An Experience to Remember

February 21, 2014

in Odds & Ends Stories

In August 2006 I was flying to Amsterdam from SFO to take a cruise to the Baltics three days later. This was on the day of the “fluid bombers” scare on British Air. American Airlines to JFK to Heathrow, then British Air to Amsterdam. I used miles, hence the many stops. Luckily I was in business class.

At SFO, in line for security, they were no longer letting people bring bottles or fluids on the plane. This meant people were dumping bottles of perfume and expensive Napa Valley wines in the trash. The flight was an early flight, and got off close to on-time.

By the time we got to JFK, they had changed security more and now required a second security check, and the flight was delayed. Once the plane was loaded, we were informed that the flight would be delayed even further because there was a lightning storm and ground crew could not work with lightning (makes sense; I wouldn’t want to see anyone get hurt). We sat there for five hours, at the gate, door closed. Luckily for me, business and first classes were served booze and dinner and we could watch our personal video devices, etc. The poor folks in coach were only given water.

Arrived in London to chaos. Landed in Terminal 3, had to go to Terminal 4, which required a tube ride. Stood in line for 1.5 hours to check into my British Air flight, only to be told that my flight had been cancelled. Got in this other line which wound outside the terminal and into the parking lot. Stood in this line for over an hour and it never moved.

I thought since I booked the flight with American, I should go to their counter for help. Had to get back to Terminal 3, which didn’t use the tube, but a bus. Once at American, I stood in line and listened to people talk about their experiences. One person said he had to go two hours out of London to find an available hotel room. I knew I had to get out of town.

American was able to find me a flight to Brussels at 8pm, but it was delayed as well. By now security was so tight you could only take your passport, prescription meds and wallet on the plane. No carry-on luggage at all. I handed over my bags with my camera and computer in them and saw them piled with dozens of bags that were going nowhere (imagine the backlog when all transferred bags, all new bags and all carry-ons had to be checked and re-scanned).

I got to wait in the business class lounge, finally got the flight and arrived in Brussels with nowhere to stay. The airline told me about the Sheraton Hotel at the airport and made a booking for me. I then went and stood in line to find my missing bags and make a report. That took 1.5 hours, and was told that they could not help me and I should file a report in Amsterdam when I got there because that’s where the bags were scheduled to go.

Went to the hotel with nothing but my passport and wallet; it was just across the way. It was CLOSED. Door locked. I’d been traveling 36+ hours and the hotel was closed. I banged on the door and finally someone showed up. Got checked in; they were so kind giving me all kinds of toiletries. It was the softest, most luxurious bed ever!

The next day I got up and put on my clothes, well-worn from too much travel. Got to Amsterdam, stood in line an hour to make a claim for the luggage, then went shopping. Bought a whole new set of clothes.

One bag arrived after three days. It was in my hotel room. Because I was going on a cruise, I had to explain to the airline where I would be every day. I emphatically told them to not deliver my bag in Russia. The second bag, with my computer and camera, arrived after 11 days when I was in Helsinki. Everything was there!

I’m not complaining about this trip. It was exhausting and frustrating, but it was an experience to remember.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris June 23, 2014 at 2:28 am

These trips makes you appreciate the times where your flight takes off on time, arrives on time and your bags are there with you.


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