Denpasar, Indonesia: I watched two frogs yesterday leap from ornamental fountain to ornamental lily pad. I know how they feel.
Right now, I am about to embark on a journey from here to Ireland. But I have no idea whether I’ll be able to get there or when. Nor indeed exactly how things will work out.
When I planned this break to Bali, I had no idea that the world as I and we know it would come to a crashing halt. No one else did either.
My route here was simple enough. A quick 90 minutes on a KLM flight from Dublin to Amsterdam, transfer to another KLM flight to Denpasar and that included a 90-minute technical layover in Singapore for refuelling.
But that was when the world was normal and worked the way we knew it did.
Now, my life as a frog begins, and I am about to hop it back to Ireland whatever way I can.
The first indication that I would be somewhat delayed came about a week ago, in a text message from KLM advising that my 12 noon flight from Amsterdam to Dublin had been cancelled. But moments later another came saying that I was rebooked on a 4pm flight. No worries, just a bit longer of a layover in Schiphol.
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Then four days ago came another text, this one advising that 4pm flight was cancelled. But no follow up text for another rebooking came. Normally, with this level of disruption, you would expect the airline to accommodate you with a hotel until it can get you on the rest of the journey.
KLM’s only advice was that I could claim a refund for that portion of the ticket. In the meantime, I found an Aer Lingus flight from Amsterdam to Dublin at 1pm, so the overall delay from the original flight plans was pretty straight forward and just an hour late. Which can happen in the best of times.
But these are not the best of times.
Two days ago, Singapore announced that it was stopping transit passengers. I managed to convince myself that since the flight stopover in Singapore was just for refuelling, I wouldn’t be affected. After all, we could just sit one the plane. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait for the check-in window to appear from KLM for my flight from Bali to Amsterdam. No sooner than it had than I received a text and an email advising that that flight was cancelled.
OK, so no need to panic just yet. No doubt KLM will make alternative arrangements. After three hours on hold, I finally talk to an agent who advises that there are no more flights, that I can’t be rebooked until May, and that I just have to wait it out in Bali.
That’s not going to happen. I need a Plan B, or C, or any other plan.
One thing that important to remember in this time of crisis, if you book through a third-party reseller of flights, you have a much harder time being changed or seeking redress. Thankfully, I’ve just dealt with the carriers themselves, cutting out the middle man. “Deal with the butcher not the block,” as my father would put it.
All of the UAE airlines are grounded. That option through Abu Dhabi or Dubai isn’t possible. And adding confusion is that because Wednesday is the Balinese New Year and it observes full and complete silence, there are no flights even in the best of times… and these are not the best of times.
I booked a flight to Jakarta. At least from there I have options remaining – but only as long as airlines keep flying.
There’s a Japan Airlines from Jakarta to Toyko with a five-hour layover, then onto London. I’m working on that – and that means circumnavigating the globe to get home.
I’m also looking at Aeroflot through Moscow. And at another Gulf carrier who cannot be named getting me onto London. At least as things stand right now, there are flights from London to Dublin. And if worse comes to worst, I can hole up in the United Kingdom and be locked down like everyone else.
I have also remembered to cancel the Aer Lingus Amsterdam to Dublin flight. I can’t see myself getting to Amsterdam now in time for that.
But I have to get off Bali first.
I’m also looking at things through Istanbul, Zurich and Frankfurt. But I have to get to Jakarta to make it all happen and for things to line up.
The lily pads where I can land are starting to close. Who knows where things will end up. Fingers crossed – but let this great adventure begin in earnest. A frog from lily pad to lily pad. More like Philias Fogg, the main character from Around the World in 80 days. Let’s hope it won’t take that long. Stay tuned.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe