Thursday, March 16, 2006

Punta Cana, Vacation Express and Falcon Airlines Can All Kiss My Ass

Monday the 6th: Both flights were pretty uneventful. Got to the Punta Cana airport around 3:00 p.m. Got off the plane, got my luggage, boarded a bus for a 30 minute bus ride to the "resort". Checked in and went to my room around 4:30 p.m. The first thing I noticed about the room was that my "gorgeous" view was of the parking lot. Wonderful!!! The bed was rock hard including two, one inch thick, pillows. Nice!!!! Started checking out the drawers and cabinets, until one of the cabinet doors fell off when I opened it. Remember....this is supposed to be a FIVE STAR resort. Changed clothes and went to my first of many TERRIBLE dinners. Finally made it down to check out the beach - after dark.
Tuesday the 7th: Got up and went straight to the beach, made Bryan tag along. He doesn't like the sun or the water, but he went anyway. That lasted for about an hour before we decided to go eat the first of many TERRIBLE lunches. I went back down to the beach and he sat by the pool drinking with some of the others that came with us. We all met back up later for another experiment, or dinner, and then sat outside and had a few drinks. Bryan and I decided to try out the casino and had a pretty good time. This is also the day I realized that I left my birth control at home. And as most ladies know....if you skip your pills...your monthly buddy comes to visit a little early. Figures.
Wednesday the 8th: Spent the entire day at the beach by myself. By this time Bryan is absolutely miserable....getting eaten alive by bugs and is just all around depressed. The girls and I decided to walk to a beach market to see what kind of deals we could find. It turned out being a two mile walk.....which we weren't expecting.....and the vendors were WAY too agressive. It was almost scary.
Thursday the 9th: Went to the beach again - by myself - then met the girls by the pool. Bryan is barely speaking to me at this point. He had "high hopes" for this vacation and we were on two totally different pages. We got into a huge fight and didn't speak the rest of the night.

