Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Unbelievable Journey to Morocco

Preparations to Morocco

It would be our first time to Morocco and I was looking forward to it although I didn't have much time to do thorough research due to the wedding preparations. Everything was booked online - flight and hotels. We would be crossing over to Tarifa, Spain via the ferry, but we would only buy the tickets from the jetty in Tangier. Being Malaysian, we had to apply for visa, but it was a breeze. We only had to fill in a form which you could download it online (in my case, the form was readily available at my office), prepare our travel itinerary, flight ticket, 2 pieces of passport sized photographs, letter of invitation (we did this through our office HR) and a valid passport of course. Although we didn't have our ticket out of Morocco (since we were planning to take the ferry), the travel itinerary and our return flight ticket was sufficient.

We walked to the Moroccan embassy in KL at Wisma Selangor Dredging Berhad, just across KLCC, next to Maya Hotel. The visa cost us RM88 per person. We collected our passports 12 days later with a 10 day visa pass (the visa days given follow strictly your travel itinerary - hence there is no chance for you to change your exit out of Morocco to a later date) . The delay in visa collection was due to the Hari Raya (Eid) public holidays and a public holiday of Morocco on 30 July (Eid Al-Ârch) or Enthronement Day.

Since there is no direct flight from Malaysia, we opted to fly in Morocco from Paris. We took Malaysia Airlines to Paris CDG, then changed airport to Paris Orly and took the Royal Air Maroc flight to Marrakech. There was no flight connection to Marrakech from Paris CDG (only to Casablanca), except for Easy Jet (budget airline). However, since the transit time would be too long (MAS flight arrives CDG at 6.30am, while Easy Jet leaves for Marrakech at 3.50pm), we opted for the earlier Royal Air Maroc at 1.15pm, but had to change airport to Paris Orly. We planned to take the bus from CDG to Orly (cost EUR20/person) which would take about 1 hour . We thought that 7 hours was ample time to connect from CDG to Orly in case of flight delay from KL.

Thurs, 14/8/14

The Unbelievable Journey

But this was not to be the case! Our flight to Paris CDG was delayed to THE NEXT DAY and we HAD NO IDEA ABOUT IT UNTIL WE ARRIVED AT KLIA to deposit our luggage. We had already done online check in the day before and there was NO NOTIFICATION whatsoever via SMS, email or call although MAS have all our contact details.

Here's what happened:

Date & Time
14/08/14 at 2200 hrs
Arrive at KLIA
14/08/14 at 2205 hrs
Arrive at MAS bag drop counter. Already done web check in 1 day before.

Upon reaching the counter, was told by MAS officer Ms Aina (as per shown on her name badge) informed us of flight MH20 delay from 14/08/14 at 2340 to 15/08/14 at 0825 hrs
We informed Ms Aina that we have a connecting flight to Marrakech AT749 on 15/08/14 from Paris Orly via Royal Air Maroc at 1315 hrs

We were given the option to wait until the next morning for MH20 or re-route us to London and then Paris via MH 02 and BA306 respectively
We opted for the re-route to London and then Paris as we were only staying in Marrakech for 2 nights, hence option of waiting for MH20 on 15/08/14 will cause us to cut short our stay in Marrakech, therefore, was not a viable option. After 2 days in Marrakech we will be moving to another city - Imlil.

We also asked Ms Aina if she could change our Royal Air Maroc from ORY – RAK on 15/08/14 originally to depart at 1315 hrs to 15/08/14 at 1510 hrs as the BA306 flight from LHR-CDG will only arrive at CDG at 1115 hrs. This is not enough time to catch our connecting flight from Paris Orly (different airport) at 1315 hrs. Considering fastest transfer from Paris CDG to Paris ORY by taxi would take approximately 45 minutes and waiting time for luggage, we estimated to arrive at Paris Orly at around 1230 hrs. This is not enough time for 2 hours arrival at airport for international departure

14/08/14 at 2315 hrs
We received our boarding pass for MH02 KUL-LHR and BA306 LHR-CDG

However, Ms Aina informed us that she was not able to issue the new e-ticket for Royal Air Maroc 15/08/14 to depart at 1510 hrs. She mentioned that she had done the necessary changes and our new flight will be AT641

14/08/14 at 2330 hrs
We safely boarded  the MH02 flight to LHR. Prior to boarding, another MAS officer asked for our original Royal Air Maroc e-ticket no. to make the necessary changes.

15/08/14 at 0640 hrs
Safely arrived LHR. Waited to board BA306 to Paris

15/08/14 at 1115 hrs
Safely arrived CDG. Transferred to Paris Orly by taxi after receiving luggage

15/08/14 at 1245 hrs
Arrived at Paris Orly airport. Went straight to Royal Air Maroc check in counter to check in with original e-ticket no. believing that MAS has already done the changes
Was told by the Royal Air Maroc officer at counter that our ticket was not valid as the flight has already departed (AT749 at 1315 hrs)
We mentioned to the Royal Air Maroc officer that MAS has already done the changes
We were told to go the ticketing counter to double check

15/08/14 at 1313 hrs
We showed the ticketing officer our original Royal Air Maroc e-ticket and told him that MAS has done the changes to depart via AT641 at 1510 hrs
The ticketing officer checked in his system, but told us there was no change. He printed out the ticket and verified there was no change

To get to Marrakech, we had to purchase a new ticket
We had no other option, hence purchased 2 new tickets from ORY – RAK via AT641 at 1510

The new tickets fare were EUR 175 X 2 tickets = EUR 350

15/08/14 at 1715 hrs
We safely arrived Marrakech

To be fair to MAS, we were upgraded to Business Class on the KUL-LHR sector and their officers in KLIA did their best to accommodate us. But unfortunately, the necessary changes to the Royal Air Maroc ticket never materialized and we had to fork out additional money to buy new flight tickets. We are currently pursuing our refund claim for the missed flight to Marrakech. Hope to receive good news soon.

Lesson learnt for us:
1. Never make a connecting flight on the same day (for a holiday trip), if possible
2. Always keep on checking on your flight status starting from 2 days prior to departure in case of delays / cancelled flights. Knowing flight delays beforehand allows you to make necessary changes to your connecting flight (if applicable).

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