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The Return to Airport World

Curbside Check-in

Feeling quite proud of myself, and rather tech savvy, after having checked-in via the Delta App on my Samsung Tablet, I proceeded to curbside check-in, attempting to not look too confused at this new procedure. As soon as everything was checked, and silently praying that my bag would mysteriously reach my destination from the curb side of the airport I proceeded to security.

Now security is one of the best places to people watch, it seems to bring out the best and worst in people. For some reason the security system as SeaTac appeared to be more of a cluster-fu..dge than normal, almost as if they were in the middle of construction somewhere. All lines seemed to merge and no one line seemed to have a direct route. Add to that about 8 wheelchairs attempting to squeeze through hundreds of already exasperated passengers and it begins to border on a comedy.

The large Indian family saying farewell to parents and grandparents, walking along the outside as they are pushed in wheelchairs through the crowd. Tears in eyes as a son shouts out “Be Brave Mammi!”. Then you see the Tibetan nun, the deep burgundy color of her robes giving away her origin, calmly meandering her way through at peace with the whole process. And finally the old gentleman trying to extricate his laptop to the exasperation of other passengers who finally just push past him.

All this culminates into the final step, what I like to call the TSA carnival ride. Step in, feet apart, arms above your head and “weeeeee” as the scanner scans you. I always feel like I should get a sticker or a snapshot as a memorabilia and have never understood why folks get so indignant at being shown as an amorphous blob on a screen.

Duty Free

Finally making it to the gate with over an hour to spare, I swung by Duty Free to purchase the requested Gin. Now, having never purchased alcohol in Duty Free before I afraid it would be confiscated, since I pass through Amsterdam on my way to Norway, I went over to one of the store attendants, a lovely gentleman possibly from China. When asked if it was ok he replied with:
“No problem! We put it zippy bag”
“I am sorry, a what?”
“Zippy bag, we put it zippy bag”
Or something to that extent, I decided since I understood the first part of “No Problem” I would go with that.
At checkout they placed it in a sealed bag and I had to pick it up as I boarded the plane. So I think it kind of made sense.

Please Remain Seated!

Waiting in the gate area it was very warm, possibly an issue with the circulation system, this ultimately made passengers more fidgety than usual, and with the added benefit of the flight being overbooked, by around 20 seats.

You have got to love it when the airline does this. So of course everyone without a seat lined up, the desk agents repeated over and over again, “please remain seated, we are working on the issue and will call you up as soon as we have resolved it, please remain seated. Anyone willing to give up your ticket, please come and see us, otherwise, again, please remain seated.”
Of course, everyone kept standing in line.

As they were about to board the announcement came through that the plane was “Too Hot!” so they could not board us and to please remain seated. The result 90% of the passengers lined up. I was terribly bemused at the whole thing, watching as passengers got frustrated standing in line when they should just remain seated.

On a side note the exciting experience of Taco Bell from the previous evening seemed to be losing it’s grip as I merrily chomped on pepto chewables.

When Sleep Eludes You….

The plane was packed beyond packed, there was no free seat anywhere… and an unhappy child 2 rows in front of me. This flight was going to be fantastic (please note the sarcasm).

Since it is virtually impossible for me to sleep on planes unless I have at least 2 seats, preferably 3 (allowing me to stretch out), I decided to attempt to take a half tablet of my muscle relaxant that I use when my shoulder acts up.
Dinner was served and I requested pasta, they had to fetch it, after nibbling on the salad, the cold hard roll and the cracker, I asked again, they had forgotten, pasta received and opened…pasta quickly closed!
No sleep!
Certain a movie would help loll me to sleep I put on my noise canceling headphones (that I purchased in Istanbul for a tenth of the price) and flipped to Godzilla. Perhaps a high action movie with sci-fi undertones was a bad idea…
No Sleep!
Then I tried Malificent, the whimsical retake on sleeping beauty, I was so entranced with the movie that I barely blinked.
No Sleep!….maybe I should have taken a whole pill?

Then there was a call for medical assistance, I considered but decided to wait and see if they had help. Being a vet nurse means I can only do so much and I hoped they didn’t ask me to check for a fever…But luckily they had a doctor and 3 RNs answer the call.
Still No Sleep!
Perhaps a light hearted kids movies? How to Train Your Dragon 2, brilliant!
Begin to drift off slightly, the bliss of oblivion within reach… and so too was my butt apparently, as my seat mate attempted to tuck in her blanket mid snore, she ultimately attempted to tuck my butt in at the same time! Awake!
Oh bugger it, I give up! Grab a coffee and play Majong on the plane game station till we land.

Due to the medical emergency, my assessment was possible heart attack from the few glimpses I got, we were granted priority landing.
The flight attendants assured us the gentleman would be ok.

Greetings Amsterdam…Airport

I must say that Schipol International Airport is quite delightful. Easy to manoeuvre about and joy of all joys… an outside area where you can breathe the fresh air… as long as you are upwind of the smokers. But for those of us already 12hrs + in airport air, anything resembling fresh was worth it.
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The Final Leg

Eventually it was time to meander to the gate and await boarding. Feeling utterly exhausted I politely asked the gate agent if there was a free row so I could sleep, politeness always seems to help and by the time the plane left the ground I was strapped into a middle seat of 3 and passing out while attempting to ignore a section of the buckle digging into my side.

