Holiday travel delays - how do you cope?: So, I re... - NRAS


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Holiday travel delays - how do you cope?

Flinda profile image
35 Replies

So, I re-started my retirement travels this September, even though the pandemic isn’t really over.

Like most with RD, I can't travel long distances without feeling extremely washed out at the other end, so I opted for a short flight to Limoges (in the middle of France) from my handy local airport. The flight itself is much less than 2 hours which is uncomfortable, but doable. I would be in my rented apartment by 13.00hrs. That was the plan!

The plane was slightly delayed, along with the on-boarding, by about an hour. I sat in the departure lounge having a coffee. No big problem.

We all boarded the plane and was then informed we had missed our take-off slot and had to wait another 2 hours, sat on the plane. My heart sank as I knew I would be in trouble. I wanted to get off, but the crew were “ready for take-off” just in case a slot became available, so there was no way of getting off, or finding my suitcase. I felt like a prisoner.

Thankfully, a cancelled slot meant we only sat waiting an hour or so before we started our journey over England and France. Once over France, another announcement came – more bad news! The small airport of Limoges had closed until 16.00hrs (because no flights were expected) so we were to land at Bordeaux instead.

The cabin crew didn’t know what to do with us once we'd landed in Bordeaux, so we spent another 30 minutes or so on the plane, just waiting for instructions. They told us coaches would take us back to Limoges and would arrive in Bordeaux in 4 hours’ time! The crew encouraged us off the plane and promptly flew away. We were on our own!

By this time, it was 13.30hrs (France time) so I calculated the coach wouldn’t reach Limoges until 20.00hrs, at the earliest. Some other travelers had relatives waiting to collect them from Limoges and they told us that the scheduled flight from Limoges to England would now take off from Bordeaux and that those passengers were to travel to Bordeaux by coach – so those same coaches would take us back.

I started to google nearby hotels for just one night, as I knew I this plan was too much for me.

Then, 30 minutes later we found out that this plan too had been cancelled, so we had no way of knowing if any coaches would be sent for us.

A pro-active passenger told us all that he’d found the bus service to Bordeaux railway station and would be making his own way back to Limoges, as he had no trust in our budget plane company. This sounded to me like my best bet, especially as there were no seats for us in the Bordeaux airport.

I arrived at Bordeaux station alone and extremely tired an hour later but managed to buy a ticket for a direct train to Limoges, and a bagel to keep me going – and there were plenty of seats everywhere, as I had another 3 hours wait. The train took 2.5 hours, but it was very comfortable and scenic. I arrived just after darkness fell and managed to crawl into bed by 21.00hrs. What a journey!

Of course, my RD didn’t not react well. I spent most of the next two days in bed, sleeping and extremely stiff. This was totally expected as anyone with RD will know.

I had hoped that my travel insurance would cover some part of the inconvenience or additional costs, but no. Only travel delays beyond 12 hours qualify for a claim.

I’d be very interested to know what others think about how budget airlines seem to avoid any of their duties and responsibilities when it comes to less able people.

In my experience, they treated everyone as though they are all capable of sitting in cramped seats on planes for hours, standing in airports for hours and travelling for that amount of time, when for some people it’s just not possible. They gave no thought to less abled passengers, for any part of the journey.

Is there something I should be doing differently to avoid this recurring?

Are there travel policies available which consider the delays (and the consequential arrangements) that impact less abled people so significantly?

Has it put me off travelling abroad? Definitely.

35 Replies
Amnesiac3637 profile image

You poor soul. That sounds like a hellish journey. Unfortunately, budget airlines aren’t dubbed cattle class carriers for nothing and although they pay lip service to less-abled passengers (all wrapped up in the jargon of the day) they expect you to like it or lump it and pay for the privilege. Don’t know if the more expensive airlines are any better as I haven’t flown anywhere for some years - I expect others on here will chip in - but whatever, we should all be catered for in exactly the same way though if I hear the words ‘we are working tirelessly to improve blah’ I know they’re not………

Good luck if you ever venture off these shores again!

sylvi profile image
sylvi in reply to Amnesiac3637

Bless you that was no fun. That is one of the reasons i don't fly abroad anymore. xxxx

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Amnesiac3637

Maybe I should just expect the worst and put by a contingency pot to cover looking after myself in such situation, then hope for the best - or travel by train.

AgedCrone profile image

I think the way to go is to book a package holiday …flight& accommodation….where the company has a representative to assist you.

But aircraft delays are out of everyone’s hands ….& I’m afraid travel insurance is based on the passenger being “fit to travel”. Larger airlines do provide better service…but at a price.

