Travel Nightmares, Part Deux

Yes, my faithful readers, my travel karma struck again.  I would seriously like to know who’s puppy I killed in a former life to deserve a life of unadulterated hell in airports when I am the primary traveler.  Luckily (*spoiler alert*), this one ends much better than the journey TO London.

I had an early morning flight from Heathrow to Madrid, with a connection in the afternoon from Madrid to SDQ, all on Iberia.  We busted ass to get ourselves checked out of our “hotel” (more like the London Oakwood, Dolphin Square – you should check it out for an extended stay… quite nice) in order to catch the first Tube train of the morning @ 5:45 a.m.  Needless to say, we missed it by like 30 seconds.  Of course.  Next train came 10 minutes later, and we were on our way.

The Tube ride was smooth (1:02 door-to-door, like £5 from Pimlico to Heathrow, as compared to the “Heathrow Express” which takes 0:56, and costs £20 or so per person), and we made it to the airport about 2 hours before our flights.  Wife was flying out 1 hour later than we were, but tried to get on our flight on standby.  No dice.  We boarded our flight, saying bye to Wife, because we’d see her in Madrid.  Bwahahahahahahahahaha, this is Dave Pernal we’re talking about.  This is where the story goes to shit.

We back away from the jetway about 20 feet, and stop.  Captain announces a “mechanical anomaly” with no further explanation.  We wait for another 45 minutes, then get the dreaded “We have to deplane because there’s a hydraulic leak, and this will take 3 hours to fix.  Of course, Son and I are at the back of the plane, and are the last to get off.  I’m figuring there’s a flight to Madrid every 60-90 minutes or so, so no big deal.  We get to the customer service line and find the entire capacity of the plane in front of us in the queue, and 2 people working the desk.  Suddenly my hopes of meeting my wife in Madrid and making my connection become non-existent.

Three hours later, we get to the front of the line (I may have had a small emotional meltdown at some point, realizing the direness of our situation.  I desperately tried to hide this moment of emotional weakness from Son, but I think I failed), as I’ve been on Kayak and whatnot exploring my options for getting home.  I notice a couple of flights to NYC from Heathrow still within the realm of possibility, and check connections to SDQ.  None until Monday.  Well, that’s not horrible, as my sister lives 45 minutes from JFK and I haven’t seen her since last summer.  I call her at 6 a.m. local time and see if I can crash for at least overnight, maybe 2 days.  She says yes, so score.  I work out the details with the desk staff, and am ticketed on a British Airways flight to JFK, arriving at a reasonable hour.

Thing is, at this point, I have no way of contacting my wife to let her know what happened.  I send emails to her Gmail and State emails, hoping she’ll have the sense to check email in Madrid when she doesn’t find us there.  I also desperately try to get BA and Iberia to send a message to her via the plane, paging her, her arrival gate, and the departure gate.  They more or less refuse, and I call the Duty Officer at the London Embassy to see if she can get in touch with the Duty Officer in Madrid to see if they can have any better luck.  I call my housekeeper in the DR, asking her to stay until my wife arrives to relay the message, and I also as a friend to call my wife after 6 p.m. on her BB to relay the message.  I have no idea if any of the messages will get through.  I fear that if my wife does not see us in Madrid, she will freak out.  I finally find a helpful BA agent who sends text messages to Madrid about my situation… my last hope.

Son and I work our way to the gate, get the boarding call, and immediately hit a snag at the gate.  Apparently our seats aren’t our seats.  Great.  The gate agent works for a few getting us new seats, which aren’t together.  Nope, no way… no one wants my 4-year-old next to them for a 7+ hour flight with me 12 rows away.  Gate agent works some more, gets us 2 seats together.  Nice.

Anyways we board our flight, and find 2 people in our seats.  They have tickets for different seats, but keep saying “We’re a family, we’re not moving.”  I ask if any of their tickets are 2 seats together, they say yes and direct me to them.  I get there, and, why yes, they fed me a line of bullshit.  At this point, I’m visibly frustrated and a flight attendant asked me if I needed help.  I explained that there were 2 people in my ticketed seats who didn’t belong, and I’d appreciate sitting in MY seats.  She says she’ll help, goes over to the offending party and explains that they need to move.  They refuse, and become surly, but not surly enough to get kicked off the flight (I was secretly hoping for this, because seriously f*ck them, they were incredibly rude and douchey about the whole situation both to me an my son).  At this point, we’re standing in the galley, and I just lose it.  Like literally, lip quivering, tears rolling down my cheeks, choking on a combination of rage and utter frustration and exasperation.  A flight attendant asks me if I’m OK, and I say no… I’m far from it.  He contacts the crew chief to see if there’s anything they can do for us, and we wait there for about 10 minutes with me still a mess.

Finally they return, and ask us to follow them.  This is where the happy ending comes in to play.  We’re escorted up to First Class on a British Airways 747.  We get 2 private adjacent seats, and are told to enjoy our flight.  I’m brought champagne, Son’s brought some OJ, and we taxi down the runway.  Throughout the flight I’m plied with Bordeaux, 15 year old Scotch, and some of the tastiest food I’ve had in a while, whether on an airplane or not.  Slowly, I gather my composure and decide to relax.

As I write this, we’re about 35,000 feet over the Atlantic with about 3 hours left on the flight.  Son slept for the first 3+ hours, which was awesome, and I get the unintended (and awesome) consequence of Son getting to play with his cousins for a day or two before we head back to the DR on Monday.  Totally unnecessary load of BS to deal with on an otherwise stressful day that was to entail 14 hours of traveling.

I can’t wait to see what happens when we’re wheels-up from the DR before Wife heads back, and even more so what happens on our flight to Indonesia where we have 30+ hours for stuff to go wrong.

Flying sucks.  But apparently I’m going to have to get used to it.

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