My original schedule was as follows
May 29th, Delta Flight # DL2792 from San Diego to Atlanta, scheduled to depart at 1:35PM and arrive at 8:53PM.
May 30th, KLM/Cyprus Airways Flight # KL3281/CY0499 from Amsterdam to Larnaca, scheduled to depart at 2:00PM and arrive at 7:10PM.
Of course, that was just on paper (or electrons, as it may be). Here’swhat really happened:
Flight DL2792 leaves San Diego correctly and arrives on-time. We (I’m travelling with a co-worker) have to hustle to make the connection since we have only 40 minutes on the ground and our flight to Amsterdam is in the next concourse over. We make it over to Concourse E with plenty of time to spare, where we find the jet is sitting at the gate with the engine cowling wide open with mechanics crawling all over it. There’ is some sort of mechanical problem with the engine and they are waiting for parts to arrive from Detroit to affect repairs, then test and verify. The new estimated departure time is midnight and because Delta says they are going to fix the engine, they will not put passengers on alternate flights or rebook anyone because the flight hasn’t been canceled. The parts arrive in about an hour and the mechanics begin installation and testing.
May 30th – Delta Flight # DL1513 from Atlanta to Detroit, scheduled to depart 6:50PM and arrive at 8:57PM.
I have a short connection–like 50 minutes–so I rush down the concourse for my next flight to Amsterdam.
They are boarding by the time I get to the gate, and I give Cynthia S., the gate agent, my packet of stapled-together board cards. Cynthia S. starts inspecting them as if they were something mildly distateful form of paper (Delta stock certificates, perhpas) and announces that I do not actually have a Boarding Pass, to get on the flight, just a Flight Schedule, and that I need to get a Boarding Pass issued before I’m allowed onto the airplane. I try to explain to Cynthia S. that I was allowed on to my previous flight from Atlanta–after all, how else would I be inside the Detroit airport at the gate to board the flight–and she allows me on, but proceeds to tell me that my ticket to Larnaca has been canceled and that there is no one at Amsterdam who can or will help me me get a Boarding Pass and to not even try.
I board Delta Flight # DL0248–what else can I do–and sit down and wait for the flight to begin. And sit. And wait. The plane sits at the gate for about an hour. It seems one of the igniters in one the engines (I guess they come in two pairs) is not working. We pull out a little over an hour late and are finally in the air.
I run to the first automated ticketing transfer kiosk I can find and try to print a boarding pass for my flight which now leaves in about 40 minutes. No luck, the computer cannot find me. An airport employee directs me to a transfer station staffed with people.
I run down there and present my bewildering stack of papers to a KLM agent, who looks at them amd just directs me to go to the opposite end of the concourse to catch my flight–they can help me better at the gate. I ask her if she can at least call ahead and let them know I’m coming. She begins helping the next person in Dutch (or maybe German).
Twenty minutes later, I’m at the gate and the last person to arrive. As some of you may know from meeting me or seeing a photo, I’m not used to running across airports and show up out of breath, my shirt hanging out and my clothing soaking wet from sweat.
Before the gate agents even speak to me, they grab a stack of paper towels and give them to me so I can wipe myself off. I begin to explain my story to them and present my paperwork to the gate agent, who then turns to her co-worker and begins to have a conversation in rapid-fire Dutch. They give me a seat in coach (I had a first class seat) and actually write out the boarding pass by hand. I now have a KLM boarding pass that just says "Goretsky 19A."
At this point, I figure I have probably be been given the last seat on the plane, so I am just glad to be on board. I walk down the jetway, hand my pass to the flight attendant and look down the aisles. The plane has, perhaps, 30% occupancy in first class and is maybe 40% full in coach.
The flight attendants are getting ready to do their usual preflight announcements, and I go to the closest one and try to explain that I had a first class seat for this flight leg, and since there are plenty of empty seats in first, can I please have the seat that I paid for. The flight attendant tells me if I want to sit in the seat I paid for, I have to get off the plane with my luggage and go back to the gate to get a new one.
At this point, it’s just under 10 minutes before the plane leaves. There’s only one flight a day from Amsterdam to Larnaca, and I have the suspicion that if I step off of this plane, I will not board it ever again.
I find my seat and stow my baggage and begin to settle in. Since the plane is so empty, at least I have an entire row to myself.
Being that I’m a big guy, I don’t fit in a coach seat very well, and ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender. It is not a big deal to me now, I have to do it all the time, and a flight attendant usually brings one over quickly and discretely. In this case, the flight attendant looks at me and instead of going and getting one, yells something like "leevascala" down the length of the plane to the flight attendant at the other end and points at me. The other passengers scattered around me look at me with amused or disgusted expressions. I don’t really care at this point and just sink into my seat as the other flight attendant brings over the extender.
After we begin taxiing on the tarmac, a guy in a seat over from me informs me the Flight Attendant announced to everyone there was a fatass in my seat.
I get to Larnaca, meet up with a co-worker who was sitting up in front and we go to baggage claim to pick up our luggage.
My bag is not on the conveyor belt and I go to the lost baggage agent. There’s only one flight a day on Cyprus Air from Amsterdam, so it will be at least 24 hours before my bag arrives, plus 90 minutes to get to my hotel. The airline will reimburse me for up to 40EUR worth of toiletries.
By the time we get to the hotel in Pafos to check in, it is about 10:00PM.
I came to Cyprus for business: It’s my employer’s annual World Partner Conference and I am there to present the results of three years of planning and work to several hundred of my co-workers and peers in travel-stained jeans and a shirt. Who the hell knows where my suit is now at this point? Did my luggage even make it to Europe?
I grabbed dinner with my co-worker, then got some toiletries across from the hotel at a kiosk. Anti-persiprant and anti-fungal accounts 10EUR of my 40EUR allowance.
I don’t have a spare change of underwear, T-shirt or sockss/ Assuming I could even find anything that fit me, I am sure it would be far more than 40EUR. It would probably cost me a thousand euros to get a suit tailored to fit me in time for my presentation, assuming I could find one that fit well enough to begin with they tailoring.
At this point, I’m just numb: I don’t know what to do, and everyone I’ve dealt with at the airlines has seemed to have an attitude that somehow it’s my fault for their late flights, broken jet engines and missing baggage, and even speaking to me is a big intrusion into their lives and that they are somehow doing me a great favor just by talking to me.
The next day (June 1st) I am working with our conference planner (who is juggling arrivals and departures for several hundred people, in addition to the minutae of handling an international conference) and try to make arrangements to have my luggage picked up by a courier taxi (the conference hotel is about 80 mile away from the airport) from the lost baggage folks. My attempt to have my bag placed on a taxi picking up co-workers fails, and I attempt to get the lost baggage folks to put it on another taxi so it will come over later in the evening. No problem, they can do that.