Friday the 10th: Checked out at 12:00 p.m. Dragged my luggage to board a bus at 1:15 p.m. to arrive at the airport for a 4:25 p.m. flight. We had barely gotten through customs when they started calling the "FINAL" boarding call for our flight. WTF???? We were going to leave an hour early. We sat on the tarmac for close to two hours before taking off at approximately 5:25 p.m., an hour late. 15 minutes into the flight, the plane veered hard to the right and the plane lost cabin pressure and was heading straight down at a very fast pace, lights blinking, alarms going off. Bryan and I were sitting right next to the wing and when we looked out we saw fuel spewing from the wing. This is the first and only time I have geniunely feared for my life. All I could think about was that I was all alone, with no one from my family with me. I didn't want to die this way. The plane finally leveled out and the pilot came on the intercom stating that there was some kind of equipment failure and that we had to dump fuel in order to turn around and safely land. Once we were on the ground, one of the attendants said, "be very thankful that we are on the ground". We were escorted off the plane and taken to the terminal, where we sat for two hours while they attempted to "fix" the death plane. I sat there completely hysterical until someone offered me a Xanax, which I took....and I don't take pills. At approximately 8:30 p.m., we were told to collect our luggage. I toted my bags AGAIN to a bus where all 140+ of us were bused AGAIN to a resort, where we were met by a Vacation Express representative. We did not receive our rooms until 11:00 p.m., at which time I laid down and passed out. That pill kicked my ass....and I'm sure this was a blessing.
Saturday the 11th: The rep for Vacation Express told us the night before that we were going to have a meeting at 10:00 a.m. to inform us about what was going on. In short, we were told that, "We promise you that you will not have to be on the same plane. The flight crew will not even get on the plane. Another plane (a Pan Am plane) is on the way. You will have priority clearance at the airport (no security/customs), priority take off (before Flight 222 also heading to Sanford) and a rep would be with us all of the way until we took off." So....we had to check out at 12:00 p.m., lug our bags around AGAIN, board a bus AGAIN, and take off at 3:15 p.m. We arrived at the airport at 2:00 p.m., were not allowed to skip customs or any other checkpoint, had no rep there to tell us what to do. Remember, none of us had any boarding passes or any information. We had no idea if they had connecting flights lined up for us....we were all totally clueless. This obviously upset everyone immensely. We sat in the terminal for another two hours, when at 3:30 p.m., we were told our Pan Am had just landed and needed to be fueled. Boarding would begin within 30 minutes. We sat in the terminal for ANOTHER hour and a half - Flight 222 left without delay, nobody from our flight was on it. At 5:00 p.m., rumors started to spread that we would be taking the same plane (original plane - Falcon Air "Alicia"). Our rep was nowhere to be found. We had her paged at least three times and everyone had her wireless number. She didn't respond to the pages or calls to her phone. At 6:00 p.m., it was confirmed that we would be taking the Falcon Air plane. Various passengers made attempts to call the FAA, the US Embassy in the Domincan and the Vacation Express headquarters in Atlanta. No one was successful in getting someone to not allow them to force us onto the same plane.
Remember, we were promised a different plane and we would not go back on to the Falcon Air plane - to further our trepidation about the worthiness of the Falcon Air "Alicia" plane, we heard that an entire Vacation Express vacation was cancelled out of Louisville a few weeks earlier because the plane was deemed unworthy to fly. Nineteen of the passengers with us were the ones that had their vacation cancelled due to this same plane. At no point during the day did any airport personnel or Vacation Express people try to get us on another flight - a USA 3000 plane had a direct flight to Cincinnati that was half full. They would have only charged us $150 per person for the flight.
The death plane began loading at 7:00 p.m. I was a total wreck....and I wasn't the only one. There were grown men actually crying. Fourteen people refused to get on the plane. I didn't want to take it....but what choice did I have???? I didn't want to be stuck there. After we got on the plane, we had to wait another hour and a half while they retrieved the luggage from the plane of the passengers that refused to fly. The captain stood out on the tarmac desperately trying to get them to board. Telling them how safe the plane was. By this time, I was feeling a little better - I'd taken another Xanax. The captain gets on the intercom and tells us that the plane is safe to fly. They had flown in parts from the States to repair it earlier that day. WTF???? They never intended to give us another plane. The captain also said that he had already taken the plane up twice for testing. WTF????
Many pieces of luggage were ripped and damaged - the airport personnel were throwing all of the luggage from the hull to the tarmac with no regard for possible damage. They were obviously upset that they had to retrieve a small percentage of the luggage. At 8:45 p.m., we start down the runway and I'm praying harder than I've ever prayed. The captain comes on the intercom and says that the cabin lights need to be dimmed for takeoff, but we can turn on the reading lights above our heads. Upon accelleration, the cabin started filling up with smoke and we never even made it off the ground. So we get loaded onto a bus from the tarmac and get taken back to the terminal. Almost every one on the bus is in tears....thinking how we narrowly escaped death again.
We were greeted by the MIA rep at the baggage collection belt. She was confronted by a group of us and was asked why she didn't respond to us, why she had lied to us, etc. - after a couple of minutes of back and forth jarring, she said, quote, "SO I LIED TO YOU, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT NOW?" Airport security, armed with machine guns, start to surround our group and I just backed away. The last thing I wanted was to get arrested there. I would probably still be sitting there. So....after several minutes of arguing....we were told to drag our luggage AGAIN to board a bus AGAIN to be taken AGAIN to the same hotel from the night before, where, oddly enough, we were told that morning that the hotel was booked the entire rest of the weekend. Received room key at 10:00 pm.
Sunday the 12th: Had another meeting to discuss status - was informed Vacation Express could not get anyone out until at least Monday. Bryan ends up with the medic because his hand is swollen from all of the bug bites. Decided to just give up and laid by the pool all day.
Monday the 13th: Doesn't it figure that I'd have to fly home on the 13th??? We had to check out by 6:00 a.m. to fly home at 8:00 a.m. Tote our luggage AGAIN, load a bus AGAIN, and ride AGAIN to the airport. When we arrived, the airport wasn't even open yet and we had to stand in line for over an hour to wait for our boarding passes - which were handwritten. By the time we made it through customs AGAIN they were already calling the last boarding call. The new plane was GLORIOUS. The crew told us that they were called at midnight the night before to fly a "RESCUE MISSION" to get us the hell out of there. I was so thankful. But, I was also a nervous wreck. I don't like to fly anyway.....and certainly not after the last few tries. But, I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and prayed. For the first time in my life....I gave up everything I had to God. I just told him that I was lifting all of my worries up to him and trusting in HIM completely. And you know what? That was the most peaceful moment of my entire life. One that I will never forget.

27 Comments:

Blogger nelle Opined...

bloody hell!!!
I am so glad you made it back allright! And I, for one, will never ever fly with Falcon airlines or book anything through Vacation Express!

March 17, 2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

EJ: Amen Sister! That was one of the worst feelings about the whole thing - the fact that we felt lied to and abandoned.

March 17, 2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Opined...

Oh. My. Word.

Un-freaking-believable! Has anyone in your group discussed a big 'ol lawsuit against Vacation Express? At least to publicize what they're doing!

I'm sorry that sunny, tropical paradise...really wasn't. Maybe next time will be better? Think Greece, Italy or French Riviera...

March 17, 2006 12:10 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Nilo: I'm a paralegal - of course -we've talked lawsuit! LOL

I know that an Orlando TV station has already ran a piece on it. I'm looking into getting a copy of that. We all exchanged addresses and phone numbers, so we've been in constant contact with each other. It's amazing how you can bond with total strangers in a time of need.

March 17, 2006 12:13 PM  
Blogger SquirmsteR Opined...

Jen Jen...Wow...I really don't know what to say. At least through all that, you still found peace in your time of need! I agree with ellen: Note to self - NEVER GO THROUGH FALCON AIRLINES OR VACATION EXPRESS! I am sorry that you had to go through that, but sweetie, I am glad you and Bryan made it home ok.

March 17, 2006 12:29 PM  
Blogger Ellen Opined...