After the disastrous outward journey…I hope Limoges lived up to expectations & that you eventually enjoyed your trip.

Mmrr profile image

It is your type of experience, that unfortunately has put me off travelling abroad.

I only holiday near home, in Scotland with the car. Our journey is planned with stops en route.

One exception was flying to Cornwall last spring which fortunately ended well. But the terror I felt when we left Edinburgh and it was announced that we may be diverted to Bristol rather than Newquay due to fog, was just not worth it. The fog cleared and we landed in Newquay as planned.

Sorry to be negative about going abroad, but the stress isn't worth it for me.

Holidaying near to home is a different kind of holiday to going abroad, but very enjoyable and so much easier.

We can take everything we need in the car, flasks of tea, comfortable folding chairs for unplanned stops and work to our own timeline. It doesn't matter when we leave home or get to our destination. If the roads are busy, we pull off, drink our tea, stretch out, find a coffee shop, admire the scenery and rejoin or divert.

I do hope you find something that works for you.

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Mmrr

Thanks for sharing your take on travelling with RA. It sounds absolutely lovely. I think you've cracked it!

Yes, the stress and anxiety of one thing on top of another was awful.

As soon as I had control of my journey again it was a relief, and I knew I would be okay. It's like you say, it's then up to you to decide what happens and when. It doesn't matter how long it takes me to get from A to B as long as I'm comfortable and in control.

The budget flights do not deliver on comfort or control, so it's a massive risk and one which I'll not be taking again so quickly. I had no idea how awful things could end up being and I'm not relishing the flight home later this month. I don't mind the additional costs I incurred as much as the toll it took on my health!

No more budget flights for me. x

AgedCrone profile image
AgedCrone in reply to Mmrr

You are right Mmrr…..but If you see the other side of the problem it maybe a bit easier to understand.All the airline employees you meet….from the captain of the aircraft,to the person checking you in can only do as they are instructed…… delays are out of their hands. This applies to major airlines as well as the budget variety. The aircraft you fly on…..will quite likely be scheduled to depart to a completely  different destination one hour after it lands….on a diversion, it can’t just wait for weather conditions to fly back to the original destination. Hence you are caught up in a delay.As most people who fly will know,  the public facing staff usually only get information to forward  to passengers at the very last minute…..& when you see the crowds & the number of passengers milling around in departure lounges … must be impossible to please them all.The only way you could possibly get more help is to book special assistance…which will be a wheelchair transfer out to the departure gate & be met with the same at your destination. But even this service is hit & miss.The crew & ground staff do try to look after passengers booking this service well,but it is provided by the airport & budget airlines tend not to offer it  very willingly.It really is true ….you get what you pay for when you fly these days….& believe me the majority of crews are not happy  they cannot look after passengers better….but it’s not their fault …..especially post Covid - flying has become a lottery, & we have all got to consider very carefully whether we really feel well enough to cope if everything doesn’t run smoothly.So happy hols everybody…..but have plenty to occupy yourself if things don’t run smoothly…luckily free .WiFi is available at most airports these days.But  to warn you……a four hour flight once took me 27 hours….& when on arrival I turned on the tap  at my hotel to have a bath……it fell off the wall & I got a shower instead! Thankfully I was much younger then & RA hadn’t reared it’s ugly head…but if it happened today - I would not be happy. 

Mmrr profile image
Mmrr in reply to AgedCrone

Absolutely AC, I proportion no blame to the hard working crew. I flew with Loganair when I went to Cornwall, they provided a good service with assistance.

I do however think it unlikely that I will fly again, I am just not well enough to deal with delays and am not fit enough to do the type of independent travel I enjoy.

Hotels, coaches and package holidays are not my thing.

I don't even travel well in a car, but I do have control over much that a package holiday doesn't give me.

Otto11 profile image

OMG that sounds dreadful. You poor thing. You’re right in saying they don’t cater for walking wounded as I call it. But your situation to just be left like that is beyond belief. Surely there must be something in place for these type of situations. I recently flew from Manchester abroad we had the worst journey with 3 hours queuing & a 4 hour delay. We wernt informed of the delay just left queueing. I had my lanyard but it may as well have stayed in my bag as not one staff member paid any attention to it. I was in tears & like yourself slept for the first few days from exhaustion & pain. We did however get compensation thanks to EU law from the airline but I think it needs to be a longer than 3 hour delay on a flight over 3,000 miles to destination so wouldn’t apply to you unfortunately. There maybe another category you could claim from though. Tbh it’s not about the claim it’s more about the treatment or lack of that’s causing so much distress which others not in our situation just don’t understand. 🙁x

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Otto11

That's it - you've hit the nail on the head when you say that "others not in our situation just don't understand". It's probably because they don't see us when we can no longer stand or think straight because of the shear exhaustion and pain.

