We are now back home after a 35 hours of travel. I am very happy about those 35 hours of travel. It could have been longer. In fact, it almost was ...
You know I love a good challenge, but even I was pushing the boundaries with this one.
As you know we've been in Aruba with the hubster's company. An all expenses paid trip to the Caribbean was hardly something we were going to pass up.
But you see, I've now got 24 hours until I get back on another plane. This time to Singapore with my boy for his first international soccer tour.
In order for me to get home in time for that trip I couldn't miss a single flight home.
Now, I don't know how many of you have travelled by air throughout the USA, but there is no guarantee you'll actually get the seats you've purchased, let alone flights being on time and connections being met. It's a very "chaotic" industry the US airline industry. Australia is so incredibly relaxed and smooth in comparison.
First of all they tend to overbook most of their flights which is a recipe for chaos right there. So there are often not enough seats for passengers and they pay people to get off and wait for the next available flight.
Secondly there are so many different airlines with different ticketing systems that when you are travelling internationally you don't always marry up with an affiliated airline which can cause all sorts of interesting conversations when it comes to baggage, weight allowances, ticketing etc.
Thirdly it can be pretty hit and miss when it comes to customer service. When things do go wrong (which does often happen) we've often found an attitude of "that's not my problem" which is frustrating to say the least. Note: We've had some great experiences too. It's not all bad.
Anyway, our trip from Aruba didn't start off on the most hopeful note. We were first in line at the counter because we couldn't afford to miss any of our flights. It took them 30 minutes to process us (and our bags) through to LA (via Miami) simply because they wanted so badly to check our luggage all the way home but American Airlines isn't affiliated with Virgin so they couldn't. We kept trying to explain that we were OK with getting our luggage in LA and rechecking it with Virgin ourselves, but either our accents eluded them or they weren't used to processing people outside of the USA because they insisted on loudly shushing us, speaking in their local dialect and doing a gazillion computer keystrokes before finally deciding half an hour later that yes, we should collect our bags and recheck them ourselves. Ya think?!
A thousand apologies to the 60+ people waiting patiently in the queue behind us. I don't think many Aussies go to Aruba. It was all a bit new to them.
Let's just say we were relieved to finally get on the flight. Arriving into Miami on time was crucial to this whole "I've gotta get home for my son" operation.
Miami had a really short turn around and it was important nothing went wrong because if we didn't make our LA connection, it would be 24 hours before the next flight to Australia. Which would severely hamper the whole "I've gotta get home for my son" thing.
In Miami we found our gate easily enough. Our boarding passes were ticketed in Aruba and all we needed to do was check the flight information board at the airport to get the gate information.
Then we went and had brunch.
At boarding time I headed to the ladies bathroom while the others finished their food. That's when I heard the call.
"Final boarding call for passengers travelling on American Airlines to LA from gate 25D. Final boarding call."
Gate 25D was two terminals and a train ride away. What happened to 44D?
We raced to the nearby 44D departure counter and asked what was going on.
"Oh, the information on the board is wrong. Your flight is departing from 25D."
Just like that. Matter of fact, no apologies, no good luck, no I'll call that gate for you.
Just oh yeah, somebody stuffed that up. Next!
So we ran. I am am talking sprinting up escalators, jumping onto elevators and into a train that was closing its doors and moving from the station. Bags were being dragged behind us and shoulder bags flapping in the wind. There may have been swearing but I'm not sure if it was out loud or inside our about-to-explode heads.
We got to the gate as they were closing the door to discover they'd given our seats away.
"This isn't our fault," we explained.
"The gate information was wrong," we said.
"Oh, we know," she says. "But this flight is now closed."
"Oh no it's not!" we say. "We have a boarding pass and we're getting on that flight!"
So with some scowling they printed off new boarding passes, reopened the flight, got us on and moved others around (possibly off) to make it work. But hell's bells it was a close call.
So yeah, our flight home almost didn't happen. Because apparently somebody typed in the wrong departure information on a big ol' computer screen.
How many others missed that flight we will never know. How the others knew about the correct gate we will never know. All I know is we were on. And we were flustered. And remarkably none of us lost our cool.
During that flight I pondered about the millions of implications a missed flight might have in the world of so many travellers. For me it was the possibility of a mother and son not making the Singapore tour. Which again would have so many flow on effects for not only his soccer career but his team as well.
I guess what I had really hoped for during those moments in Miami was for the American Airlines staff to acknowledge that. To recognise there are implications. To actually say "oh no, this is terrible for you, we'll make sure you get on that flight". But there was nothing. No accepting responsibility or even an apology. Not even a "good luck". Just complete dismissal as if our not making that flight had no impact on their world whatsoever.
I guess when it comes down to it, it doesn't. They're just processing tickets, not people.
Five hours later we stepped foot into the brand spanking new LAX international terminal and checked in with Virgin Australia. The feeling of chaos departed and a familiar aura of confidence fell over us. We were on our way home.
And now I'm at my desk in my home and the whole "we almost didn't get home" thing has given me something to blog about.
As I type the washing is being done and I've got my legs raised high trying to get rid of my cankles ready to do it all again tomorrow.
I'll tell you more about that trip in the morning!
Have you ever missed a flight?
What were the flow on effects?
Have you ever felt like a "ticket" rather than an actual human being?