After Alistair and I tweeted about our horrific Kulula experience on Saturday, Kulula asked me to email them. Below is the email I sent detailing the nightmare of cancelled flights, airport sprints and complete lack of care shown towards fur children.
Basically I’ve asked them to sort their shit out. I used to be a fan, but until they fix their planes I’m regretfully going to be supporting the de facto parastatal that is SAA.
To whom it may concern
You asked via twitter that I contact you with regards to our kulula experience on Saturday. My husband (@afairweather) and I (@amandasevasti) are in the process of relocating to Joburg from Cape Town and decided to fly up with our cat, Boo.
I originally booked a flight one month ago, but received an email two days before the flight informing me that it had been cancelled and we’d been moved to another flight two and a half hours later. This was problematic for the people fetching us from the airport so I phoned to request an earlier flight and we were put on MN112 at 11:35am.
We had Boo and excess luggage so we arrived an hour and a half early. We checked in, paying for our excess baggage and Boo (this took longer than usual because the ticketing desk’s printer wasn’t working and they miscalculated the excess). I then asked if the flight was definitely leaving on time and was told “yes”. We gave Boo a sedative and proceeded to take her to the excess storage area, where her carrier had to be scanned while we had to hold her in an open airport – not the most efficient process, but the drugs had calmed her.
We went through security (little did I know this would be the first of 3 times) and got to our gate. Everyone lined up at 11:10 and it looked like the gate was opening. We were then told that there was a problem with the plane and the flight would be delayed until 2:45 at the latest. We were advised that we could go back to the check-in counter and try to get on an earlier flight, but it would be wiser to sit tight and wait for the engineers.
I was worried about Boo, but was told she could be collected from the cargo area so I could give her another sedative. By 12:35, we’d heard nothing so we went to the check-in counter and asked if we could be put on the 2pm BA flight, just to be safe. We had plenty of time to transfer our luggage and Boo so I thought this was the wisest course of action.
At the check-in counter we were told that, “MN112 is definitely leaving at 2, the plane has been fixed. So it’s not worth your while to transfer to another flight at the same time.” My husband and I took this in good faith and waited another half an hour. At 1pm we asked to see Boo again so that we could give her another sedative. It is not advisable to keep animals drugged for a prolonged period of time, but we had been assured of our flight’s departure at 2.
We gave her another sedative and once again had to hold her in the open airport while the carrier was scanned. We then proceeded thorugh security again and went to our gate. It was now 1:35. We waited at the gate. And waited. At 1:50 we were told that the flight would not be leaving at 2, but had been delayed “indefinitely”. None of the staff could tell us what was going on, but said that this “usually means the flight is cancelled”.
A uniformed BA staff member then asked those with children / animals and the elderly to come with her to put us on a 1Time flight leaving at 2:10 – i.e. in 20 minutes. She told us to go to Gate A12.
We ran through the airport to Gate A12 and were then told we had to go back through security to the 1Time check-in counter. We raced back and I asked what was happening with our luggage and Boo, but the uniformed BA staffer had disappeared and the 1Time people had no idea. Then a man on a cellphone dressed in plain clothes appeared and assured me that our luggage and Boo were being put on the 2pm BA flight. I had no idea who this man was but what else could we do?
We then went through security for a third time and were harrassed for not taking our laptops out correctly, all the while being told to “hurry” as we only had 5 minutes to make the 1Time flight. After another 200-metre mad dash, we boarded the 1Time flight. We had no idea if our luggage and Boo had been put on the 2pm BA flight or not. I prayed the whole way to Joburg.
When we arrived, I was relieved to reached the luggage carousel and find our luggage and Boo – tired, traumatised and still very dopey from the extra sedative.
The whole procedure was an ordeal of miscommunication, incompetence and blatant untruths. The already stressful task of relocating was made even worse. My biggest concern was the complete disregard for animal welfare. Do not lie and tell people the plane is fixed when they have a sedated pet.
I used to be a fan of kulula, flying it very often for business. I resent that my taxes keep SAA afloat and I always like to support the underdog, in this case Comair.
However my husband and I, as well as our friends and business colleagues, have noticed that these “technical problems” are happening more and more frequently. Get some new planes or more mechanics (your “new livery” doesn’t count). Until then, I will not be flying kulula. Despite the discounts I receive, it’s just not worth the stress. And I’m not the only one.
Amanda Sevasti Whitehouse