Day 10 – Wednesday 25th March
According to Facebook I was in Valencia this time four years ago. I have fond memories of that holiday. Of course if things had been different I would be jetting off to Rome in four days time. That of course is all cancelled as is the holiday planned with my Dad in the UK in mid April. Needless to say I have spent quite a bit of time over the last week handling cancellation plans with airlines, hotels, airport transfers and tours. For the most part everyone has been very amenable and I have not lost out financially by much at all. Given that the almost worldwide quarantine conditions must be crippling the travel industry, I can only applaud the way my cancelled trips have been handled.
The only problems I’ve experienced are with promised refunds that have not yet materialised. The Vatican Museums and Scavi in Rome have said they will refund as soon as they are allowed back into work to action it, but they are unable to do so whilst quarantined at home as their systems aren’t adapted for this. I do feel for them. I imagine, given how popular Rome is as a tourist destination, they must have been inundated with emails.
Ryanair has also promised a refund that has not yet materialised for my flight to Rome. Now I’ll be the first to admit that Ryanair’s customer service is not the best and their boss is clearly out to get all he can (though not as bad at the Wetherspoons guy right now), but the reality is I fly with them monthly because they go to the most convenient airport for me in the UK. In the ten plus years I have been doing this they have only cancelled on me twice before this crisis and both times refunded me promptly. As annoying as Ryanair is I don’t want them to go bust, so I’m happy to give some leeway. My cancelled flight to the UK I have rescheduled to later in the year rather than request a refund. I also contacted them via email and their complaint form to say I was happy to receive a voucher for the cancelled Rome flight rather than a cash refund, which I will put to a later flight to the UK. We will see how or if they respond. Again I feel they are overwhelmed at the moment, so I’m not holding my breathe.
The UK holiday with my Dad is at Warner Leisure, a company that runs UK hotels for adults only. I called them the first day of the UK quarantine and miraculously got through to a customer service rep pretty much immediately. They are offering to put refunds for any cancelled holidays into a holding account and then reschedule your holiday to a later date. I believe I can actually ask for an outright refund, but assuming we all get through this quarantine, Dad and I will do this holiday at some point so a holding account is fine. It was the first day of quarantine in the UK and the young lady on the phone was working from home. She was happy because the hurriedly put together system to allow her to receive calls at home was obviously working. She was trying to reassure me that everything would be all right after the three week lockdown and then we could go back to life as normal. Bless her ignorance! I felt a bit mean bursting that bubble, but I’m living down the road from temporary morgue, trust me love things will not bounce back to normal that quick.
Working for the travel industry is no sinecure right now. On my flight back to Madrid at the start of this lockdown the tension at both the UK and Madrid airport was palpable. People knew they were about to lose their jobs or have their hours severely reduced. It didn’t help when nervous passengers started acting out aggressively. Give these people a break! Whilst you’re going home to self isolate in safety they will continue to be at risk.
They are not the only ones suffering economically during this time. I have a number of self employed friends whose income has dwindled to nothing as their jobs are not transferable to an online environment. The governments of the UK and Spain have both promised help, but these things take time to set up and it’s a nervous wait. Then there are friends who are employed here who have lost their jobs as their businesses close down for the duration. Again they should hopefully be reemployed when the businesses open again, but given the economic hit many of these companies are taking that may not be possible. I assume they are able to claim unemployment, however it is a slow process and doesn’t make up all the lost income.
On the plus side the new field hospital at the IFEMA conference centre is desperately trying to hire porters and cleaners. So if you don’t mind risking your life there’s an opportunity. The supermarkets are also trying to hire more security guards and delivery drivers. Finally many residential care homes need more staff, though this is in part because much of the existing staff have already come down with the virus, which is not a comforting thought.
For all of you out there whether working on the frontline, struggling to manage work and kids at home, or worrying about the economic impact of a lack of work I feel for each of you and sincerely hope this will sort itself out in the end. ¡Animo! my friends.