Marriott Bonvoy has raised the ceiling on some high-end hotel redemptions. What used to cost at most 120,000 points now costs up to 150,000 points per night, which represents an increase of 25%.
It appears that the unofficial cap has been lifted at many other properties, too, as we’ve seen recent changes to the maximum number of points required for a night from what it had previously been since the program shifted to dynamic pricing last year.
These changes come without any warning or notice, which is unfortunate for anyone who will now have to pay more for a redemption, but not surprising due to the nature of dynamic pricing.
Changes to High-End Marriott Hotels
For the past year, redemptions at Marriott’s top-tier hotels have had a “soft cap” of 120,000 points per night. As a point of reference, prior to dynamic pricing kicking in on March 30, 2022, the most we’d see for a hotel stay on a peak night was 100,000 points.
In other words, in a year, there has been a 50% increase from the previous maximum number of points required to stay per night at some of the brand’s best properties, and up to a 25% increase in the very recent past.
The jump to 150,000 points per night is only at some of the brand’s most exclusive properties in some of the most exotic destinations. One needs to look no further than the Maldives to find these prices.
Looking for a stay at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli during peak season? Expect to fork over 150,000 points per night, or 600,000 points for a five-night stay (taking advantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit).
Another fan-favourite property, Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai, maxes out at 126,000 points, up from its previous ceiling of 120,000 points, which appears to be a recurring theme.
It’s worth noting that many other properties have seen jumps of greater than 50% since the move to dynamic pricing, even though they don’t approach the upper levels of Marriott’s pricing.
For example, The Bodrum EDITION had a maximum price of 100,000 points per night for the past year; however, now it’s possible to find nights at 106,000 points.
For what it’s worth, prior to dynamic pricing, you could find off-peak nights at this property for just 50,000 points per night.
Needless to say, it, along with many other highly sought-after hotels, have increased significantly in the past year, and there’s no indication that this is the last increase we’ll see.
A “Sort of” Devaluation
While an increase to the cost of a redemption can be thought of as a devaluation, it’s a bit of a different story when it comes to programs that use dynamic pricing. Unlike fixed-pricing models, which have a set number of points for a particular flight or hotel stay, dynamic pricing models ebb and flow according to demand and whatever other metrics the programs wish to implement.
During times of peak demand, expect the price to rise significantly, and during times of low demand, expect to get a better deal.
As for Marriott Bonvoy, we’ve seen a “soft cap” of 120,000 points over the past year at the program’s most desirable properties. Now, it appears that the bar has been lifted to 150,000 points per night at some properties.
Similarly, other properties have seen increases to the maximum cost, which unofficially appears to be 126,000 points per night at first glance, while others have seen the ceiling lifted to higher than what it has been for the last year.
With this in mind, we can think of this move as not necessarily a change to the program itself, since this is just dynamic pricing rearing its head. Rather, it’s just the latest iteration of Marriott leaning into dynamic pricing, and it’s entirely possible that we’ll see this ceiling lifted again in the future.
In a sense, we haven’t yet seen unfettered dynamic pricing come to the program, and at least for now there appears to be an unofficial cap of 150,000 points per night. That doesn’t mean that we won’t see fully dynamic pricing in the future – it just means that it’s not quite here yet.
Of course, this doesn’t take away from the fact that you’ll now have to pay more for the same property, and in that sense, it’s a devaluation. If you’ve been holding out on a February trip to the Maldives, expect to pay around 25% more than what it previously would have cost.
One of the worst parts of dynamic pricing models is that changes often come without any prior warning or announcements, and the odds of prices shifting downwards rather than upwards are remarkably low. As members of the loyalty program, we’re subject to the whims of whomever is implementing these changes, and there isn’t really any recourse.
Indeed, we’ve seen similar moves happen in the recent past with other major loyalty programs.
On the hotel side, recall that Hilton Honorshad a similar “soft devaluation” one year ago when it raised the upper limit of redemptions. Since both programs no longer use award charts, this move from Marriott Bonvoy is essentially the same as what Hilton Honors did.
All of this goes to show that the familiar adage of earning and burning has never been more true. Hoarding points can be quite risky, as you’re never guaranteed to get the same value tomorrow as you can today.
