Written on: 12/07/2013
In July 2011 I responded to an advertisement by Jetline Cruise in the Saturday Mail for what they were to describe as their most exciting holiday. Fly to San Francisco, a stay in San Francisco, a train journey from San Francisco to Chicago on the "California Zephyr", a train Journey from Chicago to New York on the "48 Lake Shore", a stay in New York and a return to the UK on board the QM2.
I told Jetline that this was a special holiday as we were to fly to San Francisco on our wedding anniversary and my wife would celebrate her birthday on the QM2 on Jubilee Day, 3rd June. Because of this I upgraded our flights, train accommodation and extended our stay in New York. The train journey was an important part of this holiday, and the 48 Lake Shore was descried as skirting the Great Lakes and some of the nation's most beautiful shoreline, then following the Hudson River into New York.
The Jetline "Cruise Ahoy" brochure describes the California Zephyr train arriving in Chicago at 14:50 where you will have the afternoon to spend at leisure. It gives a number of "must see and do" such as shopping on the Magnificent Mile and standing on the glass ledge in the Willis Tower before joining the 48 Lake Shore for a 21:30 departure and a 20 hour journey to New York arriving at 18:30. On arrival in New York they suggest a short stroll up Broadway to see the bright lights of Times Square and marvel at the Empire State Building.
I booked this holiday in April 2011 for travel in May 2012. When I received our tickets on Saturday 5th May 2012 it was a Bank Holiday weekend and the Jetline office was closed. I found that we were not travelling on the 48 lake Shore as advertised and booked, but on the "50 Cardinal". This train is not even featured in the Jetline brochure "Amtrak Adventures", Cruise and Amtrak rail Tours across The USA, it's that boring.
I was unable to contact anyone until the 8th May, only 7 days before departure. Jetline did not have the courtesy to tell me of this major change only 7 days before departure, but left it to me to discover myself when I received our tickets. I emailed the company and their response was that we had been "allocated" this train. Amtrak does not work like this, you have o book a route, train and class of accommodation. Someone had booked us on the wrong train. I spoke to James on the 8th May and he said that he would try to move us onto the 48 Lake Shore but he failed as the Lake Shore was fully booked.
The Cardinal departs Chicago at 17:45 so there is no time for sightseeing as described by Jetline and we also had to cancel our booking at a Chicago steak house. The Cardinal takes 27 hours to travel from Chicago to New York, leaving earlier than the Lake Shore and arriving later at 21:56 so no time to stroll up Broadway. We also had to cancel our Oyster bar booking in Grand Central and this was then closed for the remainder of our stay in New York. The Cardinal was a totally boring journey through Virginia farmland the last 3/12 hours of which were in total darkness. There are lots of farm crossings so the air horn seems to be going constantly and is especially noticeable through the night so sleep is impossible. Yes we went via Washington, but we went underground on the approach and then popped out on the northern outskirts having spent 1 hour in the station to change engines from diesel to electric.
We had been looking forward to this special holiday for almost a year, planning our various activities. Not only were we not able to experience events planned by us and those suggested by Jetline, but we knew a week before departure that we could not and that this special holiday was spoiled. Even though they were aware that they had booked us on the wrong train I had no communication from Jetline, I had to instigate all contact during that final week before departure. I advised Jetline that we would go on the holiday but that I would seek redress on our return.
On our return the initial offer from Jetline was for a voucher for £100 off our next holiday with them. Not sure why they thought I would travel with them again but this was refused. £100 cash was then added to the offer and this was also refused. Jetline said that this was their final offer, they would not improve on it.
I then sought advice from "WHICH" Legal Services. They talked me through the various stages I had to go through before making an application to the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC). The immediate response to our claim was a letter from Jetlines solicitors to say that our claim would be defended. We were eventually sent a copy of the defence, part of which was that our claim should be struck out as we had not included a Statement of Truth or signed our claim. They had obviously not looked at the reverse of Claim Form (CPR Part 7)(03.12) as supplied by the court, where these could be found.
We eventually received substantial compensation plus a refund of our court costs. Thank you WHICH.
Whilst I realise that things can go wrong I feel that a company should be judged on how they go about putting things right if they do go wrong. This could have been settled very early on with an apology from Jetline and compensation of a fraction of what we eventually received. The longer it went on, (June 2012 to March 2013) the more determined I became and the compensation I sought increased. I have thought long and hard about publishing this review but have decided to do so as my experience with Jetline was so appalling. I could not recommend this company.