My view from the BA airport floor
Oh, the residual sting from the open-handed slap of irony. It was no more than 3 days after I posted about how much I LOVE airports/flying/etc that I began my [mis]adventure of Airport Groundhog Day [see Bill Murray reference].
After weeks of Australian visa discussion, research and hesitation due to confusion, I decided to jump back on a flight to Sydney, November 13th. I returned to Buenos Aires from Puerto Iguazu for the sole purpose of flying back to Australia.
I was warned about Aerolineas Argentinas and because it’s good travel practise, I double checked my flight time online the day before. It was changed…for the second time. First from 2:45am to 3:45am. Now from 3:45am to 9:45am, but with NO connecting flight from Auckland to Sydney. I called the airline to triple check that the flight was, in fact, confirmed to leave at 9:45am and arriving in Sydney. It was explained that the delay was due to a strike, but has been resolved with all flights operating as scheduled. Brilliant! I gave myself a pat on the back for being so incredibly proactive and arranged for a cab to the airport.
Planning is Unpredictably’s bitch.
6:30am – I woke to catch the cab to the airport. With my bags all packed and breakfast down the hatch, I was ready. I was sad to leave South America with only having seen a small part of Argentina, but beyond thrilled to be reunited with my fiance and not locked out of Australia. I was going home.
The drive is generally 45 min from San Telmo to the airport, but because of the early hour we were cruising along making record time. The sun blinded me as I caught my last few glimpses of BA, while staying cool in the air conditioned car. Randomly Toto’s Africa began to play on the English radio station the cabby was listening to. I motioned to turn it up and we both bobbed our heads along in nostalgia. I couldn’t help but think of my pal Nathan back in Vancouver. I was in a great mood.
When I first arrived in BA from Sydney, I didn’t take much notice of the airport. I was tired and had a car arranged to pick me up. I’m rich like that. So, when I got to the airport this time to depart, I was surprised to see how chaotic it was. Almost no signage and a mass of people waiting in, what looked like, a single line. I asked the closest English speaking person next to me if this was the correct line for Sydney and began to wait.
Two hours passed.
I eventually made friends with the gentleman behind me. It’s impossible not to when you’re standing half a foot away from someone equally as confused for such a long duration of time. We both had no idea if we were in the right line up. Come to think of it, no one really did. But, like obedient modern-day human cattle, we shuffled along hoping that the angry looking ladies at the check-in counter would sort us out regardless.
I, apparently, was in the wrong 2 hour line-up. I refused to go and wait in the other line and after extended delay; they checked me in. I once again asked if my flight [and connecting flight] was on time. Confirmed.
Josie:1 – Aerolineas Argentinas:0
I was cleared through security [with heaps of food and open bottled water] and headed to gate 19. I was winning all over the place.
Then I checked my ticket. The girl at the check-in counter made a mistake. My connecting flight from Auckland to Sydney was scheduled four days after my flight landed in Auckland. I went to the gate counter immediately. Conveniently, the exact same girl was there. She was embarrassed by her mistake and picked up the phone making it appear as if my problem was going to be solved.
As I stood waiting to have my ticket fixed, it was becoming dangerously close to departure time and the airline crew made no effort to board anyone.
A crowd began to form.
The flight time came and went and I was still waiting near the gate counter to have my ticket fixed. The girl helping me disappeared. People were approaching me[?!] for information as if I was privy to something they were not.
An hour past boarding time, the energy in the airport grew tense. Passengers angrily approached crew members in assembly line form asking the same basic questions about our departure. “I have no information’ was the most common response, if any at all. Multiple Aerolineas staff members loitered around the gate in an aloof, borderline, rude fashion. Something was very wrong.
Finally, around 10:30am, word distributed through the crowd that there has been a delay and we will be boarding in an hour.
At 11:30am nothing happened. People started to pace.
At noon there was more ‘formal’ communication from Aerolineas Argentinas directly. And by formal, I mean two representatives, one speaking English and one speaking Spanish, addressed the highly irritated crowd.
They wanted us to wait until 4pm to see if we could fly. They explained that the delays were due to both the maintenance and catering crews striking. The issue had been resolved, but the strike[s] had wasted the available time of the flight staff and they needed to find another crew that had enough working hours left to attend to the entirety of the flight. This was completely ridiculous, but there was nothing we could do. They had us by our nuts.
4pm rolls by. I bet you can guess where this is going.
No crew was found. The plan was to charter us to a hotel with hopes to be rescheduled onto a flight the following day.
Boo, because apparently Aerolineas Argentinas has a reputation of always going on strike. Although the thought of not sleeping in the airport was comforting, I had a feeling this was going to get bad. Real bad.
I just didn’t know how right I was.
[To be continued...]