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COMPLAINT: Air Pacific - Fly for a horrendous experience

 
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Old Mar 8, 2009, 8:16 PM
Trvlr Trvlr is offline
 
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Will never fly Air Pacific again - I don't care if the price is double on every other airline - it is the national airline of Fiji, and even the natives aptly refer to it as "Air Pathetic". Flew Air Pacific from Sydney to Nadi in October 08. I was told before departing that I had to purchase a ticket for outbound travel to enter Fiji by an obnoxious Fijian clerk named Luisa, and was directed to the Qantas desk for purchase (Qantas owns approx. half of Air Pacific). When I informed her that I had already visited the Fiji immigration web site, had a copy of their policies with me, I could prove enough funds (had a bank statement with me for said purpose) and that she was just trying to bully me into providing her company with more profit, and demanded to see her superior, she first claimed she was with Fijian immigration, then claimed there was no one above her, then yelled to no one in particular that I couldn't board the plane as she spun away from the counter as I stated something like "Now you've chosen to impersonate the CEO of Air Pacific as well as a Fijian immigration officer?" Meanwhile, I am missing the flight I paid for. This is a common tactic among airport employees now: they abuse and stonewall customers until the customer reacts, then they call security. When I was about to call security myself, another male employee showed me the guidelines on his computer screen, supposedly supplied by Fijian immigration, and told me those were the guidelines they had to go by. These guidelines stated that the airline had to insure that I had purchased a ticket out of Fiji, AND prove funds. For obvious reasons this is absolutely ludicrous (I am a US citizen with a US passport, the sunglasses I was wearing were worth more than the average Fijian makes in a month, the laptop I was carrying was worth almost 3 YEARS salary of the average Fijian, and the bank account record I had ON HAND which they NEVER CHECKED showed 4 TIMES that amount). However, if I wanted to be allowed to board my flight, I had to purchase a ticket from Qantas. As there was no time left to play around with the airline employees, I did (which was supposed to be fully refundable within 5 days of request - it wasn't, and on a side note, Qantas has seen my last dime as well). To make a long story short, no one at Air Pacific ever made me prove funds, even though I was prepared to, and supposedly was as mandatory a requirement as the ticket for outbound travel, revealing the blatant scam they were running. The ego-maniac Luisa held up an entire flight with her control-freak greedy antics and I didn't have enough time to claim over $250 US GST credit on a laptop I purchased in Australia, and was harassed by incompetent, abusive Sydney airport personnel because of my late boarding - so much so that Australia won't get another penny from me either. When I arrived in Fiji, I immediately went to an immigration officer and asked if she wanted to see my outbound ticket and/or proof of funds. She did not, she did not care if I had either, and told me that technically a passenger must have EITHER of the two or the airline COULD be fined, but BOTH were NOT required, and that any employee of Air Pacific should know this well, and should also know that these items were seldom if ever checked by Fijian immigration, as Fiji is desperately in need of tourist dollars - in fact, NO ONE on my flight or any other I witnessed was checked. One other person was staying at my hotel, and he flew on Air New Zealand - they didn't check or care if he had an outbound ticket (which he didn't) or if he could prove funds (which he couldn’t). I tried to file a formal complaint with a human being at Air Pacific numerous times and was met with nothing but lip service. I spoke to a customer service rep in Nadi and told her not to take my word on what went on, just get the security camera tapes from the Sydney airport, and she claimed they weren't available and that I needed to write down all that happened and submit it to her - on my vacation in Fiji!!! I was later told by a pilot of Air Pacific in Nadi that the "Air Pathetic" moniker is well deserved, that he was only working for the airline because the hiring practices were looser than others and needed the flight time, my complaint would be among hundreds and would be ignored by whoever I submitted it to anyway, and added "Why do you think so few airlines are allowed to fly out of Nadi? If the competition were any greater, Air Pathetic would be out of business." I spoke with employees at the Nadi airport and some of them knew Luisa - a word that rhymes with "itch" was used several times and the futility of any complaint to the airline was echoed. I decided to wait until I returned to the US and speak to an attorney about filing a discrimination/fraud lawsuit against Air Pacific/Qantas - if I had to write a report about what happened and re-live the nightmare I was going to do it for a reason - and discovered because of legal jurisdictions it would be expensive and not very productive, as witnesses/corroborating evidence would be just as scarce as the Sydney security camera tapes. I was told the best course of action was to never give my money to either airline again, report this incident online and to anyone who asks personally for the welfare of other travelers, and let Air Pacific go under along with the nebulous government of Fiji (which owns approx. 50% of the airline) and the tourist trade there, which is down well over 60 percent (with good reason; I found the local businesses to be as unscrupulous, greedy, and negligent as this airline), and that is exactly what I am doing.