That’s not to say that there still isn’t value to be found in Marriott Bonvoy and other loyalty programs; however, with so many switching over to dynamic pricing models, you’ll have to be more strategic with your redemptions.
For the last year, we’ve seen a “soft cap” of 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for stays at its most desirable properties. Now, it appears that the upper limit has been raised to 150,000 points, which is an increase of 25% from before.
There has also been an increase to the number of points required at many other properties, which varies depending on the location. Many of Marriott Bonvoy’s other top-tier properties now cost up to 126,000 points per night, up from the previous maximum of 120,000.
With the ongoing implementation of dynamic pricing, this may not be the last time the bar is raised in this program. As always, you’ll want to look around your destination for the best deal, and it’s always better to “earn and burn” your points rather than stockpiling them for the future.
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Wadhurst in East Sussex has beaten 71 other locations to be named the UK’s best place to live.
The small market town of less than 5,000 inhabitants was ranked number one in the 11th annual Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide.
Judges said the small market town offers “pretty much everything needed for modern life in miniature”.
Dark night skies, good schools, convenient transport links, “stunning scenery” and a strong community spirit were all factors in it reaching the top spot.
“The stars of the show are the stalwarts who keep the place vibrant, especially the Wadhurst Warriors, which began life in 2004 as a group of dads fundraising for the primary school and now raise money for the whole village,” the judges said.
Chichester in West Sussex was aearded second place, followed by Cirencester in Gloucestershire, Crouch End in London and Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland, in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
A winner was also selected for each region of the UK, with Ruthin in Denbighshire identified as the best place to live in Wales, Dunkeld in Perthshire named the best place to live in Scotland, and Saffron Walden in Essex.
“Liverpool: Waterloo and Toxteth” was also listed as the best region in the northwest.
Expert judges visited all the locations and assessed factors ranging from the quality of schools and transport links to broadband speeds, culture, access to green spaces and the health of the high street.
Helen Davies, editor of Best Places To Live 2023, said: “When times are tough, where we live matters more than ever.
“Attractive surroundings, good neighbours and a comfortable home are the best defences when the stresses of modern life seem overwhelming.
“This guide is a celebration of towns, cities and villages that are each a fantastic place to live in 2023 from Orkney to Felixstowe, the Chew Valley to Manchester city centre.”
Editor’s note: TPG’s Matt Moffitt sailed on a free trip provided by Vacaya. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by the tour operator.
You’ve probably heard of gay cruises and wondered how they differ from “traditional” cruises. Are they open to straight people? Is it all about partying? What about the hook-up element?
I recently sailed with tour operator Vacaya on a one-week gay cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale and heading to the Caribbean via Celebrity Cruises‘ Celebrity Reflection cruise ship. For context, I’m a white, cisgender, gay, 35-year-old man. I had a lot of questions about what to expect, given this was my second cruise ever and my first one with a queer tour operator.
Here are the top things I’d want someone considering or planning their first gay cruise to know.
People are friendly
The first thing that struck me about the sailing was that almost everyone was smiling and eager to interact. As an Australian living in the U.S. for almost a decade, I generally find Americans to be open, talkative and curious. This cruise was like that … on steroids.
I would have found it overwhelming if I weren’t an extrovert, but since I’m a social butterfly, I was in heaven.
Tip: Taking the stairs between levels on the ship is a great way to keep in shape. However, opt for the elevators if you are searching for moments of lighthearted connection. Waiting for an elevator to arrive at your floor and then jumping in with other guests gives you a quick opportunity for some enjoyable small talk.
Partying is front and center
The rumors are spot on. Gay cruises have tons of parties, sometimes multiple a day. If you’re on a weeklong sailing, it’s important to pace yourself.
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Most of the parties on my cruise took place outside by the pool and started at 10:30 p.m. The late start gave enough time for passengers to eat dinner, attend an evening show and get dressed in theme.
Highlights on my cruise included a Super Bowl party (the day we boarded), a traffic light party (the gay cruise version of an icebreaker activity, see below) and the “She’s A Mess” party on the final afternoon (where passengers donned one piece from each costume they’d worn throughout the week).
