Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Getting There is Half the....Battle

I have to say that my luck when it comes to ease of travel is just about 50/50. My first time ever visiting Russia included a free upgrade to business class on my way back from Saint Petersburg. I got so much extra leg room and warm chocolate chip cookies I was certain that the fates had smiled down up me. +1 Jill

Going to Australia met with some resistance when I found out at the airport that I was on the stand-by list despite having booked my ticket several months in advance. However, despite some panic attacks, I found myself on the plane to Australia, and my traveling companion and I got bumped up to economy plus for the San Francisco-->Sydney portion of our journey. +1 Airline/+1 Jill

The family vacation to Miami this past December was fraught with disaster. The towncar taking us to the airport got a flat tire on the exit ramp to the airport. Not even just flat but completely shredded. My best friend and I unwisely decided to wear warm weather clothing to the airport and thus nearly froze to death standing on the exit ramp in Philadelphia. It was only because airport security viewed us as a security threat that a security officer came and escorted us to the airport. Next we were delayed 80 minutes on the runway before takeoff, and when we finally arrived in Florida it took over an hour to get our rental car. We should have arrived at our hotel by 11am, but barely made it in time for our dinner reservations at 7pm. Airline +1/ -3 Jill

So I should have been due some good airline karma this trip, but it was not to be. Almost immediately the bad travel luck started. My original flight had me going from Philadelphia--->JFK---->Moscow, however as soon as I got to the airport I was informed that my Philadelphia--->JFK flight was going to be 5 hours late. Five hours late. This clearly did not work given that my flight to Moscow was in 3 hours. The people at Delta tossed around options like a private car could drive me up to JFK, but the best option they could come up with was to put me on a separate flight entirely--one that left 6 hours later than my original flight and would get me into Moscow a full three hours after the students I was supposed to greet would arrive. It wasn't the best option, but it was pretty much the only they settled on for me.

As far as the flight went, everything went smoothly: no turbulence, edible meal, a neighbor that appeared to have the bubonic plague but at least coughed into a tissue rather than on me. Even my layover went smoothly in Paris. On top of that I was the second person through passport control in Moscow which is unheard of. I was in and out of passport control in 6 minutes. A new personal best.

So you can imagine my surprise when I waited for my luggage for 10 minutes. Then 20. Then 30. Then 45. Then an hour. No luggage. Not just for me but for 20 other people on my flight. Some wacky senior citizen French backpacking women actually crawled on to the luggage belt and attempted to crawl back into the luggage area. Although that was pretty entertaining to watch (and SO not recommended in Russia as they quickly learned), it didn't help with the luggage situation. As it turns out an entire truck of luggage was let at the terminal in Paris--mine included. Ooops.

After another hour of filling out paperwork repeatedly at the Moscow airport (6 forms in triplicate all by hand. If I'm ever wealthy, I'm gifting carbon copy paper to the Moscow airport), I was sent off with a piece of paper that confirmed that my luggage was indeed missing, but no promises that I'd ever see my luggage again.

At the hotel I tried to be pretty zen about the whole thing. After all it was just stuff, right? Things can be replaced. A few months ago there was a bombing in the baggage claim of the Domodedovo airport in Moscow (not the airport I flew to). How can I be upset about stuff when just a few months ago something so horrific happened. I repeated my zen inspired mantra as I made numerous Skype calls to Delta/AirFrance/the Moscow airport. There were promises that my luggage would be on the 7:00 flight to Moscow, arriving at the airport at 9:45 and would be hand delivered to my hotel that night. Hooray. Being zen worked.

Yet when I woke up the next morning there was no luggage. Calls revealed that they didn't actually know what happened to the luggage. It being on the flight the previous night was a hopeful guess. My zen mantra wasn't working. I was smelly, wearing the same clothes for 36 hours, and thinking of all the stuff in my luggage that would be difficult to replace in general, and impossible to replace in Moscow: the adapters & wires for my cameras (with one camera actually being in the suitcase-ugh), my glasses, my favorite Russian language review book, and the brand new sweet birdie blouse my mom had purchased for me the night before I left. Still just stuff, but stuff that would be difficult to be without for the trip

That day I went to the airport smelly and cranky, and yet still on duty to pick up the 5 remaining students for the study abroad program. In between two flights I found my way over to lost and found, and asked about my luggage. "It will arrive today at 3:15. Come back here at 3:45, we will have it," I was informed by a very no nonsense lost and found official. When I returned at the designated time I was greeted by more paperwork and about 2 dozen questions about the physical features of my luggage ("It's black. No, just black. Like black, black. Are there shades of black? No, not plastic, just material. No, I don't know what type of material. Yes, I realize that a lot of people have black luggage, I'll show more consideration the next time I purchase luggage...is my bag actually here?") and then---tah dah---my luggage appeared! With all of my things in it which was even better! I thanked my query-tastic lost and found agents of mercy and rushed back to join my group.

So the airlines have won this round. I'm hoping this means the fates will right themselves and I'll be bumped up to first class and get to sit next to Oprah on the way back to the states. Seems like that's the only fair way here.

And today, in celebration I wore the sweet little birdie shirt my mama bought for me. Thanks, Mama!

1 comment:

  1. My theory is that for Russian bureaucracy, forcing people to fill out multiple forms is a way to weed out the weaklings. Only the strong will write! :)

    Safe travels!