Madness In Moroccan And Madrid Airports

June 5, 2010

in Airport Stories

Last year, I sent this email to my friends after an amazing trip from Morocco to Brussels. Don’t get me wrong – I love Morocco. You just have to have a sense of humor sometimes!

Went to the airport in Ouarzazate for the 6 am flight. There were 2, both leaving at the same time, both bound for Casablanca. One – not ours – loaded and left. We waited, and waited, and waited some more – nothing. Finally, someone got on the horn and found out that the ground crew had gone home after loading the first plane! Someone went and retrieved them. They loaded us on a plane – it wasn’t the right one. So they moved us to another plane, then they decided they liked the first one better and back we went. We sat there for half an hour, but no flight crew. Someone had forgotten to pick them up at the hotel. Flight crew finally showed up and said we were in the wrong plane, so back to the first one.

Finally took off 3 hours late, got to Casablanca and had to clear customs (or maybe internal security), even though we had not left the country. Suitcases didn’t show up on Carousel 3, as posted. Waited and waited. Finally asked. Suitcases were on Carousel 10. Got my suitcase and went out to the lobby to check in for Madrid and Brussels (they wouldn’t check me through at Ourzazate). There was one check-in line, and some woman had 9 suitcases, all of which were overweight. She is repacking and throwing stuff out on the floor, refusing to give up her place in line. Everybody was delayed 30 minutes. Went to clear customs to leave Morocco. Have to have a departure card. Where do you get it? At the Iberia check-in counter. They didn’t give me one. You have to ask. Back to the long check-in line at Iberia. Got the card and went through customs. The agent looked at the card and threw it away.

Went to the posted gate. No sign of anything. Went to the Iberia desk and was told that the gate posting was always wrong. Well, which gate is right? Nobody knows. Helpful agent suggested I walk up and down the concourse (there are about 50 gates) and look for people who look like they’re going to Madrid. Finally found the gate (it was posted at the gate, but was wrong on the monitors). Gate agent shows up. 100+ people immediately form a stampede trying to get on, even though there is no plane. Gate agent leaves. Herd is now in stationary stampede mode. Posted time for flight comes and goes. Herd is getting restless. Gate agent shows up and says plane is ready to leave from a gate clear at the other end of the terminal (flight is still posted at our gate). Herd achieves thirst-crazed stampede status in seconds. OJ would be proud.

Got to the other gate. Have to fill out a survey on how we love Casablanca airport before they let us on. Woman with baggage issues is somehow in the first 10, and holds up the entire plane loading for 15 minutes while she sorts and rearranges her umpteen pieces of carry on. Loading finally recommences. Computer has given out duplicate seat numbers (happens every day apparently). Exasperated stewardess finally gets on PA and says “free seating.” Entire herd, including woman with baggage issues, decides this is an opportunity to get a better seat. Mass pandemonium breaks out. Many shouted Berber and Arabic expletives (its an expletive if its accompanied by high speed phlegm droplets). Finally, everybody seated. I’m in business class, which is six across seating with limited legroom, just like coach. As far as I can tell, you pay almost double in business class for the privilege of sitting in the front of the plane – snob appeal.

Take off 2 hours late. Get to Madrid with 1 hour to connect to Brussels. Gate isn’t posted yet, but they give you a hint – it will be either concourse R, S, or T. Begin 40 minute train ride and hike to area central to concourses R, S, and T. Have to clear security. Put everything in tubs, then carry them approximately 300′ to the scanners (the security area is undergoing remodelling – not the normal situation). Stand in line holding 3 tubs for several minutes while someone argues with security people about attributes of a ping pong paddle as a deadly weapon. Arrive 20 minutes before departure. Gate still isn’t posted. Go to Iberia help desk. Helpful agent doesn’t know the gate, but is “pretty sure” that the flight will leave from the H concourse – 20 minutes away. But which gate? Walk up and down – you’ll find it (where have I heard that before?). Get to H concourse and got lucky – it was leaving from the second gate I tried. Still not posted at the gate or on the monitors. Had to ask gate agents. Got scolded for being so late. Got on and settled into my expensive, narrow, cramped business class seat. Took off and made it to Brussels – on time!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

david June 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

something about this story doesn't add up


Karl June 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I don't believe any of this person's story!


Salamandra June 6, 2010 at 5:03 pm

WTF. Stories too long too boring I love the site but stories 2 good 2 be true.


Kay June 8, 2010 at 3:29 am

It sounds real to me.

And of not entirely true, at least it is well obseved and written to entertain.

Just like the old days when I went there on a regular basis.


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