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Dream family holiday turned travel nightmare
Our dream holiday began when the loss of a friend served as a jarring reminder that there are no guarantees in life. Grateful that my family was fit and able, we booked the trip of a lifetime to the Maldives.
Little did we know at the time that we’d never reach our destination. A freak fog and sudden bout of illness saw to that. This is how our dream vacation quickly turned into a nightmare.
A foggy delay
It wasn’t the 14-hour flight from Brisbane to Dubai with two young kids that unravelled us, but the connecting four-hour flight to the Maldives.
A thick fog had descended on the airport, trapping us on the tarmac for seven hours. We were advised to remain in the ‘ready for take-off’ position with the only entertainment for the kids being our countless renditions of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. Tensions were high.
Several first-class passengers demanded to disembark the flight. There was pandemonium while our plane abandoned its position and returned to the gate. We were forced into a chaotic terminal where planeloads of disgruntled passengers formed queues that snaked the length of the lobby. All we could do was join the ever-growing line, taking five hours to reach the front.
To make matters worse, a slight twinge in my stomach became ferocious cramps during the on-board delay. I drifted in and out of feverish sleep, willing my way towards the Maldives.
Returning to the terminal, I found a corner to curl up in while the kids slept in borrowed strollers. At some point I fainted, and next thing I knew I was being escorted to the airport medical centre in a wheelchair. After an hour or two of waiting, the doctor briskly diagnosed me with gastro, deemed me unfit to fly and simply popped a few Aspirins in my hand. I hugged the terminal walls while creeping back to the Emirates desk, returning to two exhausted kids and a husband trying to hold it together.
Our flight was officially cancelled 18 hours after we first boarded. The next available flight was not for four days – our anticipated return date.
Left with no other choice, we finally surrendered our holiday and found ourselves stranded in Dubai as we awaited our return flight (which inevitably took four days anyway).
We were told our luggage would meet us in Dubai, and so we waited. However, after 22 hours, with no more nappies and two hungry kids, we took the advice from our travel insurance provider’s emergency assistance team and booked temporary accommodation.
We arrived at the hotel 38 hours after departing Brisbane, thankful for a shower, cosy bed, food and water. A doctor, less frazzled than the airport staff, provided in-room treatment, antibiotics for my gastro infection and an IV drip for dehydration.
The luggage did eventually arrive… two days after our return home.
Thank goodness for travel insurance
- Emergency accommodation: Our Dubai hotel accommodation for the family, including transportation to the hotel, was covered due to sickness.
- Delayed luggage allowance: We were without our luggage for the entire stay (more than 72 hours) and were granted the maximum sum of money for the purchase of essential items.
- Medical assistance: We were reimbursed for the emergency home doctor consultation, a nurse to administer the treatment, tests and medicines.
- Trip delay: Because our trip was delayed by weather, costs for meals and expenses were covered until we resumed our trip.
- 24-hour emergency assistance: Throughout our ordeal, we were in contact with the 24-hour insurance assistance team. They explained what we were entitled to claim, and it was nice to know a sympathetic Aussie was on the phone regardless of time zones.
Learn from our travel insurance mistakes
Only after making a claim did we realise the pros and cons of our insurance policy. Had we bought the right level of insurance cover, we would not have had to pay as much out of pocket. Here’s what our ordeal taught us to consider:
- Travel delay or emergency accommodation: We assumed we were covered for both the emergency accommodation in Dubai and our pre-booked non-refundable hotel costs in the Maldives. Most insurance policies cover the most expensive accommodation, but not both.
- Opt for $0 excess: Pay a little more on the premium to have a low or $0 excess, as we claimed against multiple sections of cover and were stung with a $500 fee for each section (for a total of $2,000 excess).
- Make sure the benefit is enough for all family members: In our situation, we had $375 to cover all emergency essentials purchased from the shopping mall closest to our hotel. It was a stretch to buy a set of clothes, PJs, nappies and toiletries for the entire family.
- Obtain written confirmation: Most insurance policies require written confirmation of medical conditions before covering subsequent medical costs and expenses. This also applies to cancellations caused by the transport provider – it’s important to have it in writing on the day it occurs.
Although we hope to never endure such a nightmarish travel experience again, we know that if we ever need accommodation, healthcare or recovery of holiday costs, our travel insurance has us covered. The security our policy offers is the reason we will never travel without it.
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Rene Young is an Award-winning travel blogger over on Together We Roam.
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