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How Virgin turned a difficult gig into a near-impossible one!

Yesterday morning I headed off to the airport ready to do a 30 minute show at a dinner dance for a mining company in Dysart, Queensland.

For such a short gig, the travel was quite extensive.

Head off early for a 9.15am flight on Virgin to Sydney. (When I arrived, I looked at the departure board and thought my flight had been cancelled, but that was the 8.15am flight). From Sydney I was to take the 11.15am flight to Mackay, arriving at 1.40pm where I would pick up a rental car and drive three hours to Dysart arriving around 5pm. That gave me enough time to check in to my hotel, freshen up and get ready for my 8.15pm performance at the Civic Centre.

However... the first sign of trouble was when I arrived in Sydney and found the 11.15am departure was delayed "10 minutes" due to "the late arrival of the aircraft from Albury".

After about half an hour the arrival of the light from Albury was 'cancelled'... I have no idea what happened to it... did it vanish mid flight over the Goulburn Triangle?

Another plane arrived at our gate and we were told engineers were on board checking the plane, and there would be a "short delay".

Finally, we were told to board, almost two hours late. At this stage I was very anxious because my preparation time before the show was being cut dramatically. My booking sheet had me arriving at the venue at 6.30pm - now I'd be lucky to arrive in Dysart by 6.30pm.

But Virgin had another surprise for me... and this sounds unbelievable but they actually made this announcement... apparently, because the plane didn't have enough fuel to make it to Mackay, they had to offload half the baggage to make it lighter!!!

I tried to explain to the Virgin staff that I really needed my bag, but they were adamant they had no control over which bags would stay or go, but assured me they would courier it direct to me as soon as it arrived in Mackay. 

I arrived in Mackay at 3.30pm and, you guessed it, my bag didn't arrive. 

The Virgin staff explained that my bag would arrive at 5pm and they would rush it to me. I explained that even if it arrived at 8pm, it would most likely be too late... but I did need my clothes and toiletries so it was agreed they would send it.

After I'd lined up to get my rental car, then lined up to let them know where to send my bag, it was after 4pm before I was able to leave the airport. That meant I would arrived just over an hour before I was due to go on stage... but without any props. 

A quick stop at Woolworths on the way and I had $50 worth of "props" ready to create a show with, which is what I did during my 3 hour drive. 

Just after 6pm I got a phone call from the Virgin baggage staff saying my bag had just arrived and they could get it to me by 10pm or 11pm, where did I want it delivered? I explained, in my nicest voice, that I'd be asleep at that time because I had to be up at 6am to leave Dysart and drive back to Mackay. 

They suggested they would hold the back at Mackay for me to pick up when I checked-in the next morning. They saved on courier costs and I had no toiletries or change of clothes, but at least I didn't have to stay awake waiting for a bag that may or may not arrive.

Finally, after a few wrong turns as the rental car didn't come with a map and 3G coverage for Googlemaps was limited, I arrived with just an hour to spare.

The crew were fantastic and gathered up the few extra items I needed for the show plus they had an extra radio mic for me to replace the one that was in my suitcase.

Luckily I had my costume as carry-on (except for my belt and shoes...) so the show was able to go on.

My "supermarket show" ended up running 45 minutes and consisted of:

  • CARD IN MOUTH - (Borrowed cards & sharpie)
  • TOAST ROUTINE - (Pepsi Max, crushed can, paper bag, plastic glasses, pin, marker)
  • BALLS OVER HEAD - (Toilet paper roll, chair)
  • STAND ON CHAIR BARBET - (Chair, $50 bill)
  • CUT & RESTORED ROPE - (Borrowed rope, scissors)
  • BILL SWITCH - ($20 bill, no tip)
  • BILL TO BANANA - (Bills, no tips, lighter, envelope, tray, bananas, marker, tape, scissors)
  • BUNDY RUM APPEARANCE - (375ml bottle of Bundy rum) 
  • NEWSPAPER PREDICTION - (Newspaper, scissors, tape, huge paper sheet, marker)

After a little bit of mingling magic after the show, I packed up and headed off to the hotel, which was closed. 

Half an hour later I was finally in, and very grateful for shampoo and a hairdryer.

This morning it was a 3 hour drive, return of the rental car, and time to be reunited with my bag. Ironically, the client had bought a top dollar Virgin airfare for me which included 32kgs of baggage... a bit pointless now. I asked the Virgin check-in guy who I needed to write to to lodge a complaint. He asked around and came back telling me to go the website. He said there was no point telling him as they were only contractors, not Virgin.

What an adventure...

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