Last edited by Trvlr; Mar 8, 2009 at 8:19 PM.
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  #2  
Old Mar 8, 2009, 11:04 PM
countrynewsman countrynewsman is offline
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I am going to ask your forgiveness in advance, because, I had to laugh. I was not laughing at your experience, but it did remind me of something a friend told me some years ago. Apparently, airline employees in the South Pacific...particularly the Micronesian islands...are a different breed. The example I was given was a flight that landed on one of the islands. A lady who was a local there was shouting orders at the ramp personnel. It turned out she didn't work for the airline...her son did. He wanted to go fishing, so he took the day off and his mother worked in his place. Now, I could just picture Louisa taking the place of her son while he went fishing! Yeah...I'm sure Louisa worked for Air Pathetic, and I'm sure she was less than helpful. My guess...she's a control freak who hates Americans. I guess there are others on that island that feel the same way, given the problems you had with local businesses. I guess they haven't awaken yet to the fact that tourists are avoiding Fiji.
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Old Mar 8, 2009, 11:10 PM
Butch Cassidy Slept Here Butch Cassidy Slept Here is offline
 
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If I read the post correctly, this complaint is about the requirement to possess a return, or onward, ticket in ADDITION to sufficient funds to cover the period of one's stay. The requirement of a return, or onward, ticket is a very common one. Only citizens of the given country are exempted. If someone is refused entry into a given country, the airline that brought that person there is obligated to transport the person, at their own expense, back to the point of origin. In addition the airline, and/or its staff, may be subject to fines and penalties.

I'm a retired employee of a state government. To the average government employee, or even an airline employee, whether a rule makes sense doesn't matter. Whether one can even UNDERSTAND the rule also doesn't matter. Don't follow the rule? Then, it matters! On the other hand, I have a big-time problem with government, airline and others who deal in "customer service"-type positions and use the limited authority they have to deal with their feelings of personal inadequacy, and other problems, while causing the customer to suffer for it.

As a side note: Some years ago I believe Air Pacific was denied landing rights, on US territory, because of safety issues. I don't know if the matter was ever resolved.

Last edited by Butch Cassidy Slept Here; Mar 8, 2009 at 11:12 PM.
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Old Mar 9, 2009, 12:02 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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But in this case the OP states that he checked the information and that Air Pacific staff had made a mistake Butch, so that puts a slightly different light on it. The anti-Americanism suggestion might be a factor, but in fact, the US imposes this condition on US visitors, so it ill behoves US citizens to complian if the same condition is made of them.
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Old Mar 9, 2009, 2:37 AM
Trvlr Trvlr is offline
 
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Countrynewsman: I'm glad you had a laugh and I laughed at the story you shared as well ! Luisa actually worked at the airport in Sydney though, and 'control-freak' definitely applies as well as a word with four letters that begins with c and ends with t, but then again these terms apply to just about every female employee I encountered at Kingsford-Smith (Sydney), as well as other airports, and the male customs officers in Sydney reminded me of the horrible customs agents in the US as well. Bitterness and envy could be a likely cause, among others - and this type of person seems to gravitate toward airline and airport customer service/security positions these days. I don't know if 'anti-American' is the exact sentiment when describing the attitude of the Fijians - I found the natives to be equal-opportunity scumbags, including the Indian (from India) business owners there - "fresh meat" or "ATM machines" is, from my experience, how any caucasian is viewed by the society. Specialized computer store owners don't even know their products - can you image talking to an Indian computer store owner that knows almost nothing about computers? I can't fault the people totally however, as the series of corrupt governments, excessive crime rate, incredibly weak economy, and the fact that like Iraq, all the educated people that could leave the country already have left or are leaving due to these issues, contributes to the problem. The Indians there view the natives as lazy, greedy, alcoholics, and, I have to say from my experiences there, generally, they're right on the mark. The phrase "Tourist Trap" is literal when referring to Fiji, as once you are there, it is very difficult to get a flight out! And you are correct, they, like the airlines, are penny-wise and pound foolish.

