The 'and/or' above is because we couldn't actually work out whether it was XL that had the asshats for employees, or whether the common denominator was, in fact, Antigua airport. Maybe it was both.
Either way, I refuse to ever travel with either of them again, and if I am forced by other circumstances to ever come into contact with them, I shall bring a crucifix and hold it at the aforementioned party in a threatening manner.
Ok, start at the top, because this is a looong list of incompetencies, bad service, and other bullshit.
We had 9 of us were on this holiday - the 2 parents, 4 'kids', and then 3 of the kids have their other halves with them (the exception to this is the 12 year old...because holidays with other halves don't happen when you're 12). So, this holiday was fairly special, and so, we paid for a couple of a extras with the seats to ensure everything ran smoothly.
For both directions, we paid extra (some £13 ($25)/head/direction; total: £117 ($230)) for preassigned seating, because a group of 9 is not exactly likely to be sitting together if you leave the seating assignments until you check in.
Three of the boys, being over 6'2 in height, also paid extra (approx £35 ($70)/head/direction; total: £210 ($420)) to have extra legroom seats, y'know, the ones by the emergency exits? Because they are fond of their knees.
So, these extras added up to a not-insignificant amount; this comes up later.
We arrive at Gatwick for the outgoing flight on time. Check in with no problems. Get upstairs to have breakfast. Father remembers he's forgotten his fishing rod - some specially made thing he's very attached to, and couldn't possibly imagine fishing in the Caribbean without. We go and ask the check-in desk, is it possible to check in an extra piece of luggage separately if we get someone to bring it over? They say yes, provided it's here by 11am. At this point, it's coming up to 9am, so not a massive problem given we only live some 10 mins away from the airport. One of Dad's friends picks the rod up, drops it off, we check it in, all is well.
We get to the departure gate to discover our plane is delayed. This worries us, as we have to get a connecting flight after this one from Antigua to Tortola, and it's only a stop over of 1hr 20mins; a tight squeeze given we have to collect our bags, get them through customs and then recheck them, but we were assured when we booked it was doable...provided we have the hr and 20.
We tell several XL employees, particularly those on the actual gate, and are reassured that they'll make sure it's ok - we're not the only ones trying to make that connection, they'll email and ring on ahead to make sure the flight is held if needs be. Brill.
We eventually take off 3 hours late - the problem part was one of the connectors for the black box, but they get another. We are not offered any drinks or refreshments during the wait or on the plane that we wouldn't get anyway. We make up maybe an hour in the air, and then snatch another half an hour back at our turnaround in St Martin's (we had a bunny hop before Antigua) so we're only 90 mins late.
At St Martin, and on the flight, we informed pretty much every cabin crew member we could of our predicament and how we needed to make that flight - it was the last one of the day, so missing it would strand us in Antigua. The crew pretty much brushed us off, again saying that they'd inform Antigua that we would need the plane held for a short amount of time, but they lacked sincerity, and we all got the impression that they were saying this because it was what needed to be said to shut us up.
At Antigua, we rocket off the plane, shortly followed by another 4 people who are all also trying to make this flight. Nobody we can find on this side of security knows anything about it, so Dad goes through on his own to find out what happened while we try to collate all the luggage.
We missed the flight by approximately 3 minutes. The Liat (the airline we were connecting to) employee's words were 'Oh, if someone had told us your plane was going to be late, we could have held it'.
Dad's fishing rod has also not turned up. We prowl the baggage hall for it. The lost luggage lady prowls the hall for it. She radios the baggage handlers and gets them to prowl the plane for it.
No dice. We fill out forms, and take a number to ring if we need to, but she promises to be in touch.
By this time, it's late. We're tired. Dad tries to find an XL employee to ask if there's any procedure we should follow, but none are present. He asks the Liat employee if she could note down a complaint to be passed on to them, and while she agrees to do so, she is openly scornful of Dad's complaint, and at one point sniggers loudly. She doesn't apologise, but then it's not her airline. She does check with a nearby hotel and provisionally book us some rooms in it, but we'll have to pay for them and claim back off our holiday insurance, she tells us. The other 4 people who are also stranded do the same.
The next day, there are 3 flights to Tortola. The first, at 9am, is booked solid, but she tells us we're welcome to turn up at about 8amish to see if there are any no-shows that we can take the place off. Otherwise, we're booked on the 12pm flight. Fine.
Go to hotel. Is overpriced and has many, many mosquitoes. Sleep, wake early, be at airport for 8am on the nose. No spaces; everyone who should be here is. We retreat upstairs to the 1761 bar while Mum goes and prowls the baggage hall again in case the fishing rod has turned up. No joy.
12pm flight is delayed. Finally take off at 2pm. Holiday goes on.
