28 hours. Okay, that is not that bad, I can do this. Staying overnight in the Heathrow, come on, you have gone through tougher things in your life.
Oh boy, if only my “three-months-younger me” knew…
- 2 nights
- 3 days
- 5 different routes (British Airways, Yey! You go!)
- And 61 hours of travels
Telling this to my “three-months-younger me”, it would probably turn on its heel and tactically decide to better not go anywhere. I mean.. 61 hours. Not in this world.
Maybe it was the whole chaos around cancellation of our flight or maybe just the overwhelming excitement in me, but guys, I did it. I lived in the airport for almost 3 days.
In my life, I have taken many different flights to destinations where in front of your seats you could find a prayer for a safe flight (and knowing the age of the machines it was none of a surprise). But if there was one route and one company that I would never expect to first board us and a minute after to disembark the plane for the technical problem, it would be the route Prague – London operated by British Airways.
I can tell you, I have never heard so many Englishmen swear that much.
“I get to work in the morning!” “You must be crazy!” “F*ck you, British Airways!”
I need to say, from the beginning I was completely lost. What did it mean? Was I not going anywhere? Would they just say “sorry about that” and let me cry about my messed up life in the corner?
A bit scared and a bit entertained, I was making my way towards the ticket office, where already dozens of furious passengers were stepping in 100m long line. Finally, after 2 hours of insecure waiting, a lady at the window saved my life:
“Ma´am, your new flight is tomorrow at 11:45. Prague – Frankfurt – Newark – San Jose. Now you can get your accommodation for tonight.”
The next information was not only that I was getting an 8 euro voucher for snack in the airport foodcourt (no! wow!), but also that I was about to spend my night in 5* Prague hotel Marriott.
However, my unspoken happiness was turned down by my dad few minutes after.
“How do you want to fly to Newark? You do not have a visa.”
Seriously…. A visa…
So I came back to the BA ticket office looking like I could already smash down everything (and everyone) around me with a life-long impact. I was literally the last person in the airport and I was tired, but instead of getting enraged, the world around me was suddenly getting amusing. Confused more than I was, BA lady changed my flight maybe two or three times and in the end, I happened to leave the airport with two different reservations I could choose from.
Next morning, after having an overly snobbish breakfast with the international business elite in the hotel restaurant, I took my stuff and went to the BA ticket office once again to get my flight tickets printed. I was taking the one through Frankfurt. Or was it Gatwick? I don’t even know.
“Ma´am, you will have to stay in Madrid for the night.”
“Do you want a hotel?”
“Yes.” (Hotel? What?)
“Have you had one booked for the original stay in London?”
“Of course.” (I didn’t).
“Okay, then let me verify it with the central office.”
As it turned out, everyone in Czech BA office already knew me.
“Good morning, I am having here a lady that is travelling to San Jose and … yes, the one without visa… yes, Natalia Pavlovicova.” (a celebrity, am I).
“We have to make her stay overnight in Madrid, can we get her a hotel? Yes? Fine, thank you.” My heart jumped a bit.
“Okay ma´am, you will get a hotel apartment in Madrid.”
“Sure.” I kept my voice aloof, but my inner self was jumping around and dancing.
“But we have to change your flight. You will fly in 90 minutes.”
It turned out I had to take a new flight to be able to get the room in Madrid on that day. I rushed to the hotel to pack my stuff and hit the check-in 3 minutes before closure. The beautiful lady smiled at me even though I was 70% sweat and 30% panic.
“Here is your ticket, ma´am, your gate is B52.”
I thanked and turned to leave. Then I turned back in confusion.
“Excuse me, but – where am I flying?” I honestly had no idea.
“You are flying to Berlin, ma´am.”
You should see the look on her face.
Of course, Berlin. Cause they only changed my route like fifty times. Unbelievable as it was, I did get to Madrid in the end. I would love to say I got to San Jose as well, but at the moment, I am 36000 feet above the sea, so let’s keep it in a good faith.
To sum up, let me give you a bit of advice for how to survive your travel when the airlines mess up:
- If you hear your flight got cancelled, drop everything (I mean, not literally, it is always good to have your passport and money, alright?) and run to the ticket office. This way you might avoid waiting in line for hour or more.
- If you are in spite of my first advice more of a turtle than Usain Bolt, check the next possible flight and call your airlines. Be first. The helpline will probably get crashed down in no time under massive call attack of furious passengers, so make sure your call gets through.
- If none of the previous points works out, beat everyone in the line.
- Number 3 was a joke. Don’t do it for goodness’ sake.
- Once you are at the desk and the lady gives you one option which doesn’t fit you, ask for another one. If she says there is no other choice, she lies. Stand behind your request. Chain yourself up to the desk and refuse to move.
- You DO have a right for proper care. The airline just messed up your life. You are left delayed, sad and broken somewhere you were not supposed to be. Stand for it.
- And finally, in spite of all my sarcastic advice, always follow this one – be nice. Of course, you are tired and angry, and you would burn the world with firearm if you could, but the lady there is probably trying to help you. Also, she most likely already had dozens of infuriated passengers shouting at her before you came. A smile will get you further than that, be sure you use it :).