What do you do if your airline cancels flights? Charter your own plane, obviously.
You may think we’re joking, but that’s exactly what residents of Maningrida did when their only airline, Airnorth, cancelled services last minute, leaving passengers stranded.
Where exactly is Maningrida, you ask?
It’s located in the heart of the Arnhem Land region of the Northern Territory, and has just one airport, and one airline.
According to the ABC, Airnorth apologised for changes and cancellations for an apparent pilot shortage back in January – but over 30 Maningrida residents were left without flights just last week.
One of said residents, Carol Forde, paid almost $500 for a flight a few months ago to visit her father in Darwin.
The hour-long flight was scheduled to depart on the Friday afternoon, but was cancelled on the Thursday night.
And Forde wasn’t having a bar of it.
“There were people booked on flights to Bali the next day; there were people booked to go down to Melbourne and Sydney on the red eye.”
“It was anger, it was disbelief, it was like: ‘Not again, we need to do something,'” she told the ABC.
Airnorth offered disgruntled passengers refunds or seats on flights over the next few days, but that wasn’t good enough for Forde, who eventually organised for chartered planes to depart just one day later.
The total $4,320 cost was split between seven other happy travellers.
She also speculated that flights in regional areas were the first to be cancelled because they were so remote.
In Maningrida, for example, roads in and out can be cut for months at a time – meaning flights in and out are sometimes the only option.
“There’s a constant feeling out there that it happens because we’re remote,” Forde said.
Airnorth apologised yet again for the inconvenience in a statement to the ABC, and said four flights between Darwin and Arnhem Land and the Gulf Region were cancelled due to an ill crew.
“Arnhem Land customers impacted by the disruption on Friday were rebooked on services the next day or offered a full refund,” the statement read.
“Airnorth apologises to our affected customers for any inconvenience caused.”
But Forde said refunded flights were not enough compensation for some passengers losing other bookings as a result of cancelled flights.
“Whenever flights are cancelled or they’re hours late, there’s nothing on the other end,” she said.
“You lose your accommodation on the other end, you lose flights on the other end. We’ve had families lose bookings over to Bali.
Now, Forde plans to start a petition in a bid to make Airnorth more accountable.
“For me, I’ve been out there eight years and this is a regular occurrence,” she said.