Monday, 17 August 2015

An eventful trip, from Birmingham to Heathrow

So, I had a flight from Heathrow, and needed a convenient way to get there :

Althou the coach can take up to 3 hrs, for a 2 hr journey, its normally harmless, so, booked a seat :

This is a copy of what happened :

I had a pre-booked seat, FFFNHB62 on 12/8/15, at 13.45, Birmingham-Heathrow.

At the coach station, the coach was called 10 mins before departure, and the waiting passengers, all loaded.

It seemed many passengers had multiple bags, and a 5 or 6 man band, had a few guitar boxes, which also added to the stowage.

We left Digbeth at 1.45, and reached Birmingham International, at approx, 2.15.

On Arrival, it appeared there were at least 8 passengers attempting to board, and, there was no apparent space for the luggage.

The coach driver, addressed the seated passengers, and said there would be a delay, while a mini-bus was called, to carry the extra luggage.

All passengers waited on the bus, which wasn't comfortable, as the bus was switched off, and there was little Fresh air.

After 30 mins, I looked outside, and the coach driver was in a heated argument with a burly male passenger, who was waiting to board. The driver expressed the opinion, people should be complaining to the call centre, who had over-booked the coach. (I am not sure why, the new passengers were not allowed to sit on the bus - but, with the lack of air, maybe it was a fair choice).

A few mins later, I left my seat, and really not trying to be combative, just  asked the driver, if he had any details as to the extent of the delay. He said, he would not call the call centre, and had no idea.

Now I can understand the luggage issue, but, don't comprehend why he couldn't give an approx time of delay etc. All passengers were attempting to catch flights .. I had some leeway, and wanted info to base a decision as to what to do, should the delay, drag on.

The band members were sitting opposite me, and they had a flight leaving at 6.40 pm, which, I thought it unlikely they were going to make, as the coach was apparently due to stop at Coventry, before the Heathrow terminals. One band-member, tried to call the help line for National Express, but, was re-directed from the website, to another number, as the one he dialled was apparently out-of-service. In the end, he gave up, trying to call.

Other passengers were starting to ask questions, but, the coach driver just ignored us.

At, a delay of 45 mins with no information, I collected my laptop, and left the bus. I asked the driver to open the luggage hold, and he said he wouldn't help me unload the luggage. Fortunately, I had seen where my luggage was loaded, and being near the front, felt I could move my 2 pieces .

The driver would not open the hold. I asked him to open it, or I would call the police. He opened it, stayed in his driver seat, and I got my bags.

I then re-boarded the bus, and asked him for his name. He refused to give it, so, took a picture of both him hiding in his seat, and the bus registration.

He said, "have a nice flight".

(( I dont really know why he was so sour towards me. I was just asking polite questions. The coach driver never swore at me, or raised his voice, or acted threateningly - just seemed to contemplate his life - which I suspect, is generally no fun, dealing with members of the Public.))

I went to TOA taxi, and negotiated a £190 charge, from Bham international to Terminal 5.

I made my flight, and had some time to tweet some comments, but, my data allowance ran out, before I could do much.

After reaching my international destination, I am not going to let this just rest. The Twitter account of #nationalexpress informed me, no compensation is payable for a 45 minute delay. Having had some time to look etc, I am not sure this is totally accurate.

I have looked up EU regulations, and it is the duty of the carrier to inform the passengers, of travel info, both before and during the journey.

It seems reasonable, that in a delayed journey, the passengers are kept informed etc - especially when the coach destination is to an airport.

If he had just been civil, taken a deep breath, and communicated to his passengers, the problem and how it was being-solved, and the time-frame,I may have come to a different decision.

As I was leaving the airport, I saw a mini-bus arrive, so, presume they were on their way, after about a 50-55 minute delay (providing the argument with the burly new passenger had been sorted). I didn't stay to see the mini-van drive off, or any discussions with the new passengers.

I expect more passengers missed their flight. Clearly, the driver was under pressure, but, he let it get to him. I don't see why I should suffer, and will obviously give National Express a chance to comment, but, if I am not satisfied, will take this to the small claims court (when I am back in the UK)

Once overseas, I had some further issues with data on my cellphone, and the nationalexpress twitter account, suggested I direct message them, and someone would contact me. The twiiter account of National Express has been v helpful, which reflects well on the conmpany, but, the bottom libe, is I paid £23 for a coach ticket, which I was unable to use, and paid £190 for a taxi, for fear of missing my flight.

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