She was once stranded by a volcano in England. This time, Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer ended a bucolic Maui holiday in luxury hell after being waylaid by a plane’s mechanical problems.
While there are worse places to be stuck than a Hawaiian island, “this was not fun,” stressed the former Red Deer City councillor, who finally returned home on Sunday night — four gruelling days after her Thursday flight was cancelled.
She and her husband Dennis were among 200 passengers who were put up in a $500-a-night hotel by WestJet while waiting for plane repairs. Despite being in luxurious accommodations frequented by film stars, the couple had to pay for all their own meals and endure being shuffled back and forth to the airport every day.
The worst was the “hurry up and wait,” and uncertainty of not knowing what was happening because of poor communications by WestJet, said Watkinson-Zimmer.
“A friend of mine said, ‘I’m not going anywhere with you after this,’ ” she added, because of Watkinson-Zimmer’s travelling follies.
In 2010, the city business owner and former city councillor had to spend an extra eight days in England after all flights were grounded because of volcanic dust from eruptions in Iceland.
That was inconvenient, but also a rather nice layover, recalled Watkinson-Zimmer, who went on hikes every day, and was fed and put up by relatives.
The Maui mishap was much worse.
After an eight-hour delay at the airport, the Red Deer couple and other WestJet passengers were finally told their plane could not be repaired on Thursday, so were bused to the five-star hotel for the night.
On Friday, they were shuttled back to the airport, only to find out four hours later that the plane was still broken down.
After spending another night at the hotel, they were told a rescue plane was coming on Saturday. But when they arrived at the airport, no plane was seen in the docking bay. It turned out the rescue plane had blown both tires while landing.
Back to the hotel again for more meals for two that cost from $80 to $100, said Watkinson-Zimmer, who was finally flown home with her husband on Sunday.
WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer declined to comment on specific customer complaints.
“We think the most effective and appropriate method of resolving concerns is by direct communication with our guests. We look forward to speaking with Ms. Watkinson-Zimmer.”
The couple intended to send the company a bill for meal expenses and the cost of paying staff at her Comforts the Sole store for extra shifts during her unexpected layover.
But after the Advocate contacted WestJet, the company called Watkinson-Zimmer and her husband on Tuesday and gave each of them a $1,000 travel voucher in compensation for their inconvenience and some incurred expenses.