September 27, 2023

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Seventeen Flemings stranded in South Africa will return to our country this week: ‘Everyone will be home by Friday at the latest’ |  News

Seventeen Flemings stranded in South Africa will return to our country this week: ‘Everyone will be home by Friday at the latest’ | News

to updateSeventeen Flemish travelers are currently stuck in South Africa after spending two weeks in Namibia on a safari organized by travel agency De Blauwe Vogel in Sint-Truiden. Last weekend the Flemings were supposed to return home, but their flight was canceled due to a strike. The travelers were then sent to South Africa to catch the flight, but once there they were left to fend for themselves. Tom Coessens, one of the stranded travelers, told his story this morning on HLN LIVE. Meanwhile, De Blauwe Vogel announced that the Flemings could return home by Friday at the latest.

After a two-week safari in Namibia, organized by travel agency De Blauwe Vogel in Sint-Truiden, the seventeen travelers were supposed to travel normally from the Namibian capital Windhoek to Frankfurt last Saturday. “But at the airport we were told that the flight had been cancelled,” says Tom Cousins. The airlines Lufthansa and Qatar Airways reportedly canceled their flights due to a conflict with ground staff in Windhoek.

The Flemings tried to contact De Blauwe Vogel several times, but the travel agency could only be reached during business hours – not on the weekend. “Our only point of contact was our local travel guide,” says Tom. On Saturday, the travelers were accommodated in a hotel in Windhoek. On Sunday, on the recommendation of their travel guide, they were sent to South Africa to take a trip to Europe from there. The team flew – at their own expense – to Johannesburg on an AirLink flight. But once she arrived, things went wrong.

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“We got to the airport really late, so we had to book a hotel on our own,” says Tom. “Now it’s Monday and we’re still stuck here,” he complains. Travelers say they received no information from De Blauwe Vogel.

According to Tom, the Flemings also include minors, people who urgently need medicines, and people who actually have to go to work. Travelers feel abandoned. “Things like this can happen, but you would at least expect the travel agency to provide a solution,” says Tom. “The fact that we have to wait until 10 o’clock on Monday, when business hours begin, is a hallucination for a travel agency.”

Lufthansa advised the Flemings to return on 31 August, in ten days. But of course the travelers thought that was too long. “This is ridiculous, we almost have to laugh about it.”

Fleming home by Friday at the latest

De Blaue Vogel spoke in his first reaction of an “unfortunate situation”. Our goal is to get our customer, who is stranded along with 170 other passengers, home as quickly as possible. Of course, if it were up to us, that plane would have left on time. We are facing unexpected events in our sector.

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look. CFO De Blauwe Vogel: “Maybe we should have communicated better with customers”

Meanwhile, the travel agency says it has found a solution. “All clients have been repatriated by air via different routes. Some leave today and tomorrow, and another arrive home on Friday morning. The group of seventeen people will be divided into four to five flights,” reports Julien Komnenos Carlier, chief financial officer of De Blauwe Vogel. Comninos-Carlier acknowledges that the travel agency should have communicated more clearly. “But we didn’t have a solution right away, so we couldn’t communicate it to customers. That’s why it took until today,” it seems.

This isn’t the first time De Blauwe Vogel’s credibility has been discredited. In May 2020, 78 Belgians filed a joint complaint against the travel agency after four Belgian travelers died of coronavirus two months earlier on a cruise across the Caribbean. Travelers complained at the time: “The organization impressed us that everything was safe, but they just played with our lives.”

look. Belgians file a complaint against a travel agency after four coronavirus deaths aboard a cruise

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