They see us as being just normal able people and I really can understand it - because that's how I try to look when I'm in public! I really don't want to stand out and look as though I'm incapable of doing things - and I know when it's time to retreat back into my private world to rest and repair. I'm forever masking the symptoms so as not to draw attention to myself. I'm sure we all do this.

So, for me, being able to plan any outings and being in control is extremely important.

I know my limits and sitting on a very cramped plane or standing for hours in an airport or travelling for over 15 hours non-stop without lying down is way outside those limits. I set off before 6.00am and didn't arrive until 9.00pm. The assumption that you are "fit to travel" for insurance purposes is stretched to the limit, because even the fittest person would find this amount of travel exhausting.

Like you say, it's not about compensation - it's all about feeling safe when travelling and not being forced into a situation of harm.

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Otto11 profile image
Otto11 in reply to Flinda

Bless you. I do hope you managed some holiday time after your rest. Like you I try hard to not stand out but no one seems to understand the exhaustion unless they too experience it. I’m lucky I have my hubby to rely on otherwise I wouldn’t be going anywhere. X

Leics profile image

That sounds horrendous you poor thing. It must have been so stressful for you. As I suffer myself from journeys which are too long and I hate being in a car, I now travel by train whenever possible as at least there are facilities although not great at the best of times. They’re there nevertheless. Also if I’m travelling abroad we usually have a cruise as it’s just like a floating hotel, tend to stay away from massive ships and prefer smaller ones. The added bonus of sailing is if you don’t want to get off the ship to explore a new destination you don’t have to. The food and accommodation has been great so far onboard ship and much less stressful. Sometimes if there’s a short two hour flight to get you to the ship then you don’t even have to worry about your suitcase as it’s taken off the plane and boarded onto the ship and put outside your cabin so no lugging that around either. It’s the way to go if you ask me. Sometimes you can board ship at Southampton or at a UK port so train there and holiday starts.

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Leics

Yes, I think it will be just trains for me in the future. They may not be as fast as planes, or as cheap, but they are usually comfortable, have massive windows and facilities. I might even try a sleeper, who knows.

sunnyweek profile image
sunnyweek in reply to Flinda

Assistance can be booked if needed for getting on and off trains. For me they are often too steep to get down due to knees that don't bend enough. I once was stuck as they forgot me, luckily someone wanting to get on later lifted me down. Like you though I would love to try a sleeper.

Leics profile image
Leics in reply to Flinda

sounds like a plan we have the euro tunnel after all and that goes to plenty of destinations I might even consider that one myself at some point. Still a faff to get through the queues at St Pancras (well it was last time we went several years ago). I’ve bought a disabled railcard which was £50 but valid for 3 years it does give you a good discount so worth the original cost and my daughter lives a fair way away from me so I use it a few times a year to visit.

sunnyweek profile image
sunnyweek in reply to Leics

Just wondering which company you use for the smaller ships, as that is what I would prefer, and board from England; thanks.

Leics profile image
Leics in reply to sunnyweek

I haven’t actually tried to board from the UK yet but we’ve used TUI for smaller ships around the med and they’ve been brilliant. Only a short flight from local airport and we’ve got the train to there and back. Mainly the ships have sailed from Palma or Dubrovnik and we’ve had no complaints at all. We’ve found that their hygiene levels are much higher than in a resort. The first cruise we went on was on the Thompson Dream but I’ve heard SAGA are very good too. We also went to Bahamas on an American ship and it was too much for me to walk from one side to the other for food etc. still had a great holiday but it was very demanding physically. We haven’t had a holiday for 3 years though because of covid but will definitely be going next year somewhere. Generally once you board ship you have a day at sea to get to your first port of call so that gives me a bit of time to recover from journey.

sunnyweek profile image
sunnyweek in reply to Leics

Thank you for that useful info. I don't want to fly but would love a cruise on a smaller ship, can imagine the ones that hold 2,000 people to be huge and lots of walking, never mind any possible bugs. I'll look up TUI, Thompson Dream and SAGA.

Maureengibson profile image

I had a similar procedure blemish a few year ago, when we were going to Florence to celebrate our anniversary. I can’t recall the reason for the divert, but we landed in Pisa instead of Florence. Like you we were dumped with no communication re onward plan. We were then told we had a 5hr wait for a bus to arrive. Thankfully hubby is fit & well, so we took a taxi to Pisa train station and made our own way to Florence. Like you I was left struggling for a day or 2.

