Wednesday, September 24, 2008


XL lamentations

When I started this blog I said to myself that I'd try and avoid moaning and complaining. There is enough positive stuff to write about Corsica to fill any number of blogs. However, I know I should tell you about the collapse of Excel Airways and how it affected two people's travel plans.

We were approaching the end of a two-week stay in Corsica when we received a text message from our on-the-ball son John. "I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but has gone bust." It was 12th September and we were due to fly home with XL on 14th - what to do? Our first step was to call Bastia Airport to see what was happening. Much to our surprise, they knew nothing about XL's demise and said as far as they were concerned, the Sunday flight would run as usual! I guess we were ahead of the game.

There then followed an intensive morning of calls to XL, to XL's receiver, and to the CAA. Just as we were about to get some (perhaps) worthwhile info from the CAA, the credit on our French mobile ran out and we were cut off. After a fruitless morning in an Internet cafe - where we learnt that as we'd booked direct with we'd have to make our own way home - we decided to drive to Bastia airport (a 1.5 hour drive) and pin someone to a desk to establish what was going on. All they were able to tell us was that we might be able to get home via easyJet, and gave us the telephone number. Needless to say, easyJet couldn't fly us home from Bastia until a week later, and it was going to cost us an arm and a leg.

So we reluctantly decided to arrange a ferry to Nice, stay overnight there and fly back with easyJet from Nice the next day. Our friends Isy and JP let us use their computer to book everything up, so we went to bed that night somewhat poorer but relaxed in the knowledge that our travel plans were sorted.

We boarded the 4pm Sunday SNCM ferry from Calvi to Nice. Due to cancellations and storms, the boat was delayed by nearly two hours, and it didn't arrive in Nice until 9.45 pm. By this time, all the buses had stopped for the night and there were no taxis or shuttles running from the port. So we began to walk to our hotel (Ibis), each of us carrying a rucksack and pulling a heavy case with a fortnight's luggage inside. After about 1km, we were extremely tired, fed up, and lost. Fortunately we asked a couple of friendly lads for directions and they suggested we get a night tram to the station, from where we were able to walk to the hotel.

By then it was 10.45pm, and the Ibis's restaurant had shut for the night. And we were starving. But they were still selling bar meals and serving wine. Microwaved lasagne and a bottle of cheap Provencale rosé never tasted so good.

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