It’s also a good idea to plan your outfits well in advance — people get really into the party themes. You can find information about theme nights on your tour operator’s website.
Going into the cruise, one of my biggest questions was, “Would people be hooking up all over the ship in public places?” On this particular Vacaya cruise, I did not see anything like that. (I can’t speak for other sailings, though.) However, sexual expression was a prominent feature of the cruise — and I loved it.
I appreciated the three types of lanyards that Vacaya offered upon boarding. It was the traffic light system: red for “taken,” yellow for “it’s complicated/maybe” and green for “available.” This made it easy to understand what kind of interaction someone wanted. At the traffic light party on the second night, I estimated 60% of the passengers were dressed in green, 30% in yellow and the remaining 10% in red.
One unique feature Vacaya had on this cruise was a late-night “dark room” on the rooftop basketball court. It was very popular.
The crew won’t judge you
Cruise ships hire crew members from around the world, with many coming from more conservative countries. I wasn’t sure how they’d react to thousands of openly gay men taking over their cruise ship.
Once on board, I realized my concerns were overblown. The Celebrity Cruises crew — waiters, room stewards, bartenders — were consistently friendly. I never sensed any judgment from them. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when a drunk gay guy wearing nothing but underwear came to a bar to order a drink. I’m not saying I was that guy.
Choose your cruise carefully
The one major lesson I learned is that it’s important to do your research.
On this cruise, I sometimes felt like a fish out of water. At 35, I was one of the youngest on the sailing. Vacaya skews older (think: Gen X and boomers), whereas I’ve heard Atlantis gay cruises attract mainly twinks and daddies.
Of the well-known queer cruises, Atlantis is for your circuity gays, and Olivia is for queer women. Vacaya skews toward a more inclusive and welcoming experience for everyone (although it needs more work in this area). Body positivity was an obvious component of my Vacaya cruise, and I heard many passengers say they appreciated this.
Queer travelers account for 5% to 10% of the global tourism market, according to the World Tourism Organization. Couple that with the huge growth in cruising over the past decade (excluding the pandemic), and it’s obvious that cruise and tour operators can earn a lot from catering to LGBTQI+ travelers.
For example, Fort Lauderdale saw four sold-out LGBTQI+ cruises in February 2023. Atlantis and Vacaya had one each, and tour operator Olivia had two women-focused cruises. Atlantis’ voyage on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas was the largest gay cruise ever, with more than 5,400 passengers.
If you want to go on a gay cruise, I’d suggest booking early to secure your place and take advantage of early bird discounts. With growing demand, I hope to see an increase in the number and type of sailings offered, giving queer travelers more themed cruise options.
Diversity and inclusion is a work in progress
In my opinion, the cruise was too heavily skewed to a specific demographic. I estimated that at least 90% of the passengers on my cruise were white, cisgender, gay men from the U.S. — and that was on Vacaya, one of the more “inclusive” cruise operators.
The organizers clearly have a strong passion for and commitment to making their experiences more inclusive and diverse. They teared up when talking about their origin story and what they envision for their future experiences.
However, it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Vacaya has a financial incentive to cater to its base market of white, affluent gay men. But, its future growth lies in providing opportunities that broaden the company’s reach to other tribes in the larger community, such as queer people of color, transgender and gender-nonconforming folx, and women.
For Vacaya to achieve that goal, those groups must make bookings and come on board. However, they’ll be hesitant to book if they don’t think there will be people like them on board. It’s a work in progress.
On my cruise, I did see a glimmer of Vacaya’s future.
One evening, I sat behind a black trans woman and a plus-size, white cisgender woman in a wheelchair to watch a show in the ship’s auditorium. When drag queen Alyssa Edwards began lip-syncing on stage to “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” they reached out to hold hands as they sang along. These are the moments Vacaya hopes to deliver to more queer travelers in the future.
Gay cruises are more expensive than regular cruises
Gay or queer cruises cost more on average than your everyday cruise because they offer premium LGBTQI-focused entertainment, such as drag queens and world-renowned DJs on each sailing. The charter company (Vacaya, in this case) needs to pay not only the cruise line but also the specialized entertainment — and turn a profit.