My last trip was to Spain, and I’d arranged assistance on return as I was in a flare. We were last to disembark due to my poor mobility. By the time we made our way off everyone had disappeared, no assistance, and the crew had closed their doors. I was left to walk for what seemed like a mile and met no staff on the route, until we arrived at baggage collection and I was a dripping mess. It turned out the Spanish crew hadn’t confirmed my need for assistance. It has put me off travelling abroad. Hope your return journey is smoother 🤗

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Maureengibson

I'm beginning to think the risk of being dumped at a different city might be much higher than I first thought. It's a risk I'm no longer willing to take. I'm quite familiar with contract law and would have thought your destination is one of the key terms when you buy a flight - but then the international aviation laws seem to have their own separate rules of operation. It's bonkers that you can end up in a completely different city and that's totally acceptable.

And wow. How can any cabin crew just leave you there on the plane?! That's just appalling.

You story just demonstrates the amount of thought which goes into helping less abled passengers ie virtually zero! I suppose they would prefer we didn't travel so they wouldn't have any inconvenience to manage.

I'm dreading my flight back home but at least if we do land at a different city, I will be in a familiar country and will be able to talk to everyone, fluently. I'm almost expecting things to go wrong, so mentally I'm better prepared!

CripLady profile image
CripLady in reply to Maureengibson

Pisa is the usual airport for Florence. There is a train you can get from the airport itself which is direct. That was the case when I was there, prob 15 years ago. There is a small airport at Florence, but BA are the only British carrier that land there, as far as I am aware.

Maureengibson profile image
Maureengibson in reply to CripLady

our flight was with British Airways who do regular direct flights from Gatwick to Florence. I would have no issue if we had arranged to fly into Pisa, my objection was to literally like Flinda says, being dropped with little to no communication or being kept informed of plans.

CripLady profile image
CripLady in reply to Maureengibson

That is appalling 🤬

Monkeysmum profile image

Sorry to hear about your troubles Flinda, sounds an absolute nightmare to be honest.

My children are still of the age where family holidays abroad are a big thing for them so we have continued to travel despite my RD. My strategy is to try to preserve my energy at all stages of the process as much as possible, in order to be able to cope with delays, unplanned situations etc. This includes things like getting dropped off at the door of the airport if there is a long walk from the car park, sitting to the side whilst my family queue for check in and joining them at the last minute if this can be done easily, carrying lots of easy snacks in case we don’t have time to stop for food etc. After being recommended to me by my Rheumy nurse, I also now always book special assistance if flying, I may not always use it, but at least I know it is there if I deteriorate mid journey and need the option of a wheelchair. Maureen has mentioned problems she had with this not being available - I was warned that this is more likely to happen if you have only booked it for one leg of the journey as it then often gets ‘lost’, so it is better to book assistance for both departure and return, even if you know you are flying from a small local airport.

I appreciate some of these things I have mentioned are more difficult if you are travelling by yourself though, but making use of the special assistance option has definitely been the main thing that has kept me being able to travel.

Maureengibson profile image
Maureengibson in reply to Monkeysmum

a lot of good tips here. Unfortunately this was pre booked as a return, and the outward journey went very smoothly. I have since purchased a walking stick that has a seat incorporated into it, so that I can rest when needed. For some reason airports seem to offer very few seats on the route to and from the gates. I’m unable to stand still for more than a few minutes, so the walking stick has been a godsend, and when staff see me use it, they are usually quick to offer assistance. It folds up into a little shoulder bag which helps. 🤗

Monkeysmum profile image
Monkeysmum in reply to Maureengibson

Ah yes, I forgot my folding walking stick/seat Maureen, I have one of those too, thanks for the reminder! As you say they can act as a useful visual clue for staff nearby as well, who are then more likely to offer help. We should travel together as folding seat twins! 🤣🤣

CripLady profile image

Hi. I always plan a day for travelling and a day in bed to recover. I always take a ‘pack up’ to ensure food and drink are taken care of. Boots’ meal deal is my go to.. plus extras..

I am going on my first flight at the weekend after several years of not doing because of Covid. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst is always my travel motto.

Your trip sounds horrendous. I once had an incredibly bizarre rail trip from Bristol to Manchester via Wales which took about 12 hours: trains/ buses and even a taxi were involved. It was completely insane.

Airlines do have policies, but you have to make yourself known to them, and flag your issues. Most people have no idea about d/Disabilities, especially ‘invisible’ ones. The EHRC published a guide a few years ago on air travel. You could see if it’s still on their site.

I also came across this yesterday:

Eat chocolate and rest x

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to CripLady

You are so right in your motto "prepare for the worst" - I'll be doing this in future.