Butch: Thanks for your comments as well, and I really found your side-note interesting. I appreciate your comments on the mentality of 'institutional' (if you will) employees also and agree with you obviously on the disgruntled employee power issues. However, I am very familiar with the 'onward travel' requirement from my travel from the US to Sydney (once again, I had no onward travel ticket, but could prove funds, but was asked to produce neither), and was prepared for it at Kingsford-Smith, as an Air Pacific phone representative tried to give me grief about it when I purchased my ticket, and she actually tried to force me to purchase another Air Pacific ticket - i.e. She tried to tell me I couldn't even choose a different carrier! I don't have a problem with the 'onward travel' OR 'proof-of-funds' requirement; I have a problem with it being arbitrarily, incorrectly, and inappropriately applied in a forceful, discriminatory manner. You know that the rule for international travel is 'onward travel ticket' OR 'proof-of-funds', I know (and knew) it, Fijian immigration knew it, it is clearly stated on just about every nation's immigration website - including the Fijian immigration page I came to the airport with a copy of, and every service rep at Kingsford-Smith knew it as well, especially Luisa. She knew that she was intentionally trying to force me to allow her company to dip into my pockets deeper, and decided she would use the cost of the ticket I purchased from Air Pathetic as leverage against me - i.e. Either let us in your pocket deeper or you are going to forfeit your ticket, your travel plans, and possibly your freedom if you protest too adamantly. The proof of this accusation is in the fact that, as I posted, her (and their) reason was eclipsed by greed so completely that NOBODY ASKED ME TO PROVE FUNDS!

jimworcs: Thanks for reminding Butch of the facts as I reported them, and I agree that complaining about the 'onward travel ticket' OR 'proof-of-funds' requirement is inappropriate ( I think you realize that this is not what I am doing). Also, I think your characterization of the actions of the Air Pacific staff as a 'mistake' is much too kind; this was an intentional shake-down.

In hindsight, if I had known the harassment would take so long that I would not have time to claim the $250 GST from my laptop purchase, and that Fiji was such a third-world hell-hole, I would have cut my loses by simply ripping the ticket in half and telling Luisa where to stick it, gotten my $250 GST credit (which just about covered the cost of the ticket), and applied it toward a ticket to London on British Airways. Penny-wise and pound foolish; no more American dollars from me for Australia, Fiji, Air Pathetic or Qantas, ever again, and every person I speak to in the US about my travel experience hears about this along with my recommendation to stay the hell away from both countries. Good job Luisa, Kingsford-Smith staff, Air Pathetic, and Qantas!
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Old Mar 9, 2009, 4:23 AM
dc2las dc2las is offline
 
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While I read this site frequently to laugh at what people like to blow out of proportion, I finally had to register to reply to this one.

An onward ticket is, in fact, a requirement to enter Fiji for non-Fijian passport holders. From Timatic, which the agent at SYD was undoubtedly looking at as its used by airlines all over for passport and visa information:

Quote:
Passport required.
- Passport and/or passport replacing documents must be valid
at least 3 months beyond the period of intended stay.

Visa required, except for A stay of max. 4 months:

Additional Information:

- Visitor Permit is issued on arrival for stays not exceeding
4 months.

