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Finnair passengers stranded in Bangkok vent frustration at airline
Thai state paying travellers’ hotel costs
Why won’t Finnair provide travellers with information? How long do we still have to wait? Who will pay for the extra nights at hotels.
There was tension in the air when dozens of Finns, who have been stranded in Thailand because of the closure of Bangkok’s international airport, tried to get answers at an information briefing arranged by Finnair at the Montien Hotel in Bangkok on Monday.
Finnair said that the situation would ease as of Thursday, when the company starts a second daily relief flight from Phuket in the south of Thailand to Helsinki. Thai officials granted Finnair permission for an extra flight on Monday.
“From Thursday, the pace of unravelling the backlog will double”, said Heidi Ahonen, head of Finnair sales for the Asian region.
Thai officials estimate that travel plans of at least 300,000 people have been affected by the closure of Bangkok’s international airport - one of the world’s largest - due to political unrest.
The Finnair passengers complained that they have not received any information about replacement flights, and they have not managed to get through to Finnair’s service number.
“We tried to call all day. Now we came here to the hotel to work this out”, said Jonne Katainen.
Finnair set up a temporary service point at the Montien Hotel, which offered served 500 people on Sunday. On Tuesday service points were also opened at the beach resort towns of Hua Hin and Pattaya.
Finnair says that about 1,700 people are trying to get on its flights out of the country, half of whom are Finns. The number is growing, as more people keep arriving in Bangkok from the beach resorts than can be handled.
Finnair is paying for one night at the Montien Hotel, and is offering a free bus ride to Phuket. From Thursday, Finnair will be able to fly about 600 passengers a day from Phuket to Helsinki. The airline is first sending back those who have waited longest. Priority is given to those who are ill, as well as the elderly, and families with children.
Finnair says that it is doing its best in the confused situation.
“We have sent SMS messages to all passengers. It was only two days later that we learned that not all of the messages went through”, Ahonen said.
Ahonen blamed the Thai telephone system for the problems that passengers have had reaching Finnair’s service numbers.
“That is strange. Calls, text messages and multimedia messages have worked well on our phones”, says Riitta Tuominen from Tampere.
Thailand has become increasingly popular as a travel destination for Finns. The Finnish Embassy in Bangkok estimates that by the end of this year about 150,000 Finns will have travelled to Thailand for a holiday, business, or other purposes.
The airport shutdown is affecting many airlines. Douglas Janes from the Untied States, lashed out at United Airlines, which has not organised any replacement flights.
“Now I’m trying to get to Singapore at my own expense, and to move on from there. The airline is not paying for a single hotel night.
There are also many passengers around the world who would like to go to Thailand, but access is difficult.
Finnair is not flying any new passengers to Thailand on its scheduled flights.
The closure of the two airports in Bangkok has especially affected individual travellers reliant on scheduled flights. The charter flights to Phuket serving those on package tours have continued normally.
Finnish Ambassador Lars Backström praised Finnair’s decision to fly passengers to Finland out of Phuket. Some other airlines are temporarily using the U-Tapao military airport. It is closer to Bangkok than Phuket, but conditions there have become chaotic.
Many of the passengers heard at the Finnair briefing that the Thai state had promised to compensate those who have been stranded 2,000 baht, or about EUR 45 a day for hotel costs and meals.
“Ask your hotel if they are part of this programme”, Backström said.