After a refreshing 45min catnap, I awoke to a wonderful flight attendant handing me coffee and a funky Dutch cookie, two wafers glued together with caramel… heaven to a long haul traveler. As I was correctly trained in cookie and coffee etiquette by my parents I broke it in half and…. DUNKED!

The flight attendant was so delighted she exclaimed “That’s the only way to eat them, but then one is never enough!” and promptly got me another one. I think I am in love with Dutch flight attendants as I was handed a third before leaving.

Journey to Voss

Leaving Airport World, at least for a few days, I discovered I had received a dose of exceptional traveler luck. My bag was one of the first, then I was just able to jump on the bus that was leaving for downtown Bergen, after a short walk I managed to get on a train leaving in 5min (a whole hour earlier than expected), I nodded off now and then and when I finally arrived at the platform, the first person I asked to borrow his phone ended up being a mate of mine and I was promptly handed an exceptionally strong cup of coffee (he was from Spain and apparently the stronger the better is their motto).

Shower, food and meeting all my mates mates ended a very long 2 days… but now the adventure into Norway was just beginning!
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Travel

 

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The Evil that is.. dah dah dah…. Separate Tickets (insert scream here)

Background

Whenever I travel I have always bought tickets together and it all seemed to flow so nicely. If there was a screw up or a delay, no problem the airline gave you a hotel or meal voucher.

But during my attempt to fly to Venice to start my next contract on the cruise ship I experience the horror that comes when tickets are purchased separately and for airlines that are not partners.

And it Begins…

Checking in was a breeze, although some sweet talk was required as my bag was overweight but, hey, I am on a seaman’s ticket. They checked my bags all the way to Venice, even though the tickets were separate. However, they couldn’t give me my boarding passes but all I had to do was pick them up at the kiosk, no problem. She also casually informed me that, due to San Francisco’s infamous fog, flights were delayed but again, no problem, I should make my flight.

Waiting in the lounge the emails from United Air went something like this:
Your 10.30am flight is delayed to 11.30am
Now your 10.30am flight is delayed to 1.19pm
oh wait we mean 12.30pm

Ultimately we left at 1.30pm, but with the absolute assurance from all involved that making my 3.30pm flight would be a snap. When we landed I had just over an hour and all I had to do was jog over to Air France, grab my boarding passes and head to the gate. No Problem!!!

Marathons
Let’s rephrase shall we: I RAN down through the domestic terminal to the international terminal that was “right next door” and tried to find the Air France counter. I finally got directions and sprinted dragging my carry on behind me. Rounding the corner to the Air France counter I discovered nothing… no-one….nada…. the counter was closed, with still an hour till the flight. I tried the kiosk but kept getting a “Do not recognise flyer” message. By now panic was rising, the tears were forming, the sweat was poring, I HAD TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT!

I saw a young man and asked if he worked at the counter, he said yes listened to my desperation and went to find the supervisor. Both of these guys had been on their way to lunch…. not anymore. The supervisor told me gate closed, no go, have to rebook. As I was waiting for them to get me a phone number a French couple rounded the corner with the same look of desperation. Turns out they had the same problem flying in from a different airport. The Air France guys gave us the number, said sorry and disappeared as fast as their little feet could take them. Although the young guy did really want to help more.

Hello Operator???

The french couple asked me to help with the phone call so we dialed and hoped for the best. After a few transfers we were finally connected to United… I think… not sure why…
For both of us the answer was that we had booked on separate airlines so that means there was nothing they could do, they couldn’t rebook us, they couldn’t give us information… nada!!

Customer Service at its best!!

Then we headed off to United to see if there was anything the counter could do. Once again it was a dead end, they could proved us a note claiming we missed our next flight due to a delay and a coupon for a hotel discount, but nothing else. Also they weren’t sure where my bags were, but we relatively certain they were somewhere in the airport… fantastic!

Delta????

A good friend suggested we go see Delta, as they are partners with Air France…. it couldn’t hurt really, we had hit a wall at every possible attempt. The staff at the Delta Air counter in San Francisco were not only kind and friendly they were downright incredible, phenomenal and pretty damn awesome. We spent 5 hours at the counter but they would not give up. The first lady could not help me but she was able too sort out the couple’s tickets with just a small change fee. Then just as I was about to give up, after trying to call any number I had to reach someone in Italy… an amazing member of the Delta team put his foot down and was determined to discover a way to get my ticket sorted. He would not give up, and eventually against all odds, possibly with a little magic involved he handed me my tickets for the next flight and even had me do online check in and choose my seats. I wanted to kiss him, all the stress and strain dissipated.

Luggage in transit

During this miracle of reticketing, I went to United to find my luggage. They had no record of it other than when it was scanned to go onto the airplane in…wait for it…. Eugene, OR. So either my bag was still on the Eugene flight, or it had been transferred and was flying to venice or it was backstage somewhere in the airport. At that point it just didn’t seem like a big deal… am was sure I would find it the next day.

The Round Up

The 3 musketeers left the airport and headed for our hotel feeling utterly exhausted, bordering on starvation but not defeated now that Delta had saved the day. After a shower and rest we celebrated the insanity of the day over dinner and drinks and then planned to meet the next day at the airport.

In the end I made it to Venice, the Air France flight was great, I had a whole row, great movies and good food. But the stress to get there just proved the fact that buying tickets all within the same partnership can significantly diminish stress when delays occur.

As for making it to the ship…. I did, barely, but that’s a story for another time.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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