2 days pass. Despite keeping the phone on and with us at all times, still no word from them about the fishing rod. Mum rings, is put through to someone who says they don't know the item she's referring to, they'll look into it and ring her back. She also asks about the hotel and if there's any chance of compensation, and is told she'll have to ring a different number for it. Different number goes through to an answer phone message telling people to claim on their holiday insurance.
Give it another 2 days. Ring again. Person still doesn't know anything about it, but they'll find out and ring us back.
The pattern continues for the remainder of the fortnight. Still no joy.
Return flight - Liat flight from Tortola to Antigua happens with no complications. Get to Antigua, go to check in...and find problems.
For starters, XL don't have any computer system in Antigua. They have plans of the planes and each seat is represented by a sticker. Each morning, Gatwick faxes through the seat assignments, they write them up, and then each sticker is put on a boarding card.
Except for the small problem that Gatwick has left our party off both the preassigned seats list, and the extra leg room seats.
Dad points this out. They say there's nothing they can do. They do not offer a refund or any kind of apology at any point. Dad insists we get the seats we paid for.
They insist that they can't do anything, to even think about doing something they'd need to see the receipt for the extra charges, and did we know that Gatwick makes this sort of mistake all the time, and the other passengers were ok with it.
Dad produces the receipt, and tells them he doesn't care about the other passengers, he wants the seats we paid for.
The two, upon seeing the receipt, look at each other with a kind of 'oh shit' expression, then both stare steadfastly at the seating plan as if hoping we'll go away.
Silence continues for a good minute or two, when Dad asks what they're going to do. They kind of gawk at him, when Mum chimes in pointing out that if they move 2 parties of people into the spaces they've allocated to us, we'd end up with the correct type of seat and altogether too, and the 2 parties will also stay sat together; same number of window seats and everything.
They gawk some more at the seating plan, then say they can't move anything on the seating plan that's been set down by Gatwick. Dad asks who can - apparently, the manager can. Dad asks if they can get the manager to ok this. One grabs the seating plan and scutters off. Dad presents the lost luggage form for his rod to the remaining one and asks if there's been any progress made on this because we've been calling about it.
Guy #2 looks at the form, goes into the back, and returns with another gentleman and a lady. The lady picks out a file, shuffles through it, then turns to us and tells us the rod is in Tortola, that we've been told this, and if we don't have it then it's our fault and our problem. (Yes, she actually said that.)
I think there was a unanimous chorus of 'What?' that met that proclamation.
Apparently, the rod had been located the day after we arrived, and shipped to Tortola on the next available flight - the one that was full that we couldn't get on. Ironically, it probably arrived before we did. And apparently, we were told this.
Taking things one step at a time, we point out we have nearly 4 hours before having to board for our next flight, during which time another plane will be coming from Tortola, to Antigua; could they bring the rod with them, so we can at least take it home?
She huffs, and reiterates its our fault and our problem, but says she'll try.
Next Dad says, we weren't rung - no one told us about the rod.
She scowls and tells him not to raise his voice to her. Dad is somewhat taken aback by this, given he wasn't shouting, but lowers the volume on his voice anyway. Dad asks when the phone call was made - apparently the same day the rod was shipped to Tortola. Dad asks if we can speak to whoever 'spoke' to us: they're off.
He asks for a name: they won't give it to him.
He asks for a copy of which number they rang to speak to us; the person in question has it, and they aren't in, and they won't give us the name.
He asks about all the phonecalls we've been making; who would we have been speaking to? Why did they never call us back? Why did they not find this out?
She tells him not to raise his voice to her again; Dad hasn't raised his voice, but again, drops the volume, so he's now speaking in a near-comedic whisper.
She says that, if we really did make the phonecalls (yes, again, she said this), we should have been put through to her, because she's the only one who deals with lost luggage. Dad immediately produces his phone, and brings up the list of 'rung numbers' as proof we did make the phonecalls, and then asks - still in his whisper - that surely if she's the one who deals with this, she should have been the one to ring him or that he should have been speaking to.
She replies that she won't have him raising his voice to her again, and storms off into the back, shutting the door behind her, leaving us standing at a now empty desk, bewildered.
We shrug, and go for lunch, then go through security. With half an hour due until our flight, he rings the number, and manages to get through to her, to ask what's going on with the rod - is it being transported here?
No, apparently they can't find it in Tortola, they'll have a look then ring us back.
We arrived back today, and rang the number again. Sorry, says the person on the other end of the phone; they don't know what's going on with this situation, but they'll find out and ring us back...
So, yeah, don't go with XL.com - they may look like the cheapest, but I am willing to pay the difference if it means competant staff who don't lie and insult me and my family.