It actually took us 24-hours to leave the Los Angeles airport to fly to Europe! This is not the way we wanted to begin our trip.
We left the house to go to the Los Angeles airport at 3:00 pm and we finally took off 24-hours later. Keep in mine that we live only 30-minutes from the airport. So what happened?
We left our house at 3:00 pm on Thursday. At the airport, our flight on Turkish Airlines was delayed and then cancelled altogether at 8:00 pm. It was frustrating to be kept waiting for five-hours without being informed on the flight status.
Eventually they announced that the plane had mechanical issues and the flight was cancelled. The decision was made to provide all the passengers with overnight stays in a hotel nearby.
Then the confusion between the passengers and the airlines increased. We were asked to walk through the airport and go back to the main lobby to get hotel vouchers. There were no formal lines set up for the 280 passengers left stranded and understandably persons were growing impatient and sharing their frustration. Airport police had to be called in to direct the anxious and tired crowd.
As we were waiting, we started to learn why some of the passengers were stressed. One couple had to arrive in Athens in order to begin their 7-day cruise. By missing this flight, they would have to miss their cruise boarding and thus would have to go to another port to catch it the following day. Their 7-day cruise would become only a five-day journey. Another person was flying to Istanbul to meet her daughter and spend a 3-day holiday with her. Consequently she would fly 12 hours to meet her daughter, spend three days together there and then fly back another 12-hours. Her daughter works in Washington D.C. and Patricia worked here in Los Angeles. They had agreed to meet in Istanbul! It's amazing what this mother will do to spend quality time with her daughter.
Another person was going to travel and fly to multiple cities throughout Europe in just a few days. Since she missed her first leg of her flight the rest of the schedule was now in question.
We felt sorry for single-parents traveling with several young tired children and the elderly who were in the middle of the turmoil.
A odd part of the story was that some persons simply wanted to cancel and reschedule the flight. The issue they faced was that we could not retrieve the luggage on the plane because it had been towed to a hanger for repairs. Several persons could cancel their flight, yet their luggage might go to Europe first and then would have to be returned to Los Angeles.
It felt odd to be staying in a hotel near the airport when our home was only a few miles away, but we were told we would be called on our cell phones when our flight was ready. Not knowing the time that they would call is, we decided to stay.
Once we were informed of what hotel we were going to, a new problem immediately came up. Now all of us staying in the hotel were waiting to get on board their small hotel shuttle. You don't normally see 200+ passengers trying to get to one hotel at the same time. We decided to get a taxi and beat the rush to check into our room.
When we were waiting in line to check into the hotel, the line was also long and moving very slow. I just decided to walk across the street to the local supermarket and buy a couple of bottles of wine. When I returned and Trini was still in line, I opened the bottles and shared it with those also in line. It broke the ice with others and it helped reduce the tension and stress of our fellow travelers. We started to talk and as we kept sharing the wine laugher replaced complaints. Over vino, the overall environment changed and we started to relax and begin adapting to the circumstances, which we could not change.
In the morning, we received a call and were informed that we were being transferred and would be flying instead on KLM (outstanding Dutch Airlines). To make matters even better, we would be flying in a 747. Thus, I had one more item to scratch off my bucket list.
I have to give a lot of credit to this one lady we came across in the Air France ticket counter area who made sure our luggage was transferred from Turkish Airlines over to KLM. She even came on board directly to our seats in the KLM jet to give us our new luggage receipts and to inform us of the transfers. She is a true professional.
We finally boarded and the flight schedule was to fly directly to Amsterdam.
We were finally able to sit and relax in our seats. I started to reflect and think about how grateful I was for have an actual travel agent working for us. Nowadays, many travelers make their own travel arrangements via the Internet. This may sound great at first that one takes charge of one's travel plans, but who does one contact if those primary travel schedules start to change and shift quickly? We are happy to have Amy Sidawi from AMT American Express Travel handling our traveling schedule. I strongly recommend for travelers to work directly with a brick-and-mortar travel agency. I know many have gone out of business, but what few are left provide invaluable options in planning and completing multiple travel arrangements. They can provide traveling alternatives when there are changes like the ones we experience today.
Finally we are on the plane flying 600 mph with an outside temperature of -55 degrees. This flight takes us over the Arctic Circle as we head to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is a 10-hour flight. It sounds like a great deal of time flying around. One of our fellow passengers informed me that he takes this same flight 4 or 5 times a month to Los Angeles for business. I guess I shouldn't complain that I was taking this flight only one-way. Our trip back to the U.S. was going to be on a slow moving cruise ship.
I have thus far shared about the trials and tribulations of traveling. I must admit that it's been a pain in the neck to get on a plane for this trip and that we finally got going.
So what did this experience, on this trip, of being separated from our luggage teach us? We learned for future flights that we need to carry one day's supply of clothing and basic personal hygiene products with us. Always keep our medicines with us. One lady shared with us that she had at first placed her passport, jewelry and money in one of her large luggage. At the last moment, she thought twice about it and took these items out and kept them with her. Had she left the items in her luggage she would have been stranded for days in the LA airport!
So how do I feel about all these challenges and obstacles even before starting our trip?
My response, without any hesitation is "let's keep traveling. Have health will travel." I like to travel. I enjoy exploring new parts of the world. I look forward to having new experiences.
If I knew beforehand the trouble it would be to get going on this journey, I would do it again in a heartbeat.