- All passengers must hold a return/onward ticket to their
next destination.
- exempt are those persons born in Fiji but having acquired
another nationality.
And from the US State Department:

Quote:
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport valid for at least three
months beyond the intended date of departure from Fiji, proof of
sufficient funds and an onward/return ticket are required for entry to
Fiji. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to four months.
And, for the sake of completeness, the Fijian Visitors Bureau and the Fijian Embassy in the US:

Quote:
Requirements for Applicants from Exempted Countries

* A valid passport that does not expire within 3 months from the date of departure from Fiji;
* Return air tickets showing the date of departure from Fiji or the country of your next visit;
* Sufficient funds for holiday
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Old Mar 9, 2009, 4:24 AM
Leatherboy2006 Leatherboy2006 is offline
 
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Considering that the US requires fingerprinting and photo's of non-citizens that enter the USA, we are lucky we are not treated worse then we are when we travel overseas's. Entering various other countries I have had to prove that I held a return ticket. Ironically the original post mentioned Air New Zealand(and while I love New Zealand, very pretty country and friendly) they were one of the countries I have been to that wanted to see my return to the USA ticket before they would let me in(that was in the customs area in Auckland).
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Old Mar 9, 2009, 7:19 AM
Trvlr Trvlr is offline
 
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dc2las: I'm not sure who you are accusing of "blowing things out of proportion"; me, or the control-freak airline employee. Quite frankly, forcing someone to spend over $500 US they don't have to is not something I consider to be "no big deal", neither is delaying a flight for said purpose, nor is lying about your position and authority to blow off their valid complaints, nor is arbitrarily enforcing inconsistent regulations to the monetary and emotional detriment of passengers. This is called "discrimination", is illegal, and hence is actionable in the US at least.

To begin with, the information you display is not consistent with the information which was displayed on the computer screen in Sydney (which I saw), furthermore, it is not consistent with the information I obtained at the time from the Fijian immigration website - these policies and/or the wording of them may have changed since my flight (it was in August 08 - I made a mistake on the month because I took several flights last year and I was unable to edit my post), nor is the information consistent with itself: Timatic makes no mention of proof of funds, the US state department web site is updated how often - and where does this information come from, the US?, and, "for the sake of completeness", your last bit of info, if I am reading your source correctly, comes from a US based WEBSITE as well, and "Sufficient funds for holiday" is not exactly a quantitative phrase and definitely is not synonymous with "PROOF of funds required for duration of stay" (in the amount of X dollars per week for example). Furthermore, this information is not REMOTELY consistent with the information I received DIRECTLY, FROM A FIJIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICER IN FIJI. Even the Air Pathetic pilot in Nadi verified the statements of the FIJIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICER. The inaccuracy of web-based information in fact, is the excuse Luisa used to invalidate the copy of the Fijian web page I brought to the airport! My reply to her was, how can you trust the information on your computer then, and more importantly, why the hell should I? (Remember, I'd received inaccurate information from a representative of this airline before.) She had no response but stonewalling, so I told her, if I arrive in Fiji and immigration has a problem with no onward travel ticket, I will just show them the page from their own website, if they say it is inaccurate, then I'll say "fine, honest mistake, I'm at the airport, I'll purchase a ticket for outbound travel right now". Of course, this was unacceptable to the control-freak - and yet you have the nerve to accuse me of "blowing things out of proportion" when Luisa knew, I WAS CARRYING ON MY PERSON computer equipment (I had an iMac also) worth enough to support a FAMILY in Fiji for the next 2 years? She never asked me to prove funds, even though supposedly it was just as strict a requirement as 'outbound travel' (I told her I had sufficient funds to exempt me from the 'onward travel' rule as well.) The FIJIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICER AT NADI AIRPORT apologized for Luisa's behavior (because she "blew things out of proportion") and told me flat out that even if they had checked for an 'onward travel' ticket I could have done exactly as I proposed to Luisa and it wouldn't have been a problem AT ALL, and, judging by my appearance and obvious access to funds, they wouldn't even have demanded I do so. Furthermore, the FIJIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICER told me that everyone (airport and airline staff), especially someone like Luisa, who was FIJIAN, knew immigration didn't check such things (think about it, this is Fiji, they simply don't have the funds to hire the manpower necessary to enforce everything) and certainly no fuss would be made over an American with obvious means. In fact, the FIJIAN IMMIGRATION OFFICER AT NADI AIRPORT had a smirk on her face during our entire conversation, and the gentle shaking of her head back and forth as I related the debacle in Sydney to her, as over a hundred passengers passed by us without being checked for tickets or funds, spoke volumes about how I'd been knowingly screwed over by Kingsford-Smith staff who "BLEW THINGS OUT OF PROPORTION."
Usually, I don't reply to ignorant responses like the garbage you've posted, but when I read yours, I just had to - right back at you tough guy.

