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Getting to Bonaire: Beware of DAE. A nightmare trip from Bonaire
Bonaire Talk: Getting to Bonaire: Archives: Archives 2006-2008: Archives - 2008-03-01 to 2008-12-31: Beware of DAE. A nightmare trip from Bonaire
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Al (New BonaireTalk Poster - Post #5) on Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 10:16 am:     Edit PostPrint Post

To start with Bonaire was awesome. All of the trouble that we had was with the airlines. It ended up costing us over $2000 extra to get home and it took us over 40 hours to get there. We are temporarily living in Rio de Janeiro so getting to Bonaire is a task even when everything goes well. Well, on our trip home nothing went well. We showed up at the airport at 1:00pm Thursday to catch the 3:00pm DAE (Dutch Antilles Express) flight to Curacao and were told that the 3:00pm flight had been combined with the 5:00pm flight because there weren’t enough people booked. This would tighten things up but was OK because our connecting flight from Curacao to Bogota didn’t leave until 7:00pm. I had informed the DAE ticket agent that we had to make a connection when we checked in at 1:00 so at 4:45 I get paged to go to the DAE office upstairs. When I get there the lady tells me that the 5:00 flight is not going to leave until 5:30 or 5:45 and that she will try to contact Avianca and advise them that we will be close. Well 6:00 roles around and the airplane isn’t even on the ground in Bonaire.
We got to Curacao about the same time our avianca flight was pushing back from the gate. It took over an hour to clear customs with our baggage. By the time we found an actual rep (they use contractors from Swiss-port for everything) from either airline the Avianca office was closed for the night. We went to the DAE ticket office to see if they could help us rebook or put us up in a hotel for the night. We were met with a surprising response with an incredible rude delivery. We were told point blank that it was not DAE’s problem and that because our connection was with another airline DAE wasn’t responsible for anything. I wish that you all could have seen the look of distain on the DAE reps face when she basicly told us to get lost. She wouldn’t even help us find a hotel room if we paid for it, which we ended up doing.
With the help of an airport (not airline) employee, we found a room at the Howard Johnsons at the Curacao airport. That hotel is another story for another time but let’s just say that it’s not even close to motel 6 standards. We get up early so that we can be sitting at the Avianca office as soon as they open Friday morning. When we talk to the Avianca rep she tells us that the next flight is on Sunday which would get us home on Monday. This is not an option because of work. She (the Avianca rep) did tell us that DAE had a flight to Bogota at 11:00 that would get us there in plenty of time to make the flight from Bogota to Sao Paulo and on to Rio. She then printed a new ticket (no boarding passes) and told us that all we would need to do once we got to Bogota would be to go to the ticket counter and that they would change our flights with no problems. The only thing was that we would have to pay for the DAE flight from Curacao to Bogota. We then went over to the DAE office to see if we could get on the flight. For 340 dollars it wouldn’t be a problem. I asked if they could at least help us out with a little discount or something (since it was due to them combining flights and then being an hour and a half late with the second flight). We were given the standard DAE answer. “it was not DAE’s problem and DAE wasn’t responsible for anything”. It was amazing that this was a completely different person but the delivery was executed with the exact same rudeness and look of distain as the lady the night before. Once we gave up on a discount and agreed to pay the full fare it was if we were talking to a different person. She was as friendly as anyone else.
At this point DAE has cost us $88 for the hotel and another 340 for the tickets to Bogota.
OK so now thinks have to get better. We get to the airport in Bogota and head to the ticket counter feeling better that we are now dealing with a real airline that might take a little pride in their customer service. We get to the ticket counter as instructed by the Aviance agent in Curacao. After a lot of typing on the computer and then going to talk with a manager, the ticket agent on Bogota tells us that there is a problem and that only the travel agent in Rio that we booked the trip through can make the changes. Well, I go and find a a phone that I can make an international call on and call him. He says no problem and asks me to call him back in an hour. I did, and there is still some problem so I wait and call him in another hour. In the mean time I go to the Avianca customer service desk to see if they can help us. The lady there is very friendly but tells us the same thing that the ticket agent told us. I call the travel agent back and this time the manger gets on the phone. He tells me that I need to call him back in an hour and a half and that all of our problems will be solved. I have been in Rio long enough to know that this is a bad sign. When I call back in a hour and a half the agent “left early and is gone for the day”. I finally get the manager on the phone and he tells me that there is nothing that he can do and that I will have to get the airline to make the changes.
I go back to the customer service desk and ask to speak to a manager. I’m told that everyone at the desk is a manager so I must deal with one of them. Three of them get together and search the computer for a while and then tell me that there is nothing that they can do for us because we didn’t fly on Avianca from Curacao to Bogota in accordance with the original booking. I tried to explain that we did exactly what the Avianca agent in Curacao told us to do. They told me that “it was just the way the computer worked and that my only option was to purchase new tickets”.
Now the travel agent in Rio is closed for the weekend. I am fuming mad but keep my cool because at this point it seems that we only have two options. Purchase the new tickets or stay in Bogota for who knows how long. I absolutely have to be at work Monday morning so I break down a buy the new tickets. One way would be around $2600 for both of us. I ask about round trip and it turns out that round trip is only around $1600 so we now have return tickets to Bogota and unused tickets from Curacao that we can’t use.
There was way more frustration than I can capture in this post.
I guess that my advice to anyone wanting to go to Bonaire from the US or Europe and that can fly directly to Bonaire on a quality airline like Continental or KLM that you should definitely GO. Bonaire is an incredible place with warm friendly people, great diving and a tone of other fun stuff to do. I would strongly advise not to trust DAE to make a connecting flight. Late is their norm and very late is common. They are definitely on island time and they don’t care one bit about your connection. They will not stand behind their product and if they leave you stranded they will not help you. Next time we go to Bonaire we will fly from Rio to Houston and then back down to Bonaire on Continental.
With the exception of this the trip was awesome. I definitely want to put some focus on all of the great things that Bonaire has to offer so I will post that in the trip report section.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kevin W. Williams (Pink Beach Properties (Experienced BonaireTalker - Post #496) on Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 5:00 pm:     Edit PostPrint Post