Well, I have to say that you had me choking back the tears about your adventure. You've given us new reasons to believe in the power of prayer, and no reasons to believe in Falcon Airlines or Vacation Express.

Holy moley! What a horrible experience! I am so very glad it all turned out well, but I can imagine you felt like you were in hell the whole time.

Such a terrible shame, because I know you were so excited about you time away from the *drama*, only to be confronted with it over and over again while on vacation.

Tell me... did you kiss the ground when you landed in the USA?

March 17, 2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Squirm: Actually, finding that inner peace - for the first time - kinda made it all worth it!

Ellen: I ABSOLUTLEY kissed the ground - and the pilot!! LOL

March 17, 2006 1:47 PM  
Blogger TwistedPain Opined...

*speechless* I am so glad you're home.

March 17, 2006 2:06 PM  
Blogger Ellen Opined...

LOL!!! Was the pilot cute? I'm sure he appreciated your gesture.

March 17, 2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Twisty: Me Too!!!

Ellen: He wasn't too bad - but to me - he was perfect!! LOL

March 17, 2006 2:10 PM  
Blogger Wiwille Opined...

Jumping jesus on a pogo stick. Didn't even get any good lovin on your vacation, plus the jackassery displayed by Falcon and Vacation Express would probably send most people into a straight jacket.

Did you kick this Bryan guy in the ass for being such a poo poo head?

Machine guns or no I probably would've snapped. At least your readers learned something, at your expense of course.

March 17, 2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

WW: I don't even think I've gotten my mind around everything that transpired on this vacation. Actually, I'm sick of thinking about the entire thing.

I hope somebody learned something. I know I did! God Bless the USA!!! LOL

March 17, 2006 4:44 PM  
Blogger Mr. Althouse Opined...

That is one incredible story! Talk about getting home to relax from your vacation! OMG. I have had some pretty interesting travels, but none come even close to your experience. I do hope you have some kind of recourse to get your money back or perhaps shut this travel service down.

Glad your back, and I guess, with a new appreciation for the little things??

~Mike

March 17, 2006 5:00 PM  
Blogger Neo Opined...

Jen - OMG!!!!!

Dude! What a bunch of shit!

You should sue those people!

What a freaking nightmare!

I'm glad you're back safe.

*BIG HUGS*

- Neo

March 17, 2006 6:56 PM  
Blogger Neo Opined...

PS Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'll have a beer for ya!

:)

March 17, 2006 6:56 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Mr. A: I defintely have a new appreciation for things! My new motto is "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff".

Neo: I've missed you buddy! The entire flight has exchanged contact information and we are definitely going after them. Keep your fingers crossed!

P.S. Happy St. Patty's Day to you too! And, believe me, I had plenty of beers of my own!!

March 19, 2006 1:23 PM  
Blogger Joe Opined...

Holy shit! Good thing I read this - I was actually looking at that place. F NO to that! Glad to see you are all right now. Holy Shit!

March 19, 2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger Snaggle Tooth Opined...

Soundz almost as good as being lost in the Burmuda Triangle!
Ya should send it in to get screen-played for "Vacation in the Twilite Zone!"
My Cousin's a travel agent, I'll make sure to send her a link to here so she doesn't dare send anyone there...

March 19, 2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger SkyeBlue2U Opined...

I am sooo glad your back home. Good thing you borrowed my ruby red slippers. Really glad your back home. :)x's 2!

March 19, 2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Joe: Missed ya buddy! Glad you stopped by. I wouldn't recommend the Dominican to anyone!!

Snags: I'm just glad it's over.

Sag Sis: Yep - those slippers definitely helped. Mind if I hang on to them for awhile?? LOL

March 20, 2006 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Tan Opined...

Goodness, so glad u made it back alright! Thank God for tht...

March 20, 2006 11:45 AM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Tan: Thanks! Believe me, I will be eternally grateful for getting home safely. It really puts things in perspective.

March 20, 2006 1:39 PM  
Anonymous maria Opined...

Hello! I was on that flight too!! My friend and I gave our info to someone, but we never heard anything...and we didn't have anyone's info to contact them.

Did you sue? Did you settle w/ Vacation Express? What happened?

September 27, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

Maria - WOW!! Cool that you found this!!

I never heard anything from them!! I have an email list of everyone on the plane. Would you like it??

September 27, 2006 4:01 PM  
Anonymous maria Opined...

Did you personally pursue the matter with Vacation Express?

Sure, I will take the email list if you don't mind. What is the easiest way to get it to me?

September 27, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger Jinsane Opined...

leave your email address - I'll delete it after I get it - and I'll forward one of the emails I received with everyone listed.

I sent a letter directly to Vacation Express, as well as my travel agent - and never heard a word.

September 27, 2006 4:20 PM  
Anonymous maria Opined...

My email address is divitak@nku.edu

We haven't really heard anything either. Recently we decided to give it another shot b/c I found out they got a new Director of Customer Service. Someone did sue them--but I don't know what happened, and I can't find any information on it.

Thank you! I will let you know what happens.

September 27, 2006 6:44 PM  

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