Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm home at last!

Took quite a bit of doing, but I am finally home! I have never had so much trouble with getting on the plane to go home as I did on Friday. It started off with Iberia, which for some bizarre reason, sends passengers to different gates FOR THE SAME FLIGHT! Fortunately, I was in a group of passengers that included an Iberia executive, so when the customer "service" rep started to tell us we were hosed even though it was their fault, he got on the phone & started forcefully talking to someone (he didn't yell, but his tone of voice suggested that he was saying "get us on this plane if you value your job"). So we were whisked by bus to the opposite end of the airport (we weren't even sent to the same terminal!) & told to walk up a flight of stairs at the back end of the plane. Since the door wasn't open, the woman in front of me knocked on it. "Avon calling!" Sheesh. And here I thought the emergency exits were supposed to be used to get OFF the plane. I'm sure quite a few people at Iberia & possibly Barajas Airport no longer have jobs there.....

So we were an hour late in getting Heathrow. No problem, thinks I, since I still have over an hour to change terminals & make my connection. Oh no, says the nice BA lady who checked my boarding card. You're too late. I'm sorry, what? I was at the airport at 6:00 a.m.! No, you have to be at Heathrow by a certain time to get on your flight home. Well, she was very nice (especially when I started crying...I really hate that about myself, but I was so tired & exhausted & wanted to go home so badly, the tears started flowing). She called the gate & asked them to hold it for me, but they couldn't, so she walked me over to customer service where 2 people spent about 30 minutes getting me a seat on the flight to Houston & then a flight home. (See, Iberia, it CAN be done without making the passenger feel like garbage.)

When I got to Houston, the line at Immigration & Customs was almost out the door, thank to a flight from Mexico that was more than 2 hours late in arriving AND the fact that Homeland "Security" only bothered to put 6 people (out of 18 kiosks) on the floor to let Americans back in their own country. These were not happy people, since almost all of them had missed their connections. It took me over 45 minutes to get through that mess, then on to collect my bag & find out how to get a new boarding pass & baggage tags since IAH is obviously not DFW, where I thought I was going when I checked in at 6:00 a.m. in Madrid.

I was told to go stand in a massive line at customer service, again helpfully staffed by only 3 people & a surly teen age son of one of the employees who was not quite nice when passengers came up & started asking him questions (Listen, dummy, if you're not an employee, what the heck are you doing not only sitting at the Continental desk, but being rude about it?????) Since all these people in line needed to be rebooked on new flights, I was obviously going to be wasting an inordinate amount of time standing in line. By this point, I'd been in the international arrivals area for almost 2 hours, so I started looking for an exit.

And there it was: the sign to Ground Transportation. I figured if I could somehow get a boarding pass & go through security at this terminal, I could get to the 9th Level of Hell, aka IAH Terminal B for free using the monorail. So, I left the long line downstairs & went through the doors & into the main terminal, up the escalator & to the Continental check-in desk. The woman there gave me my boarding pass & a new tag for my checked bag & off I went to security. Quickly got to Terminal B & it was a madhouse. All the flights were delayed or cancelled & the hallway to where my gate was smelled like a bathroom. No, seriously. Got to my gate, only to find out my flight was delayed for one hour, then 2. Finally got on board the plane (with the gate agent telling us with a straight face that this was an "on-time departure." No kidding. Got home close to midnight, thanks to my friend Estella who patiently waited for me through all the delays. The Zoo was happy to see me & went to sleep surrounded by furry, purring bodies & 2 happy dogs prancing around outside.

And the airlines wonder why people don't want to fly anymore.....

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