Tuesday, January 16, 2007

first class travel and other firsts

friday: i arrived at san diego airport at the perky time of 5am to catch my flight to chicago and then london; i had a confirmed ticket, a suitcase full of presents, and a fistful of glossy gossip magazines. my mental powers were sharp and ready to concentrate on keeping the plane up in the air for 4 hours.

the flight was overbooked (by 40! who isn't going to turn up on xmas weekend for their flight for pete's sake?!) and apparently i had no seat assignment. the announcement was then made that due to strong winds in chicago the plane was too heavy to land or circle (?) so they were looking for onboard passengers to "volunteer". we waited, and waited. as people began to miss their connections from chicago they were sacrificed and escorted back down the jetbridge. there were surprisingly no temper tantrums, lots of laughing and a few tears. the flight finally took off over an hour later (with my suitcase full of xmas presents) leaving me and my new friends behind. unfortunately now i would not be arriving in heathrow's terminal 4 twenty minutes after my parent's flight from bahrain landed. frantic texting and phone calls ensued to bahrain and england.

friday, 7:30am: my next flight would be leaving at 3pm to LA, and then connecting onward to london ("i've upgraded you to first class, is that alright?"). arrival in london would be at 12:50pm, and luggage would be sent on from chicago.

friday, 2:30pm: sitting in the departure terminal there appeared to be no signs of boarding, there was a sign taped up to the tv screen saying "flight cancelled" (no AA service reps to be seen or heard). i was told to go back through security and stand in the queue to find out what to do. 2 more flights to LA were cancelled as i waited.

friday, 4:30: my options were to take the buses up to LA (hmm, I-5 on a friday afternoon on xmas weekend when scores of other displaced and fed up passengers had probably decided to go by land), or be first on standby for the 5pm flight to LA which was now running late by half an hour, to get me in around 6:30pm for my 7:05 (first class!) connection to london.

i got on, by the small, black hair on my cheeky cheek cheek; mad dash through LAX to the jetbridge. seat 2A: the hosty directed me to go to my left, i never get to turn left when i board an aircraft, its usually turn right and keep going until you hit the toilets. before i could settle my stinky, rumpled self into 2A i was given menus, bose headsets, offers of newspapers, offers of drinks before departure (champagne, mimosa, OJ, water), what would i like to drink after take-off, and had i decided on what i would like to eat for dinner/breakfast and did i wish to be awoken for breakfast. gah! a man in a blue suit with stripes came round and introduced himself as "rich" (oh, this was our pilot) before i could think to ask him about turbulence and the likelihood of nosediving into greenland, or even reciprocate by telling him my name, he was meeting and greeting 3A and B.

saturday early morning, some time zone over the US or canada: i had figured out the buttons and dials on my seat, i settled underneath my target looking puffy blanket (none of that thin static fabric economy class blanket), a belly full of lamb shank (prepared by the on board chef) with mushroom risotto, butternut squash and haricots vert, well it was either that or the other 4 foo foo sounding options- lots of adjectives and french words. i dozed off for about 20 minutes and woke up with a hangover; 2 glasses of red wine at altitude and i was ready to locate my sick bag.

saturday, 3pm: arrivals hall. no "steve's cab service" placard with my name on it. i called my sister in law, she said there had been a "mix-up". apparently they came to the airport at 2:30am (she even gave it in military time to be sure). i stood and waited some more.

saturday, 6pm: phil from "steve's cab service" and i are making our way through the parking garage; "we're looking for a blue audi, do you have the keys?" my patience, and his humour were wearing thin. we circumnavigated heathrow airport several times a la national lampoon's european vacation, steve seemed to be as familiar with the british motorway system as i was.

saturday, 8:30pm: my family had pyjamas, shampoo and a packet of new knickers waiting for me.

saturday, 8:45pm: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

sunday, 10am: luggage, still unknown. one BA office has been evacuated per the recording, another BA office is closed until the 27th and AA wont pick up.

moral of the story (as i sit in my QANTAS pyjamas): don't stress over getting everyone xmas presents.

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