Cozumel Trip Report
An Awful Travel Experience!
June 1998
Page 1 of 1

Our 5 day dive trip was booked through Caribbean Blue and Fun N Sun Travel of Houston, TX. The air carrier was Champion Air, which we were told is 40% owned by Northwest Airlines, and served at the ticket counter by Delta Airlines staff. Our problem surfaced when we arrived at 6:45 AM for our 8:45 AM flight to Cozumel. We were told immediately that we could not fly until 5:00 PM because of a "maintenance problem" with the plane. I asked whether the 5:00 time was certain. I was assured that it was.

Question: "How can you have a problem that takes so much time to fix, and still predict the departure accurately? (Thinking: Sounds like our plane was redirected by Champion Air to a more profitable charter flight, and it will be back by 5:00)

Answer: "It is in Jamaica, and will be here by 5:00 PM." The messengers weren't smiling either. I think they knew better.

We were told to report back at 4:00 for preparation for boarding. (Thinking: Seems odd to tell the travelers that there is no chance the plane will leave before 5:00, unless the problem isn't a repair - but that darned rescheduling that I was considering.) My 5 day dive trip just dropped by 25% in value (but not cost). We had to be off-gassing nitrogen for one full day before flying.

There was another large group from Adventure Tours, USA, who represented several travel agencies that had used their services to book their vacations. Adventure Tours had a representative that stayed with them all day long, and pressed Delta and Champion Air for better information for her customers. Caribbean Blue didn't even answer their phones.

When the unbelievability of the "maintenance problem and arrival in time for a 5:00 departure grew, the story changed to "We are getting another plane flown in."

Question: Where is it coming from?
Answer: "I don't know."

Champion Air provided vouchers for meals that weren't honored by the local airport hotel as we were told they would be. We returned and arranged for the local Champion Air representative to get a credit card number for use at the hotel. We understand that the restaurant staff wasn't aware that an agreement was in place, and I believe that was true.

Finally, at 4:00 PM, the Delta folks (who were apparently representing Champion Air at the ticket counter and gate) provide nice legal disclaimers from Caribbean Blue for us to sign. (Thinking: Kinda like closing the barn door after the cows are out. I already have a boarding pass. I wonder why they could not answer the phones, yet they could send these disclaimers for us to sign.) They supposedly had a "right" to take as long as two (2) days to get us to our destination according to this disclaimer (never seen before!). One paragraph read:

"......If Caribbean Blue first knows of a major change less than 10 hours before departure, Caribbean Blue will get the message to the participant as soon as possible. Time changes within the scheduled day of departure do not constitute a major change." I paid for 4 days of diving and got 3. It was major to me.

Question: "This disclaimer only protects Caribbean Blue. I already have a boarding pass. What happens if I don't sign?" Thinking: Just tell me we don't have a transaction here, I'll just go home and we'll back this traction out. If you require my agreement to the T's and C's to board, then the transaction becomes conditional, and I haven't accepted the conditions.......
Answer: "Nothing, you can go." I went.

We visited with a crew member on the way to Cozumel. It was an interesting conversation.

Question: "How far in advance do you get your schedules for these flights?"
Answer: "A day or two."
Question: "When did you learn that you would be on this flight?"
Answer: "Yesterday."
Question: "Was it always at 5:00?"
Answer: "Yes."
Thinking: "Sure looks like Champion Air redirected MY charter flight in order to make more money with the airplane (our flight lightly populated), yet none of the service providers involved offered more than disclaimers that cover the specific problem we encountered."

On the way back, things were more orderly, but ......they didn't have any customs forms! I couldn't believe it! Fortunately, I had several left over from other trips, and passed them out to a few members of our group. We left the plane with everyone else sitting in the heat waiting for their forms to be brought onto the plane.

I am very unimpressed with Caribbean Blue, Fun N Sun Travel, and Champion Air. It is my belief that this rescheduling of our departure was well known prior to the time we were supposed to arrive at the airport, and I believe that the delay was intentionally caused by Champion Air for their financial benefit. Caribbean Blue's apparent disinterest in acting in our behalf with Champion Air, but being alert enough to provide disclaimers at the departure gate (delivered by Delta staff) demonstrated the lowest degree of professionalism that I could imagine. Fun N Sun Travel fares no better in my opinion.

I was very impressed by the Adventure Tours representative's tenacity in remaining with her clients until they were all seated on the plane. She left the plane just before the door was closed. I'll remember that.


Copyright © 1998 Randall C. Allen - All rights reserved
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visitor # 2671 since 6/21/98