Plan to Avoid Airport Goes Awry

January 27, 2012

in Airport Stories

This story took place precisely a year ago, in January 2011. I had spent the last 3 months travelling in South America, and was finally returning home to Northern Europe. At the time of return I was waaay south of Chile, bordering the South Pole areas. So it was obviously going to be a long leg of travel, from the south end of the world to the northernmost part. But my mood was good, and I was prepared with enough books, music and other entertainment.

I had several times previously travelled from Northern Europe to South America, and I had purposely planned my flights so that I would not have to go through Charles de Gaulle Airport in France, as I had nothing but bad experiences with that airport. This meant I was travelling first from Punta Arenas in the south of Chile to the capital Santiago, then from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro, Rio to Madrid, Madrid to London, and London to Oslo.

The first two flights were all in order. But when I got to Rio the flight was delayed 2 hours due to a man getting sick on the plane as we were right about to leave. Oh well, this stuff happens, and he’s not to be blamed. But I already knew by then that the chance of me catching my Madrid connection to London was slimming down. So I had to endure a 14 hour flight knowing that I would end up in Madrid late for my next flight. But I figured it would not be too late at night, and maybe they could book me for another flight.

The man sitting next to me was a pretty foul-smelling French guy. He tried several times to strike up a conversation – in French – even though I made it quite clear that I did not speak a word of French. I tried with English, Spanish and German, but no. He seemed offended that I did not speak French, and apparently decided to tell the FA that I was not hungry and did not want food, as I was asleep when they served dinner. By the time we landed in Madrid I was hungry, had a sore neck from spending the last 30 hours on planes and in airports, and was generally in a bit of a grumpy mood.

Landing in Madrid, I asked the head FA where I should go to get booked onto another flight, since my London one had left hours ago. She gave me directions and I made my way through the maze of an airport. One train ride and 1 hour of walking and searching later, I finally found the desk of my travel operator. By this time I was tired, sweaty and sleep deprived. Her English wasn’t the best, but I understood that while the last flight to London that night was completely booked, she could get me on a flight to Paris – my worst nightmare!

I asked if there were any other options, perhaps Frankfurt to Amsterdam. But no, my only option was Paris. So I accepted and got new tickets. As I left she yells after me, “You should hurry up, the flight leaves in 35 minutes.” Having just made the journey from the gates to the terminal, I knew it would take longer than 35 minutes. I told her this was not possible, and could I perhaps get some assistance? She said no, I was young and should run. (Remark: I was schlepping my 35 kg suit case with me. Running was not a possibility.)

I am by this point fueled with anger and make my way to go through security. The line is long. Extremely long. A sign says waiting time from this point is approximately 45 minutes. I explain my situation and people let me pass – until I get to the security guy. He will have none of this. I explain that people have agreed to let me pass, and I am in an extreme hurry to catch my flight. At this point I am crying, and another security man comes over and lets me through. I run to the train, and just miss it. I have to wait 15 minutes for the next one, and by this time I am falling apart. I envision having to spend the night on the floor of the airport after a day and a half of travel. I catch the next train and by some extreme miracle it turns out the lady at the travel operator called and asked them to hold the plane for me.

I board the plane, only to realise it is indeed the same very aircraft which I had flown from Rio to Madrid. I am also seated in the same seat, next to the French guy. So I have been running around the Madrid airport for a good 2 .5 hours, just to end up in the same effing plane, in the same effing seat next to the same effing guy. It cannot be true!

As we depart I am able to calm myself down. Only this and one more flight and I will finally be home. We land in Paris late at night, and I am by this point so hungry I almost felt like fainting. Having not had dinner, no time to eat in Madrid, and no food was served or able to be bought on the plane (they were out by the time they came to my row in the back of the plane), all I could think of is that I needed to get something to eat. But first I must yet again find my travel operator and get a new ticket to my final destination, Oslo. Luckily this goes pretty well, and I soon have a new ticket, and 2 hours before the flight departs. I go through security and find my gate area. Now, to get some food.

I go to the only little kiosk open, as this is late at night. Pick out some sandwiches and a soda. As I am about to pay the clerk informs me that they don’t accept non-French cards. You have to be kidding me?? The international departure terminal and they only accept French cards? I am bewildered. Since I was originally going though London, I have pounds, but not a single euro. I also have dollars, but he will only accept euros. Unbelievable.

I go to find an ATM. There is only one in the gate area, and it is – shocker – out of service. I try to leave the gate area and go back to the shopping area where there are more ATMs, but am not allowed to do so for security reasons. I am by this point so fed up with the French and this godforsaken airport that I don’t know what to do with myself. I remember so vividly why I chose to NOT travel through de Gaulle airport, it is hell on earth. I end up going to the restroom to drink some water from the sink. I sit and wait for my flight to leave, completely out of energy.

Finally it is time to board. As I embark, the FA looks at my ticket and says I have to sit with a FA in one of their seats, as the flight is completely full and I have literally been thrown onto it by my travel operator. Well isn’t that just perfect. I get to spend the last 2.5 hours sitting backwards in a small seat right into a wall. I find my seat and literally begin to sob. Late night I finally arrive in Oslo after 2 days of travelling, and indulge in all the food I can get my hands on from the vending machine in the train station. My suitcase, which I last saw in Madrid, arrived 9 days later. Broken.

So there it is, my flight from hell story.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peaches June 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I read your story with great interest and I was feeling sorry for your plight. Then, I thought, how lucky you are to be able to travel to all ends of the earth. You have had incredible experiences that will last a life-time. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy. Happy traveling in the future. Remember just sit back, relax, and enjoy.


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