A newlywed New Zealand couple honeymooning in Australia have felt the brunt of the coronavirus travel chaos after being forced to chase lost luggage for 12 days before having their cruise cancelled.
Doug Kurth and his fiancé Sarah married on February 29 this year in a ceremony in Upper Hut, Wellington. The following day they boarded a Singapore Airlines flight to start their month-long trip across Australia.
After travelling to Melbourne, the couple changed to a Virgin Australia flight to Perth.
"They (luggage) were all checked through to Perth and we got to Perth in the middle of the night, waited for the luggage thing to finish and there was a suitcase missing," Mr Kurth told nine.com.au.
The missing luggage belonged to new bride Mrs Kurth. It contained all her clothes for the trip.
After being given emergency funds from a helpful Virgin Australia staff member the couple bought a few clothes and makeup before heading to their accommodation.
For the next 12 days the couple spent hours calling the airline's customer service for news of the luggage.
"No one contacted me at all," Mrs Kurth said.
"I've had to ring them constantly… on the first day they said they'd send it to our accommodation… but it never turned up."
As the couple continued with their trip, their luggage bounced around from Melbourne, to Perth to finally reaching them in Adelaide.
"We were in Perth for three days, but they didn't contact me. I contacted them," she said.
"They couldn't give me a ring to say I had my suitcase. They said they tried to deliver it… they tried to deliver it in Perth, but no one bothered to tell me. It's just the complete lack of service to be fair."
She said it was only after her husband's daughter, Shelley, posted a complaint to Virgin Australia's Facebook page did a Virgin Australia customer service member contact the couple and the luggage was relocated.
The Kurths are not alone in battling long call times trying to get through to airline customer service during the COVID-19 outbreak, with airlines slashing route numbers.
The World Health Organisation says in the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled. In Australia there are 126 confirmed cases, and three deaths.
Carriers have announced large cuts to their domestic and international schedules as world leaders introduce blanket travel bans to regions such as Europe and the Middle East.
Qantas has made cuts to its international flying, reducing capacity by almost a quarter for the next six months. The airline says the respiratory illness has resulted in a "sudden and significant drop" in travel demand.
Clogged phone lines
Virgin Australia slashed five domestic flights last month over coronavirus fears. Earlier today, the carrier cut more flights as well as reduced executive fees. This comes as a Virgin Australia staff member tested positive for the virus.
"Our Guest Contact Centre is currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes," Virgin Australia posted to its Facebook page.
"If you aren't due to travel within the next 48 hours please call back at a later time. We are also here to listen and help, so please reach out if you need any assistance. We appreciate your patience during this time."
The Facebook pages of Virgin Australia, Qantas and Singapore Airlines have been flooded with complaints about two-hour long wait times.
"I know you are dealing with a lot of traffic at the moment but with your website down and the phone lines clogged how can someone change a flight?!" one Virgin Australia passenger posted.
"I am trying to find out about cancelling some upcoming flights. I've repeatedly been on hold for over two hours only for the phone to cut off. I was communicating with someone through the messenger function in the app but you have now suspended that service," a Qantas passenger posted.
"I've been waiting 90mins for the call centre to cancel a flight that I had already checked in. The event in Melb has been cancelled due to COVID19. The Customer service person cut me off and now I'm told the wait time is 3 hrs. The flight will take off before I get the chance to communicate with anyone," another Qantas passenger wrote.
"I am having a difficult time cancelling my flight due to cover-19. My tickets were purchased by a travel agency, but seat upgrades were purchased directly with Singapore Airlines. I can't talk, text, or chat with anyone regarding a refund," a Singapore Airlines passenger posted.
If losing their luggage wasn't enough, the Kurths now join thousands of other passengers left stranded after their cruise ship holiday was cancelled as a coronavirus precaution.
Princess Cruises today cancelled all sailings for the next 60 days.
"They were so excited about this trip," Mr Kurth's daughter, Shelley, told nine.com.au.
"And now their cruise has been cancelled. They totally understand why though and (that it's) beyond everyone's control."
The Kurths are yet to decide what they will do.
Contact reporter Kate Kachor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-travel-new-zealand-to-australia-virgin-australia-newlywed-honeymoon/9e034f61-ce2f-4308-b592-4dec0337e912