Make sure you save up your cash for the room, taxes, gratuities, drink packages and shore excursions — it can really add up.
For example, Vacaya’s pricing for its weeklong 2024 Caribbean cruise starts at around $4,000 per room for a windowless inside cabin (same price for one or two people; includes taxes and gratuities). That’s roughly 50% more than a “regular” cruise for the same duration and on the same ship, where pricing starts at $2,600.
Many people don’t explore the ports
Based on my observations and conversations with other shipmates, I don’t think many passengers got off the ship in every port. Perhaps that’s because our itinerary featured four back-to-back port stops. Or, my shipmates were too hungover to go out or wanted to prioritize time on the ship they had paid so dearly for. Whatever the reason, many people were at the lunch buffet and lounging poolside during our port stops.
To be honest, I only got off at Grand Cayman and stayed on board in Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Roatán, Honduras (all of which I’d visited on previous trips).
It turns out my observations were correct. The Vacaya cruise organizers confirmed that on big-ship Caribbean cruises, many guests typically stay on board in one or two ports. On the company’s luxury cruises — which focus more on bucket-list destinations — and Mediterranean cruises, a higher percentage of guests get off the ship daily.
For the record, people who did get off the ship didn’t miss much. People mostly used port days to enjoy more pool time and work out at the gym (which, surprisingly, never got busy on my cruise). Vacaya schedules its marquee activities for when the ship is sailing.
Wash your hands
The worst part of the cruise? I picked up norovirus about halfway through the sailing and was bedridden for the final three days.
Norovirus is a contagious virus that spreads through direct contact with an infected person or surface and causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain. The self-contained, high-traffic nature of a cruise ship makes it susceptible to outbreaks, and on a gay cruise, frequent incidences of person-to-person contact can increase your chances of getting sick.
My most unpleasant memories from this cruise included gathering the energy to make my way from my cabin to the buffet to eat something, anything, that would fill me up before my whole world came crashing down again. Picture the wedding dress-fitting scene from “Bridesmaids.” I was Kristen Wiig desperately trying to pretend she was enjoying her almonds — all in front of hundreds of other gay men. Not a peak life moment for me.
The best way to avoid catching norovirus is to wash and sanitize your hands frequently. I thought I was doing a good job of that, but apparently, it wasn’t enough. This is a public service announcement to wash your hands more than you think you need to the next time you’re on a cruise.
Many passengers come back time and again
Vacaya has a return rate of more than 70%, which is even more notable given it has only been around for five years. (This was its fifth birthday celebration.) People talk with their feet — and their wallets. If they’re returning, they must enjoy the experience and want to reconnect with friends and lovers they met on previous cruises.
If you enjoy your first cruise, it’s worth keeping your eyes out for any early bird discounts for future sailings the line may offer during the final couple of days you are on board.
With LGBTQI+ rights under a sustained attack, it was refreshing to get out into the open ocean with other queer folx and let our pride flags fly. The feeling of dancing in the warm Caribbean breeze with thousands of other queer people — and a supportive, open-minded crew — without fear of judgment, violence or harassment is something I believe every queer person deserves.
MANILA – In celebration of National Women’s Month, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) has utilized its property as a venue for an art therapy activity for survivors of domestic abuse on Thursday, March 23.
The activity was participated by women from Tahanan Sta Luisa, a crisis intervention center based in Antipolo, Rizal, that empowers street girls with experiences of abuse by giving them a safe place to heal and grow.
The initiative is part of the “Nayon for Healing Campaign” launched last 2021 when the agency hosted both a vaccination and quarantine facility during the pandemic. The campaign was initiated to contribute to the mental and emotional well-being of the patients and staff stationed in the property through physical enhancements and recommended activities.
The Nayon for Healing Campaign highlights the NPF site as not just a green space but also a healing space.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority in their 2017 National Demographic Health Survey, one in four Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husbands or partner.
The NPF believes that this Art Therapy activity will empower women through beneficial effects on their psyche and can aid in the cultivation of their self-esteem and emotional resilience.