Looking back, I wish I had just booked myself into a room in Bordeaux for the night and then carried on my journey the next day. This option makes more sense to me now - I just wasn't in the right mindset to make an objective decision at the time!

I've definitely learnt lessons from the misfortunes of this trip, and everyone else's contributions on here. RD is not something you can push to the limits without having some adverse consequences.

Many thanks for the guidance links too.

Flinda profile image

I so wish I had booked the special assistance on my holiday flights. Thank you for reminding me that this is an option. I did notice that there were seats set aside at the airport for people who required assistance and that would have been so lovely as I had trouble finding a seat while I waited.

A couple next to me on the plane had booked the assistance, but because we landed at a totally different airport, no assistance came to help them off the plane and they were left to manage on their own. Being on crutches with hand luggage can't have been easy. But the cabin crew were quite insistent that they get up and leave the plane. I don't know what happened to them thereafter as we were all just left to manage our own journey.

Chances are, I'll not fly with budget airlines again. Avoiding the risk is much easier than trying to manage it!

Maggieorencia profile image

Traveling with RD is going to take its toll regardless. You were in a no win situation. I know it’s expensive and not an option for everyone but, you can save up if you have time to do so….I always book a business class ticket for the extra room to stretch out. I’m in Toronto so there’s no way I can walk the terminal halls (I’d be in a flare before I even reached the gate!) so I always book a wheelchair. I’m also armed with pain killers and some prednisone just in case. I know I’m going to be exhausted this month flying from Canada to Ireland but I’m not going to let this disease keep me from living. Sitting for long periods is the culprit for me hence the pain meds and something for sleep so I can try and recharge for the 7 hour flight. And lastly, when I’m flying a great distance I make sure to factor in that on arrival I’m usually spent so I make no apologies for using day 1 as an extra day to rest as part of my itinerary. Once I got over the feeling of guilt that I’m doing all this extra stuff I began to feel less fear. Wherever possible I don’t do group holidays because the added pressure of having to get up at a certain time to get on a tour bus etc; just filled me with anxiety and as a result I would get sick just anticipating the schedule. Go at your own pace is now my motto. I also have plans to see a few “must see” places but have built in a mantra of even if I just do 1 activity it will have been worth it. If I am able to see my top 3 I consider it a bonus. Once I got over my expectations vs my reality I was able to not stress out as much. I know many don’t have access to my method of coping (upgrades, pain meds, taking an extra day to rest etc;) but, how often do I go abroad? Not that often so I don’t feel guilty trying keep the same pace as others. I hope you had a good trip! P.S. I had to fight really hard for pain meds and extra prednisone but we only have one life and I point that out to my very able bodied physician. I (we) shouldn’t have to suffer when traveling when so many people are able to just go and never worry if they’re going to be able to cope.

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Maggieorencia

I admire you for getting your head round it all and going regardless.

I must try and be more accepting of my limitations and kinder to myself - like travelling in the most comfort possible. That sounds the best!

Having spent over 20 years putting all the needs of my family first, I go and get RD - and I still feel guilty for spending money on my needs!!

That needs to stop, and I probably need to start to educate my nearest and dearest on how devastating this disease has been on my life and my ability to do almost all "normal" stuff.

Have a lovely time in Ireland. I cycled all along the south coast to Killarney in 1992 - best holiday ever.

Maggieorencia profile image
Maggieorencia in reply to Flinda

I have 2 teenagers at home so I know how we care and cater to our children. Now but I have to be a little selfish every now and again and just treat myself (after I found a solution for their care whilst I’m away). But once I gave myself permission to live, I am grateful I put myself first once in a while. It’s ok to do that! Acceptance and justifying these things didn’t happen all at once. Be easy on yourself but do fine yourself permission to do something for YOU every once in a while. It’s not easy to accept some of our limitations but after a few holidays where I tried to keep up with everyone and couldn’t I said to myself, they can keep up with my needs. Not the other way around. It takes time but you are worth it! Hugs.

Maggsie profile image

sorry to mention the B..x.t word but now that we are no longer in the EU we are not covered by the airline guarantee which compensates travellers when flights are delayed and mis routed. We now have to rely on our Travel Insurance.

Flinda profile image
Flinda in reply to Maggsie

I hadn't realised this change but always buy travel insurance.

Unfortunately, my insurance only covers delays of 12 hours or more, so I still didn't qualify as mine was just shy of 10 hours! It definitely felt a lot longer though.

Perhaps I'll need to read all the small print in future (but they tend not to give you the details until you've actually bought the policy).

I wish we were still in the EU.

Jackie1947 profile image

I no longer fly choosing instead cruise holidays. Door to ship and return car service,no lugging luggage and relaxing

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