Friday, May 21, 2010

Panic at the airport

Airports are funny places, I've said it before. Yesterday, flying out of Rome I went through several emotions, mostly fear, frustration and mad running, as I attempted to grab an earlier flight home.

It worked, but only just. You'd think upgrading someone to an earlier flight would be easy, but it comes with surcharges and taxes and incurred costs. Or it would, if the carrier's computers had of been working. They were down though, so they sat there, looking all Italian, shrugging their shoulder nonchalantly, "Waddya want me to do about eh", they seemed to say.

Nevertheless the company who had flown us out there was very accommodating and said they would do it for us (me and another journo), via their booking agency. They did. But, despite the man at the check in desk refreshing his screen like there was no tomorrow, nothing came up on his system. Much confusion all round

So instead I spoke to man at the check-in desk instead: "We're trying to pay, we can't pay over there, and there are seats free, what's the loss?" and he relented, letting us through…at the exact moment they check-in for the flight was closing. We had about 35m before boarding. Could be close…then we saw the passport and security queue. Long…very long.I shouted to everyone, "really late, missing flight, please let us through"…amazing how kind people are when a mad English man is shouting broken sentences at them.

We went through, panic rising all the time as the clock ticked down 20 minutes to go. Then the man from the booking agency rang. "It's sorted, you're on the flight." "Great, we're going through security" I said. "Make sure you make the flight, otherwise you'll have missed the plane and your seats on the other plane will be gone" he replied. Great, just what I wanted to hear. We hurtled through security, no time to put belt back on, went careering on towards the gate to reach…a dead end. What?

A nice Croatian man said, "There's a train, it will be here in a moment". Four or five minutes pass. Getting close now. Throat very dry, nerves rising. Train arrives, pulls in, doors don't open for 30 seconds…it’s a test train (A TEST TRAIN!). One minute later, real one arrives. All fine, zips to gate, we get out, and arrive…boarding delayed by 10 minutes.

A New Zealand man says, "I saw you running, thought we were late or something". He was off to New Zealand. Rome to London to Hong Kong to NZ. That last leg would take 11 hours. Our globes and maps must not give true perspective on distance. You could fly to LA from London in 11 hours. And that's across the globe. I am confused by distance.

Still, made the plane, sat down, arrived home three hours earlier, in daylight, at no extra cost. Exciting. Sort of.

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