For more than three decades, art therapy has been documented as an important method of addressing the emotional pain of young survivors of violence.
While nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity, and can facilitate concentration.
Facilitated by Art Therapist Sweet Remandaban, the participants use various art methods, including drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage.
Crowd of travelers wait to check-in for their flight at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India, on May 31, 2022.
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images
India’s airline industry may be on a strong growth trajectory — but don’t expect India’s outbound travel to overtake China’s soon, aviation analysts say.
Travel demand to and from India is expected to grow as the country’s middle class expands and more residents travel abroad for the first time, Brendan Sobie, independent analyst at Sobie Aviation said. But “don’t expect India to be a bigger outbound market than China anytime soon.”
“The gap between China and India is huge,” Lalitya Dhavala, valuations consultant at travel analytics firm Cirium told CNBC.
Although India has the world’s third largest aviation market, “China’s total fleet is almost five times the existing Indian fleet, for an almost equal population,” she said, highlighting it was “indicating room for expansion.”
In addition, only 7.3% of India’s current population holds a passport, Dhavala highlighted.
India’s robust growth trajectory
The analysts agree there’s potential for growth in India’s domestic and international travel market.
In comparison to China, India has a larger share of young adults, with 40% of its population under 25 years old, Dhavala said. “This generation is on a rising economic trajectory with a growing desire and appetite to travel and explore the world.”
According to data from Statista, those under 29 years of age made up 34.12% of China’s population in 2021.
China has a rapidly rising aging population. Only 7% of India’s population this year comprised of adults 65 years and older, compared with 14% in China, data from the Pew Research Center showed.
With more women entering the workforce, a dual-income household would also give families more discretionary spending power, she added.
“India is going to become one of those key pillars of global aviation, and the next few years … is India’s story as much as anyone’s,” Air India CEO Campbell Wilson told CNBC this week when asked if India’s travel industry could potentially overtake China’s.
Shot in the arm for infrastructure
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said it will be spending $12 billion by 2025 to boost regional connectivity by building new airports and renovating existing ones, Reuters has reported.
On Monday, the government announced more infrastructure investments for the aviation sector: to increase the number of airports, carriers, and staff to keep up with the travel demand to and from India which picked up rapidly after the pandemic eased.
“Without infrastructure investments the risk is there would be a demand for more flights but not enough infrastructure to handle the flights, particularly in major cities,” Sobie said.
The country’s aviation sector is “entering its growth phase,” said Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. “We need to put in place the civil aviation infrastructure and capabilities [so] that by 2047, we will be able to support a $20 trillion dollar economy within India.”
“At one point, we did not have passengers to fill up [the] airlines due to Covid. Now, we don’t have enough airplanes to fly our passengers,” Scindia said during the CAPA India Aviation Summit in New Delhi at the start of the week.
Even though the peak season in October has passed, he said airports are still welcoming between 420,000 to 440,000 passengers daily.
Scindia added that passenger capacity at the country’s six major airports is expected to grow to 420 million in four years from the current 192 million.
Looking beyond India’s borders
In expectation of an influx of passengers in the coming year, both domestically and internationally, national carrier Air India announced in February that it will be buying 470 Boeing and Airbus aircraft — a decision Scindia called the “largest order in international civil aviation history.”
“The opportunity for Indian aviation is massive … the growth opportunity is very, very real,” Air India’s Wilson said Monday, adding that India’s flag carrier is focused on growing internationally to catch up with its competitors.
Indian airlines are still largely focused on their domestic operations, with only 8% of major airlines’ offering international routes, said Dhavala from Cirium.
But she said she’s optimistic the government is set look beyond its borders as the country aims to become a “regional hub rather than [having flights] funneling through Middle East or Europe.”
The total fleet by Indian carriers is expected to double in the next five to 10 years, which translates to 15% growth rate over the next 8 years, Dhavala noted.
“If we can offer a nonstop proposition that is of great quality, great service, [and flies] nonstop into the places where Indian travelers or people traveling to India want to go, the opportunity is many fold bigger than has been apparent in the past,” Wilson said.
Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect that China has a rapidly rising aging population. The mistake was due to an editing error.
