ever done.
It wasn’t travelling with preschool age children which was the issue (on the whole they were well behaved). Nor was it the length of the journey (18 hours wasn’t fun, but the kids did sleep here and there).
It was the check in.
Not a great start
We’d booked business class flights for this monumental trip and while we weren’t exactly expecting the ‘pleasant and relaxing experience‘ the airline boasts, (travelling with kids is never relaxing), I never imagined it could be so bad.
Unfortunately from moment one it all went wonky. Our flight was booked in business, but the first leg of the trip was seconded to a low cost sister airline and their check in was a mess.
Check in staff were clueless, uncommunicative and (very) rude. The result was that bags went missing, we were told we’d have to pay for refreshments in business class (even for water when I was rather sick), we were pushed to the back of queues despite so called priority boarding, my husband’s details were lost so he had to check in again en route in Paris and a confirmed special allergen free meal for my dairy intolerant son went astray.
Our check in attendant openly admitted he ‘didn’t have a clue’ why details had gone missing or why my husband needed to check in again in Paris. Our questions were met with muffled ‘dunno’s and while the clock ticked towards the final boarding call, we were pushed aside as none of the staff knew what to do.
Despite having underlined that I was sick and doctors had recommended me not to lift anything heavy nor rush, staff barked orders at me: ‘You’re going to need a lot more quickly!’
On the main Paris to Santiago flight itself things improved considerably, but the trail of destruction from check in had left its mark.
Let’s get one thing straight – I’m not adverse to budget travel. I owe a lot to EasyJet, Monarch (RIP) and Vueling for the long distance relationship with my husband throughout our many dual residency years. However on this occasion we’d paid more than the cost of a budget flight. And hey, all customers, business or budget deserve a decent level of service, right?
Rather than shouting my disapproval I took a restrained British approach. I asked for the check in attendants’ names and I’ll be following up with the airline directly (although one attendant, staring blankly at her screen, refused to give her name).
Be sure to check your check in
I’ve learnt a lot from my expat years and this journey was a steep learning curve. If you’re ever travelling business class on a connecting flight, I hope you have more sense than me and check the airline and class for all legs of your trip.
We arrived in Santiago in a mess, waiting for bags which didn’t show up, with baggage (and my family) broken. I passed out on arrival in Santiago, but from then on the story switched. Chilean staff were amazing, rushing to help carry bags, speeding us past security clearance and even offering toys to our kids while their mummy was checked over.
All’s well that end’s well
I had a lingering bitter taste in my mouth from the check in, but the kindness of the Chilean people on check out was very refreshing. If these people are anything to go by, it’s going to be a very happy New Year for us here in Santiago.