Leatherboy2006: Actually, US citizens are not "lucky" we aren't harassed more when we enter foreign countries - we are just "richer" and more "powerful", having as I'm sure you know, the strongest economy and military force in the world, foreign countries want Americans as allies and for American tourists to spend American dollars in their country and hence, facilitate this spending.
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Old Jun 17, 2011, 5:31 AM
Soccer Gal Soccer Gal is offline
 
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As I boarded the plane in Nadi, I noticed paper towels stuffed in the air
vents over the top of my seat. The flight crew came through while everyone
was boarding and would dab the water on the ceiling and replace the napkins.
Passengers were also expressing their curiosity and concern in the
surrounding seats. It was rather warm and humid outside from thunderstorms,
thus they were running the air conditioning on high to keep the cabin
comfortable during boarding. Occasionally, I would feel a drip, but the
flight attendant apologized stating that the air conditioning caused
condensation and it would cease upon taking off. I thought it was not a big
deal and seemed like a reasonable explanation, so I did not think much about
it.
Upon taking off, it became a big deal. A large amount of water dumped on my
head, body, the floor, and my until the plane leveled out at altitude. I held
a blanket over my head to try to shield my face from the smelly water, but
this was a lost cause. The water was running through the blanket down my arms
and all over my head and torso. The water soaked me clear through all my
clothes and shoes. It was like taking a dirty shower in my seat with
my clothes on. My makeup was running down my face, hair was soaked, and I
was just miserable. I was captive in my seat for about 15 minutes as the
seat belt sign was on and all passengers and crew had to remain seated.
Since the crew was seated right behind me, they were well aware of what was
happening.
Upon the seat belt sign being turned off, the flight crew came running and
were very apologetic. The flight crew was limited in their options as the
plane was full so there was nothing they could do to fix the fact that I was
soaked. I went to the restroom to try and wash the dirty water and now
misplaced makeup off my face.
The flight attendant stated that the plane is in disrepair, they have
reported the leaking issue many times and this was not the first incident
where a passenger experienced a big, wet mess. Why on earth would Air
Pacific continue flying a broken airplane? Other passengers were asking
about the safety of the airplane and if the water would cause a bigger
crack. It was scary for all of us.
The flight attendant found an open seat in the very last row of the plane
for me to sit in as it was dry. I was asked to fill out a form and I
complied. Again, the flight attendant felt horrible, expressed his
disapproval of the situation and gave his condolences many times. He gave me
blankets to wrap myself in to keep warm. He was very helpful to the best of
his abilities. I remained pleasant throughout the flight and tried to make
the best of the situation. My clothes, even my undergarments were still wet
when we landed in LAX.
Since the flight, my life has been upended and I have suffered from
illness. I have been sick for more than a week with a head cold, congestion
and sore throat that caused me to lose my voice. This is a result of being
soaked from filthy water in an air conditioning pump for this horrendous ten
hour flight all the while re-circulated air was passing over me. I sought a
doctor's care mid-last week and was told to rest and take cold medicine, my
body would have to expel the infection over time. The rash on my face has left a red mark, but will hopefully heal.
This experience has made my Fiji trip memorable, in a bad way. My jacket was
ruined from the water as it was dry clean only clothing. My Italian leather
sandals are also misshapen and destroyed from the mass influx of water. Extreme empathy goes out to the other passengers that have
experienced this same horrible situation.

I contacted Air Pacific, they responded that the leaks were not that bad and not a a safety issue. The Captain of the flight was aware of the leaks and choose to fly anyway. There were no incident reports filed by the crew. Air Pacific claims no responsibility and does not have to abide by US standards for maintenance, even though they fly into the US.

Based upon this experience, I would highly advise against flying Air Pacific.
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