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An airline passenger’s complaint has gone viral after they claimed that someone died on their British Airways flight. However, it’s their complaint that the flight was delayed because of the medical emergency that has left people “gobsmacked”.
The British Airways customer originally posted the complaint about their December flight to the public Facebook page, “British Airways Complaints Advice,” which was then reposted by a separate user to the airline internet forum, FlyerTalk, with the caption: “Unbelievable Facebook Post”.
When Twitter user Andy Monks came across the post on FlyerTalk, he “was left gobsmacked” by the complaint and reposted it to Twitter on Monday, where it’s since been viewed more than 56,000 times. “This is copy and paste of a BA passenger’s complaint that some posted on Flyertalk…the complainer has posted on Facebook group…thoughts?” he captioned the tweet. “I was left gobsmacked…”
In the original post, the British Airways passenger shared that they were flying from Jamaica to London on 21 December when the incident took place. “During a flight, a passenger directly to [sic] rows behind us, passed away in the most horrific way, giving us the most traumatic experience during a flight,” they began their complaint.
The passenger went on to explain how the flight was delayed for three hours. They were travelling with five children and their six-months-pregnant sister, who were all “very tired, frustrated and hungry” throughout the flight.
About three and a half hours before the plane was set to land in the UK, the passenger claimed that they were woken up by a “commotion” from the airline staff and a passenger sitting two rows behind them “losing consciousness”.
“The passenger that was losing consciousness was then placed in the aisle beside us in order to perform resuscitation CPR and attempt to save her life; the entire experience went on for over an hour,” they wrote. “I’ve never in my life witnessed someone being shocked or having CPR performed and never would’ve expected that to happened [sic] on flight returning home.”
The British Airways customer claimed that they have been “extremely sad” and “traumatised” since the incident occurred, and their family has had “many sleepless nights” as a result.
“Naturally, during the course of this experience, it meant or [sic] flight services were halted and aside from the initial meal, drinks and flight mills were discontinued, so we did not receive a thorough flight experience that we had paid for,” they added.
In the post, the passenger claimed they issued the complaint with British Airways in January and haven’t heard a response since 3 February, apart from a “generic” reply saying they’re looking into the complaint. “I would like to hear from British Airways, what you plan to do in order to compensate your passengers that had to deal with this ordeal,” they concluded.
While the passenger may have not received a response from British Airways about their complaint, the post has generated much discussion on Twitter. People are now sharing their shock that the customer would complain about their flight, considering the alleged incident that occurred.
“This is the world we live in,” tweeted one person in response.
“Someone is trying to win Karen of the year,” another person said.
“All I can see in that text is ‘me me me me me me me…me & me,’” wrote someone else.
Flight attendants also shared similar experiences of dealing with demanding passengers, like one user who said: “I have been in that position performing CPR on a flight as crew! You go into a mode of it’s all about that individual and saving their life. I am outraged by this and the lack of empathy some people have! Words fail me…”
“Thank god I’m not a flight attendant anymore!” another person said. “Passenger complained I didn’t get her cup of tea in time because I was too busy attending to a lady having a seizure.”
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for British Airways said: “Safety is always our highest priority and our crew colleagues were focused on providing first-aid.”
The rep added that British Airways staff “are highly trained to deal with a range of situations including medical emergencies” and they “worked hard to continue the onboard service as planned, while managing a customer medical incident.”
Recently, another flight passenger went viral when they asked the AI chatbot ChatGPT to write a “polite but firm” email after their flight was delayed by more than six hours. A woman named Cherie Luo shared in an Instagram video that she asked the AI bot to write a “polite but passively aggressive and firm email to an airline”.
The email written by ChatGPT began: “I am writing to express my extreme frustration and disappointment with the experience I had on my recent flight with your airline.”
“Firstly, my flight was significantly delayed by six hours with no updates or communication from your staff while we were at the airport,” it wrote. “This caused a great deal of inconvenience and stress for myself and my fellow travellers as we were left in the dark about what was going on and when we would be able to leave.”
“I understand delays can happen due to unforeseen circumstances but the lack of communication and failure to provide access to the lounges promised is completely unacceptable.”