Travelling divers are being urged to double check the latest travel advice for their destination or risk being unable to travel.
British divers Nigel Cass and Caroline Albrecht were on the way to a trip of a lifetime diving the wartime wrecks of Chuuk Lagoon when they were told they were unable to board their United Airlines flight from Manila to Chuuk (Truk TKK via Guam). Despite checking travel advice numerous times before travel and receiving no notification of any issues, Nigel and Caroline were victims of a Public Health Emergency Declaration that had come into force in the Federated States of Micronesia whilst they overnighted in Manila in the Philippines.
Standing at the check-in desk, a couple of hours before boarding, the couple were handed a letter signed by the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, declaring that anyone travelling from a country with confirmed cases of coronavirus would need to spend 14 days in a country with NO confirmed cases of the virus before they would be allowed to enter the FSM. The government directive had come into place on 31st January 2020.
Due to the fact that Nigel and Caroline had originally departed from the UK and were now in the Philippines, both countries having declared coronavirus cases, they were now ineligible to travel onwards to Chuuk, unless they were prepared to quarantine themselves in Guam for 14 days.
After a frantic series of phone calls and emails, it emerged that staff at the Blue Lagoon Resort in Chuuk, where the couple were heading, were unaware of the situation themselves and were actually only told of the government directive by the FSM Health Department whilst waiting at the airport to receive their guests.
Nigel says that United Airlines staff at Manila were incredibly helpful and offered to refund their flight tickets on the spot so that they could make alternative plans. United Airlines also arranged a second overnight in Manila at their cost.
Fortunately, Nigel’s many years of experience in the dive industry helped the couple salvage what was an upsetting and potentially disastrous holiday. Remembering what a fantastic trip he had to Atlantis Philippines on a FAM trip a couple of years previously, Nigel set about contacting Atlantis’ Andy Pope who stepped in and saved the day.
“When I was sitting in our hastily booked hotel room I wondered how I could salvage a holiday out of the wreckage of our Truk trip,” says Nigel. “I remembered Andy and Atlantis from a FAM trip I took. I had always wanted to take Caroline there to experience it and I thought it’s worth asking the question. Andy was there in our hour of need and he and all the staff at Atlantis have been so wonderful and gone way beyond the call of duty. Within 10 hours of our holiday going up in flames thanks to coronavirus, we were on our way to Atlantis Puerto Galera. Amazing!”
Nigel and Caroline are now enjoying their ‘new’ holiday in the Philippines.
“We are blown away by the quality of the diving here and Caroline doesn’t know where to focus her camera first! We have a Penthouse Suite at Atlantis Puerto Galera for six nights, followed by a further six nights at Atlantis Dumaguete. Plus transfers all arranged by Atlantis. We can’t thank Andy and the Atlantis team enough for saving our holiday. Truk will still be there when coronavirus is long gone!”
British people can check the latest travel advice at www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus.
All travellers should check with their airline, travel company, port authorities or local health authorities prior to travel as the situation is developing all the time.
Nigel and Caroline are staying at Atlantis Philippines.