Stranded ... Diane Lainey, Karen Blanchard, Jennifer Gray, James Lainey, Brett and Mick Gray with Can-Teen supporter Ayman.
Stranded ... Diane Lainey, Karen Blanchard, Jennifer Gray, James Lainey, Brett and Mick Gray with Can-Teen supporter Ayman.

Holiday hell!

By BELINDA SCOTT

HOW would you cope if the bill for your family group holiday suddenly increased by $6000 while you were waiting to board your plane?

For many of us, it would mean no holiday at all - a group of six Coffs Harbour holiday makers say they only managed it on Saturday with a flurry of phone banking and funds transfers.

Karen Blanchard was one of a group of six Coffs Coast holidaymakers who missed their connecting flight to Melbourne and their overseas flight to Bali after mechanical problems kept their Virgin Blue aircraft on the tarmac in Coffs Harbour for more than five hours on Saturday.

The group were forced to buy new overseas flights, upgrade to business class and change the city they left Australia from as well as having to pay for a night's accommodation in Sydney while losing a night's accommodation in Bali.

The group of family and friends was coming together from Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania to rendezvous in Bali, celebrate a 21st birthday and enjoy an 18-day holiday break.

"It has cost us $1000 each or $6000 all up," Ms Blanchard said.

"And my sister, who has never been overseas before, had to fly to Bali without us."

One of the holiday group had to wait in Sydney because her mother in Coffs Harbour had both her ticket and her passport.

She said while the delay was not the airline's fault and they had done the right thing by looking after the passengers' safety and aborting the flight, it was not her group's fault, either and they were hoping to hold talks with Virgin Blue on their return from Bali to see if they could gain some compensation.

Still in Sydney yesterday, but expecting to be in Denpasar by 10pm, 24 hours later than planned, she said so far calls to Virgin Blue, Jetstar and their travel insurance company Cover-More Travel Insurance had left them with no indication that they would be able to recover any of their extra costs.

Cover-More's website identifies claims caused by delays or e-scheduling by the transport provider, other than those caused by strikes or weather, as being excluded from its travel insurance cover.

Karen Blanchard said DJ-796, the 9am Saturday flight to Sydney, had been aborted when they were taxiing down the runway at high speed and about to take off.

"It was something to do with the air speed indicator," she said.

Passengers were unloaded while Virgin Blue staff went to work on the plane, which was reportedly stranded in Coffs Harbour for seven hours.

Time ticked away as Virgin Blue staff had to call an engineer from Sydney and the group was unable to get seats on other Qantas flights to Sydney.

The holidaymakers eventually left Coffs Harbour at 4pm on Saturday.

Ms Blanchard said Virgin Blue re-credited the cost of their Coffs Harbour-Sydney flight, gave them lunch vouchers and provided them with free in-flight drinks and entertainment.



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