So after having it splashed out on The Rock’s main Sunday paper (on May the 1st) that the Maltese Government would be offering subsidized flights for Maltese citizens living abroad to return to The Rock in order to vote for the divorce referendum on May the 28th, the much-awaited press release was finally issued yesterday.
A Maltese land-line was given to call to make the booking. Something I can not understand. If the flights are offered for expatriates, shouldn’t there have been a local number from the countries where the service would be offered to and fro? But no. We were given a Maltese based number, left holding the line for up to 40 minutes, and then having the line fall dead in our ears. I drained my phone credit, A used up his break hour and his overseas-calling minutes and who knows what the landline bill will come to this month…Annoying much? Especially as after 3pm until 9 this morning, all I heard when dialing the number, was the busy tone. My mother went to the Air Malta offices, but they told her that they had nothing to do with the booking of the tickets. The knowledgeable clerk told her that they fell under the responsibility of … get this ….the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
So this morning I woke up at an early hour, and started calling. Like I said, all I got was the busy ring. I found the OPM’s number who told me that they had only reached an agreement about subsidizing the flights and that the booking and management of the flights fell all under control of Air Malta. Looking at our national air travel’s Facebook page, I was enraged to find that tickets were being sold at the Air Malta desk in the Departure Lounge at MIA. Because of course, no one from Air Malta said that that was possible, nor was any announcement from anyone else, ever made. So I called the Air Malta Customer Care who, when eventually reached, told me that while she understood my position, could do nothing because the referendum ticket section was a separate department from her own. To further anger me she told me that while I was talking to her only four calls were on hold for the referendum number, but by the end of the call she told me that there were fifteen calls waiting. I don’t know whether she was trying to impart as much information as she had, or whether she really wanted to wind me up. If it was the latter, she fully managed.
So what to do? I lay on my bed, mobile in hand, calling the (by-now) damned number, and automatically pressing Redial when the busy tone came up. After another 25 minutes of this, I was finally through!! Though that bubble soon burst for me, when I was told that all flights from London were fully booked and the first available flight was for Tuesday before the referendum. I was offered alternative flights from Newcastle and/or Manchester, so I had to explain that those were just a tad too far up north for me.
So, after a total of nearly three hours, £15 phone credit, the batteries of two mobile phones, plus the yet unknown landline bill later, I am without tickets. I was told that additional flights would perhaps be put up later on this week, but I am done with trying to acquire these blessed subsidized tickets. They’re simply not worth the hassle, anger, swearing and stress.
One thing that truly irked me is this. If the flights were offered to Maltese people living abroad, why give a Maltese landline as the number to call? Why, in England’s case, wasn’t the Air Malta branch in London able to take bookings, and were clearly left in the dark when I called them and asked them why I could not book through their department. A stuttering semi-response was all I got. Being put on hold for nearly an hour and not getting through, and then having your phone call suddenly cut off, is not what I call a friendly customer care service. I understand the busy state of their offices with all the phone calls coming in all at once, but come on, they could have done better! Perhaps having more than one number to call? Making it known from the start that bookings could be made from MIA and leaving the phone free for foreign people trying to get through considering this was their only means of booking a flight? Preparing for the major influx of calls by having more phone operators on call? And maybe, just maybe, making the service available earlier than two weeks before the flight dates. So while I’m not really bothered about missing the referendum vote, I am disappointed with the service offered, especially when I consider the fact that for the past 3+ years, A and myself have been using Air Malta to travel to and from England – Malta on a monthly basis, and for the sake of my heart’s stability, I won’t even start calculating how much we have forked out for this.
But no. We had nothing of the sort. All I got was a higher-than-usual level of acidity in my stomach, a headache, an ungodly urge for a cigarette and nope, no tickets at hand. Oh and I must go to church for confession, because one curse too many escaped my mouth….