Last January, BA resumed it summer direct service to the Maldives, the only UK direct service available. Until then, it was only offering a winter sun service. But when the lock-down relaxation roadmap was announced then, it was key that vaccination penetration was one of the main considerations of whether UK would give countries the “Green” light. At the time, the Maldives boasted one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world so it seemed a sure thing that they would be at the front of the pack. While others like dithered about the risks, we jumped on the opportunity for a direct flight for our annual July tour. As a result, we were even able to use Avios points to pay for our booking. Everything was starting to look up.
And then a few months later, the “Delta variant” hit. And as its erstwhile moniker, the “Indian variant” would imply, it hit the Indian Ocean destination early and hard plunging the Maldives into the Red list. Fairly soon after, we received notice that our flight has been cancelled. So we called BA to see what to do.
On the plus side, despite being an Avios trip which usually has considerable booking date restrictions, BA let us change our flights to any date we wanted. We thought of just moving the whole thing to the following summer during our traditional July period. But BA informed us that the summer direct service would be discontinued (again) in 2022. So we settled for November which is usually a relatively lighter month for resorts.
Despite the COVID flexibility, the run up to the departure was a bit fraught with difficulties.
- System glitches: We paid hundreds of pounds for extra-leg room seats (given my height). A week before the flight, I went to double check that everything was all okay in the “Manage My Booking” section. For some reason, it would even let me see seat selection. I assumed that it was because we had already chosen our seats. Then, when we started the pre-flight COVID paperwork a few days before the flight, we could see our seats an they were no longer extra leg room at all.
- Terrible Customer Service: I tried for two days to get through to BA customer service on the phone to try to fix the problem. I got the now ancient “due to usually high call volume” (that has been that “unusually high” for decades now), you may have to wait. But after running through the barrage of menu selections (where they try to foist you off to a computerised recording), I final got to the point where they said, “Unfortunately, no customer agents are available right now. Please try back later.” And line went dead.
As a courtesy for their mix up, the gate agent offered us complimentary access to the BA Lounge which saved us a bit of money from going to Gordon Ramsay for a pre-flight nibble. Their replacement to their buffet (due to concerns over COVID spreading) was intriguing as you ordered your food online and gave them the number of where you were sitting and they brought the food to you.
In the end, we were stuck in the very rear of the plane for the long (10+ hour) red-eye flight. Extra legroom seats are sort of “poor man’s business class” which we were disappointed to miss out on. But we did luck out on “impoverished man’s business class”…a 4-seat row to ourselves. When we booked our seats, we saw just a couple empty rows at the back of the plane. We each took an aisle seat in the hopes that being sat n the middle between us would be the last place subsequent set bookers would choose. And it worked out. Another bonus is the BA in-flight wifi which is allowing me to post this piece from 30,000 feet.
Our flight was a pretty much typical of post-COVID traveling – lots of changes and complexities that aren’t always handled that adeptly, but with a bit of perseverance and luck, you can be back traveling again.
To compare airline experiences, I have now added the tag “Flights” to the blog.