Return From Paris Is A Nightmare

March 10, 2010

in Odds & Ends Stories

A while back, my wife (then my girlfriend) and I were in Paris on vacation. We had a wonderful time (even managed to get “bumped” to 1st class on the flight over the pond from MSP 10 days earlier). Well, we reported to CDG in plenty of time for our return flight to Detroit (MSP doesn’t really have customs for incoming foreign flights). We checked-in, and all was well. When it came time for the flight (on NWA), however, that’s when all hell broke loose.

The boarding time came and went, and there was no information. After an hour, someone finally came out to tell us that French authorities weren’t releasing our flight because they didn’t think there were enough life vests on board. Huh? Someone actually counted life vests under the seats on a plane that landed there less than 12 hours earlier? Okay. Well, the “counting” on the life vests took over 4 hours. Eventually, we were allowed on the plane, and numerous seats were taped over to indicate that no one could sit there. Luckily, the plane was nearly empty, and I had an entire row of seats to lie across to sleep on during the flight. It got worse, however.

Somewhere over the Atlantic, a Frenchman decided that it would be a good idea to go into the lav and light up a smoke. That, of course, set off the smoke detector. When the FA’s arrived at the door to investigate, he threw his lit cigarette into the trash, which then proceeded to catch on fire. The fire lasted a couple of minutes before it was fully put out, but the lav was trashed, and the entire plane reeked of smoke. Mr. Frenchman was zip-cuffed (the plastic band-looking things) and then tied to a seat. Luckily, we weren’t diverted since everything was still flyable.

Upon landing in Detroit, Mr. Frenchman was literally lifted off the seat and carried away. We were then allowed to deplane, now 5 hours behind schedule. On the jet way, I immediately noticed a Border Patrol agent with a dog (drug-sniffing, obviously). Now, understand that many of the passengers were (a) tired, (b) non-English speaking, and (c) merely curious. A young man (pre-teens) tried to simply pet the dog, and the BP guy starts SCREAMING, “DON’T TOUCH THE DOG… KEEP MOVING… DON’T TOUCH THE DOG… KEEP MOVING!” On and on. You’d have thought he was Rain Man caught in a feedback loop or something.

Anyone flying in to DTW a few years back will recall that the “foreign flight” terminal was physically separated from the domestic terminal, and you have to take a bus (in the rain that day!) over to the other terminal after clearing customs and collecting your luggage. Anyway, once we arrived in the domestic terminal, we went to the NWA counters to rebook our flight to MSP since, obviously, our original flight left long ago.

Upon getting to the front of the line, I (very politely) explained our situation to the chimp (I mean, customer service representative) at the counter. She pumps out a couple of tickets and hands them to me like fecal matter being thrown at the zoo. It just so happened that directly over the counter were the departure monitors. I looked up and saw, clear as a bell, that the very flight she just put us on was labelled as cancelled. I stopped and told her (again, very politely) that she just booked me on a cancelled flight. She started screaming at me that I was being impossible, that she was getting her supervisor, and she turned on her heels and walked away! A minute later, another chimp (I mean, supervisor) showed up and berated me for yelling at her subordinate. I ramped it up and told her that I had done no such thing, that little-miss-can’t-read-a-computer-monitor had deliberately booked us on a cancelled flight (how on earth would the computer even allow that?), and that all I wanted were 2 seats on a flight to MSP. Folded-hands-across-her-chest supervisor stared at me for a few seconds then started pounding the keyboard. She handed me 2 new passes for a later flight, and I left.

Luckily, that later flight got off without a hitch, but we had to wait at DTW (a real dump) for several hours before finally getting back to MSP late that evening.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

msp2anywhere June 2, 2010 at 9:17 am

Ah, MSP does have CBP and a robust international arrivals program, including arrivals from NRT, LHR (or is it LGW?), AMS, and CDG, various Canadian flights, Mexico/Carib…

And, on a technical note, Delta doesn't have a FC on int'l routes, it's WBC (World Business Class)…


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