One very important lesson to learn from your sad experience ... never fall for the "well, I can get you to Bogota, but the Bogota agent will have to finish the job" story. What happened was the Curacao agent hit the same problem with your ticket that the Bogota agent did, and, instead of working out how to fix it, just passed it on to the next agent. If it's different airlines, sometimes this can be necessary, but when it's two agents for the same airline, it's trying to not be the one that has to fix the problem.

(Message edited by kww on March 30, 2008)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Dave (New BonaireTalk Poster - Post #8) on Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 5:14 pm:     Edit PostPrint Post

And I thought my last flight to Bonaire was bad when AA/Eagle left all of my luggage in San Juan for a week.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Al (New BonaireTalk Poster - Post #6) on Sunday, March 30, 2008 - 5:45 pm:     Edit PostPrint Post

All of our luggage made it both directions. That was my biggest concern at the beginning of the trip. LOL

Kevin I think that you are correct. The Avianca rep in Curacao took the easy way out. Dealing with Avianca, the travel agent here in Rio or DAE is more frustrating than banging your head against the wall. There is absolutely no loyalty to the customer. The next time we take a vacation from Brazil we will fly home to Houston first, and then make the trip from there. At least there is a little oversight into how bad an airline shafts its customers.
I know it sounds a little petty but the thing that bothered me the most was the way the DAE reps talked to us. I am a calm guy but was treated as hatefully as any time that I can remember. DAE will never get another dime of my money and I will do everything in my power to see to it that everyone I come into contact with on the enet or in person is warned about them. I’m still not 100% sure who shafted us on the Avianca portion. It was either them or the travel agent. I tend to think it was the travel agent just because I’ve been here long enough to smell BS when it’s in the air.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By michael gaynor (Supreme BonaireTalker - Post #2985) on Monday, March 31, 2008 - 8:33 am:     Edit PostPrint Post

Hope you charged your tickets on Amex. You can dispute the charges and they generally will back you.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bob Banker (BonaireTalker - Post #28) on Monday, March 31, 2008 - 8:42 am:     Edit PostPrint Post

Would trip insurance have helped with the costs?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Al (New BonaireTalk Poster - Post #7) on Monday, March 31, 2008 - 10:27 am:     Edit PostPrint Post

I charged the tickets to MC. Have been on the phone with them but don’t know what will happen.
Trip insurance might have helped recoup the portion of the original tickets not used but I’m an idiot and didn’t even ask about it when I booked the trip. I will be bugging the travel agent today to see if I can get anything from them.
There are a lot of good lessons learned the hard way here.


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