Sunday, June 2, 2013
5:45 am Is Too Early
"In a day, if you don't come across any problems,
you can be sure you're traveling in a wrong way."
~ Swami Vivekanand
"I will reserve a taxi for you," I heard Giovanni, our Bologna host, tell Mike Thursday afternoon, "but don't you think that 5:45 is still too early?" That morning, I requested he ask the taxi to be at the B&B at 5:30 the next morning. He told me it was way too early and that we'd be the only ones at the airport. He wanted to reserve the taxi for 6 or 6:15, but I balked and finally compromised at 5:45.
Mike must have nodded his head. "You're not going to get her to agree to a later time." Darn right, Skippy. Who knows what kind of problems one could encounter?
Giovanni probably shook his head, but he did as he said, and at 5:45 on Friday morning, Mike and I heaved our suitcases into a taxi and headed to Bologna's Marconi Airport. I breathed a sigh of relief as traffic was light and our driver was fast. We arrived at exactly 6:00.
Inside the airport, we checked for the gate information and noticed that our Bologna-London flight was delayed. It wasn't until we hit the check-in counter that we found out we faced a four-hour delay which would make us late for our London-Miami flight.
"You must go up to ticketing," the check-in agent told us. "We cannot help you rearrange your flights, but the ticket desk can."
"Should we check our bags first?" I asked a little peeved already.
"No," she replied. "They any change your outbound flight, so we can't check them until we know the itinerary."
(Let me step out of the story at this point to tell you how Marconi Airport works. (NOT VERY WELL!) At most airports, as you all know, each airline has its own ticket, check-in, and gate agents. NOT in Bologna. At Marconi, all agents work for the airport itself, not for the different airlines. In the course of our time there, I noticed that one of the check-in agents worked Iberia Airlines for a bit, moved to British Airlines later, and when we were in the gate area, she was working a Ryan Air gate.)
We lugged our bags up to the ticket desk where we encountered Signor Personality who was not happy when we explained the problem.
"Our flight to London is delayed and will not leave until 12:00," I said to him. "Since our flight from London to Miami leaves at 12:15, we aren't going to make it."
He looked at me as though I had told him he had to personally drive us from Bologna to Las Vegas and picked at his computer keyboard. Clickclickclickclackclick. Clickclick. Click. Clack. Click. He shook his head. Clickclickclackclick. Clickclick. Clickclickclick. Click. He whispered to the guy at the next desk. They look at the computer screen. Clickclickclickclackclick. Clickclick. Click. Clack. He picked up the phone.
Mumblemumblemumble. Mumblemumble. Silence. Mumblemumblemumble. Mumblemumblemumble. Silence. Mumblemumble. He signed off and looked at Mike.
"I cannot help you," he announced. "You will have to call American Airlines yourself."
"Excuse me?" I spit out. "Why do I have to call American Airlines? I have no way to call American Airlines. You fix this."
He turned his head to look at me. "Signora, I cannot help you. I talked to the British Airlines manager, and since you made your reservation through American, you must call them."
"I am not calling American Airlines. YOU HANDLE THIS." I was not happy.
Let's not go through this entire conversation, but suffice to say that it was a back-and-forth that I was not going to win. We ended up lugging our bags back down to check-in where, once again, the agent there told us she could do nothing and told us we had to call American. Once I pitched another mini-fit about not having a way to call American, that agent sent us to the airport's duty officer (whatever the heck that was).
Apparently the duty officer had a special phone number for American because I got to a customer service agent immediately. She put me on hold while trying to figure out how to resolve our problem.
"Mrs. Cutler," she said coming back on the line, "do you care how we get you home?" What the hell did that mean?
"Just get me home today, please," I almost begged.
"She can put you on Iberia or any other airline," the duty officer said to me as the American agent was still talking to me. I didn't hear what she said as she put me on hold again.
About 10 minutes later, the American agent came back. "Mrs. Cutler, we have two seats left on a British Airlines flight that will leave London at 4:40 and fly directly to Las Vegas. You will arrive three hours earlier than your previous flight. Is that all right?"
No, I thought. Let us suffer longer. Give us a long layover and a crowded flight. Please. But, I answered, "Of course that's all right. Just get us home."
The agent put me on hold yet again while she reissued our tickets so our friends in check-in could take our luggage and give us boarding passes and vouchers for free breaksfasts.
Already tired because we'd gotten up early, I was exhausted by the time we finally checked in and headed to the gate area. I looked at the clock. 8:10.
"Holy crap," I said. "Is it only 8:00?" Mike just nodded. "We have four more hours until we take off for London?" Mike just nodded again. "We have to sit here for four more hours?" Another nod. "Holy crap."
Tomorrow: We are finally airborne.
PS Sorry to end this so soon. I'm falling asleep as I type this. Good old jet lag!