Well, the trip hasn't been off to a great start. I arrived at BWI over an hour ahead of time - but, I have no status on United, so I had to wait in the long line to check in. That was ok, because the flight was delayed. Not to worry, the ticket counter agent assured me - I had plenty of leeway for my connecting flight. Then came my first check - no electronic visa had been filed for. Apparently, when an American travels to Australia, they have to pay $20 (USD) and file an electronic document. This is something I was told my corporate travel agent would handle. $20 lighter (and a hassle to get a receipt - they don't normally have receipts for these) - I was past that.
On through security. I got to the gate, saw that nothing was happening and sat down. Second check - they called me (and three other people) by name to the counter. First, my frequent flyer card had been left at the front desk, and second, my connection to Sydney was blown - the airplane I wanted to fly was in Pittsburgh... weather had diverted it. Well, that was swell. The gate agent (I should have gotten her name so I could praise her properly!) started looking at alternatives for the four of us headed to Australia. A man and his son on their way back home, a woman on her way to a wedding, and me, on my way to various talks. She figured we could get on a flight to LAX at 6:50, and then catch a Qantas flight to Sydney, arriving roughly ontime. Great - but that required paperwork from the front desk, other side of security. She sends a guy to get that, and to retrieve my forgotten card. A few minutes later the guy comes back - with my card, but without paperwork, Groaning ensues - our faithful gate agent gets back on the radio, seeing of she can get paperwork, or alternatively, get us onto a United flight from LAX. No dice on either one:
- The United flight is oversold by 50 people!
- Qantas wants full (last minute) coach fare
There was the third check; now what? Well, the gate agent doesn't give up. Continuing to work with us, she starts looking at alternatives. Fly out the next morning, fly out the next evening (but all these flights are very full). Looks like a bad situation - if we don't leave today, the woman off to a wedding will miss the entire thing! Not to mention that her travel bag might be on the plane to LAX, because we almost got on that one... Possible salvation:
It turns out that United has a bunch of people needing to get to San Francisco, so they line up a new plane to make that flight (the priginal is still stuck in Pittsburgh). That plane finally arrives, and we look good - better than good, because our intrepid gate agent has bumped us all to first class so that we can get off the plane (2 hours late, with a 2:15 window originally) quickly and run to our departure gate in SFO. This woman is one of the nicest gate agents I have ever dealt with - whoever was working gate 15 today deserves a raise!
Well, as I write this I've just finished a nice meal in first class (although no power on this plane - United is just primitive compared to American that way). We are part way to SFO, and I don't know how this will turn out yet. Will I make my original flight? Or will they have to arrange new routing? That might not not be so bad - one routing had a 10 hour layover in Honolulu (beach!). Will the woman on the way to the wedding make it? I'll find out later...
Well, we had more excitement. We got to SFO, and the fun started up again. First off, we landed - and the gate we were supposed to go to was still in use. So we waited. United was holding the Sydney flight, so we were ok that way - but it was a pain. Finally, they take us elsewhere - another terminal entirely. No problem they say - someone will meet you at the gate.
The 4 of us trying to make this flight get off, and find no cart. Instead, we have to go down through the "airport personnel only" part of the airport to the tarmac, get on a bus, and get shuttled over to the other terminal. By this time, the guy with a health problem is hyperventilating, and that will be a problem.... later. We get up to the terminal level, and the United guy in the elevator with us just... takes off. Huh? Well, another agent shows up and tells us where to go. Off we dash, to the flight. We get there, and then another delay - United is trying to figure out whether or not they should allow the sick guy to fly. They call a doctor in Chicago (it's now 1 AM California time!), and he says ok. We push back...
And then they change their minds. Back to the gate we go, and they take the guy off the plane. At least we finally take off. I managed to get some sleep - it's not like I had anything else I could do - no power at the seats, no LCD screens for movies/tv, and to top it off, my seat light is burned out. So much for the books I packed :( I had a decent enough flight even with all that - good conversation, and my seat was an exit seat - over 4 feet of legroom in front of me. But it wasn't over yet.
Arrival in Sydney - and we have to wait on the tarmac again. Wonderful. Finally get to the hotel around 10 am (local time), and I'm completely zonked. I love travel...