Patagonia disaster

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Patagonia disaster

Postby NYTraveler » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:48 pm

For any potential travelers thinking of taking one of G Adventures’ trips that it subcontracts out to a local travel agency, I want to warn you: don’t do it, you’re better off booking something yourself. Just my opinion, but read about my experience and make up your own mind.

In December I registered for “Trekking the Full Torres Del Paine Circuit” (SCPT), a 9-day, 80-mile hike in Chilean Patagonia in February, and it was a disaster. Scheduled to fly from the US to Santiago on 2/8/13, a massive blizzard (Nemo) slammed the east coast of North America and cancelled all flights at all airports within 500 miles. OK, I’ll be a day late, I thought, G Adventures will help me catch up with my group, right?

Wrong.

I called G Adventures’ Toronto office on Friday morning (2/8) to tell them I’d be a day late. They said they would call me back in a couple hours – they did, telling me they are working to reschedule my connections and would provide me with the details….except they never did. I waited, waited….finally called them back on Saturday morning, asking again how I’d catch up with my group. After about a 20-minute wait they told me I was out of luck, there was nothing they could do.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Well, they said, to catch up with my group I had to re-schedule a fly with “Sky Airlines” except Sky Airlines’ office is closed on weekends and it’s Saturday. OK, except I didn’t call you on Saturday, I told you on FRIDAY, what were you doing for the last 24 hours? Nothing, apparently.

Can I reschedule this trip to another departure? No, they said. Can I use the money I paid for this trip toward another trip? Absolutely not, they said.

With no choice but to catch up with my group, I spoke with a second G Adventures phone representative who not only lectured me on “how difficult it is” to reschedule things in South America, but that it was "extra hard on the weekends." NO KIDDING, THAT’S WHY I PAID A TRAVEL AGENCY (G Adventures) TO TAKE CARE OF THIS FOR ME.

I spoke with 3 G Adventures phone representatives in total, all 3 told me I should call their Buenos Aires office instead. Why don’t YOU call your Buenos Aires office? Why am I coordinating between two different arms of your company? Then when I finally threw in the towel and did call the BA office, no one answered with no answering machine. Of course.

I did make it to Santiago a day late and after a mad dash through the airport barely made the next Sky Airlines flight to Punta Arenas. OK, halfway there no thanks to GA, but now what?

My group was in a little town called Puerto Natales, about a 3-hour drive from the airport in Punta Arenas. To get there you need to take a $9 bus ride…except G Adventures did not reserve a bus spot for me when I called on Friday, and being Sunday night all the local buses were now full, so I had to take a $180 taxi ride to catch up with the group.

At the end of the day I did meet up with the trip and was able to do the hike, but the stress and extra $$$ I paid were completely unwarranted had G Adventures been willing to help me when I called them originally and told them about the delay. I would have been much better off making my plans directly.

Look, I’m not asking for special treatment. I realize weather disasters happen, travel agencies can’t control mother nature, that’s what travel insurance is for. But what I did expect was that when I called on Friday morning that G Adventures would have helped me reschedule my flight and my ground transportation, instead they did absolutely nothing. What kind of travel agency doesn’t help you reschedule flights and buses?

What’s really sad about this is this was my 7th G Adventures trip. I’d done:

Discover Japan (2008)
The Egyptian Journey (2009)
Kruger Delta Falls (2010)
Costa Rica Explorer (2010)
Peru Hike Bike Raft (2011)
Roam China: Hong Kong to Beijing (2012)

and finally

Trekking the Full Torres Del Paine Circuit (2013).

After 5 years, 7 trips and spending nearly $18,000 with G Adventures I would have thought they would have at least have been willing to help me coordinate things when inclement weather hit but I either got the run-around or was ignored.

I would say for trips that G Adventures directly runs, they’re great, that’s why I did 6 before this one, but for ones it subcontracts out (in this case, to a Puerto Natales company called Antares), you’re clearly better off hiring a local agency. It would have been cheaper and easier to just book with a local outfitter.

Fellow travelers, call the company and ask if your trip is subcontracted out to a local group; if it is, don’t do it, from my personal experience I don't think G Adventures is very good at coordinating with their local offices or subcontractors. But that's just my opinion. It’s sad but I will never use G Adventures again…thanks for the memories.
Last edited by NYTraveler on Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Patagonia disaster

Postby DanielBMe » Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:51 pm

Wow! I definitely have to say I think G did drop the ball on this one if that's how it went. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt for now. I'm curious as to why you are reporting this now when the trip was in Dec?

If they couldn't do anything for you on Friday they should have said so. Since you called them early in the morning they had plenty of time to check what they could do and call you back on the same day giving you a chance to make your own arrangements if they couldn't help. The fact that they didn't, knowing a weekend was coming up was pretty crappy!

I'm quite shocked that at the least they didn't let you reschedule. It was a pretty big blizzard that impacted quite a lot of flights. Now, having said that, you should have had cancellation insurance to cover you in instances like this. I get cancellation insurance from my MasterCard. But in the case of the blizzard that hit north America, G should have been more open to rescheduling considering how many trips you've taken with them.

I also don't think it should have been your job having to call their BA offices. I've always had good experiences with G but if something like this happened to me, I'd think twice about where I spend my dollars in the future.

Overall I would say that was very poor customer service and they dropped the ball on this one.
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Re: Patagonia disaster

Postby NYTraveler » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:17 am

Hey Daniel,

I booked in December but the trip was in mid-February, I just got back last week.

Like you I have cancellation insurance through my credit card so I wasn't worried about not getting most of my money back, but obviously it would have been a big letdown. Especially if it didn't happen solely because G Adventures wasn't willing to help me reschedule my flight and bus ride.

Not sure what happened or why they were so unwilling to assist me, but like I said, as someone who's done 7 trips with them, anything they subcontract out seems to much more poorly run.

Just my two cents.
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Re: Patagonia disaster

Postby Zuleika » Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:45 pm

You only ever find out how good a company is when things go wrong. Its easy when things are going right and plain sailing.
Your experience sounds as though G are woefully inept.
I wonder if customer services on here have anything to say.
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Re: Patagonia disaster

Postby tony » Tue May 28, 2013 3:13 pm

I wanted to thank our client for bringing these issue to the attention of our Customer Service team and of course to apologize unreservedly for what was obviously an extremely upsetting and frustrating experience. After our client returned from his trip our Customer Service team did receive a direct communication regarding these concerns and of course we responded at the time. We actually do have very client friendly policies in place for when disasters such as these strike and in this case I can see that a lack of clear communication meant that they were not enacted as they should have been. When a client is delayed through no fault of their own our commitment is to do everything within our power to assist them in joining their tour. Our 24/7 telephone service is designed to support this commitment. If it is simply not logistically possible for the client to join their tour then we will work with insurance providers and our operations teams to allow clients to transfer to an alternative G Adventures tour for minimal or, if possible, no additional expense. We did try to put this right as a customer service issue but sometimes we really do have to raise our hand and admit that we dropped the ball and this was definitely one of those cases. This experience was definitely not what our clients should come to expect from G Adventures and there are many important lessons that we have learned from this. It pains us a great deal to lose a client that has travelled with us so many times and we must and will do better.
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