HessFest 2016 Part 17: A Flight Odyssey

One of the oldest work of literature that arrived to us is the Iliad (the dramatized history of Troy's war). This was also the first literary work to have "spin-offs" (that is, new literature based on characters of the first work, often secondary characters): many other tales are set after Troy's war and narrate the return of Greek heroes back home. The most famous of these works is the Odyssey. So, let me tell you what happened to me coming back home from the HessFest 2016 events, my own personal odyssey.

I wake up at 6am, in time. Shower, packing, coffee. There is a taxi van waiting in front of the hotel, but it's not ours (it's waiting for other people who are not shoring up). In fact our taxi van is late... and when it arrives, it's also not a taxi van: it's a normal car. We consider briefly taking the van, but we don't want to "steal" it from the people who booked it - even if they are not showing up. Our driver is able to fit 3 of us (guitars included) in the car, but one of the safety belts does not close properly, so the safety belt alarms rings all through the ride to the airport.

I enter the terminal and scan my pass. Now, I need to go back in time to 6 months ago when I booked my ticket: it was booked as a no-stop flight from Chicago to Edmonton. But one month ago, United Airlines canceled that flight so they rerouted me through Denver... when I called them about it they told me that if I didn't like it I was free to change it for any other flight or get a refund... but one month before the events there were no flights left. So, I didn't like it, but I took it because all alternatives were worse - but rather than being home at noon, I will be home at 3pm.

So I scan my pass. And lo and behold, the flight to Denver is canceled. The scanning machine tells me that I can get another flight solution rerouting through Huston, TX. I don't think so. The Customer Service desk gives me a different solution through Toronto (with that, I will be home at 5pm)

I ask 2 specific question to them: 1. Will I have enough time to get to the connecting flight even if I'm going through customs ("yes, and you won't have to go through security again") 2. Will my luggage go straight to Edmonton without me picking it up in Toronto ("yes definitely"). Take note of these, dear reader, because every single statement in these answers is a lie...

So I get to my flight to Toronto, we land safely, I run through customs, run through the luggage carousels, run to the "connection" door... and they ask me "did you cam here on a United Flight" "yes" "then you left your luggage into customs.

Turns out, United does not transfer luggage from one flight to another in Toronto. I need to go back into customs. I need a form for that, then I need to wait "under the blue clock in the lobby" for a guard to escort me.

Did I mention my flight is taking off in 50 minutes?

I go under the blue clock. A guard arrives, he walks reeeeeeally slow because he has a walking cane. He is escorting another person and "he will be back for me". It take 15 minutes for the guard to be back. Always. Walking. Really. Slow. He takes me and another person (in the meantime,other 8-9 people were collecting under the blue clock to go back into customs...) to a customs guard. The other person with me asks the officer if he can take the luggage of his friends to, to which the guard replies with a simple "no". So, that other person flips off completely and starts to YELL at the guard. I take care to show that I am NOT with him, I also try to calm him down. In the end I grab this person and simply move him through the door, while apologizing to the guard. Heck, I don't need to get stuck here right now.

We get our luggage, and to get out of customs we need to go through an inspection. Great. That's another 20 minutes lost waiting in a line, only to be told "yes, you can go through".

I run through the connections door again, check in my luggage, run upstairs for terminal D, get through security, see what gate my flight is in (on the opposite side of the terminal), run through the terminal, and arrive at the gate precisely when they are closing the door to the aircraft.


They transport us (me, and a crying woman who arrived just before me at the gate...) to the Customer Service. They put me on the standby list for the next flight (so I can be home at 7pm), and just in case they book me on another flight (that would take me home at 11pm...).

I go to the gate of the next flight (walk all through the terminal...) and I write a FB post. Then they change the gate (walk through the terminal again). I grab a bite to eat. They start filling up the flight. Apparently there are a few more people before me on the standby list... so when all regular passengers are in they go through their list. And hey! I get the very last free spot! I am overjoyed! I grab the ticket, walk through the bridge, enter the aircraft and walk to my seat.

But there is someone else on my seat. And their ticket have the correct seat number too. I talk with the flight attendant and after a couple of calls, a representative of Air Canada tells me (I'm still standing in the middle of the aircraft) that there has been a mistake and I have to go back to the gate.

At this point I have to confess that my answer was not quiet, and that I probably hurt some people's sensibilities. Make that "I definitely hurt some people sensibilities".

At the gate, they tell me that they are going to make an exception to the rules (I'd like to know their rules...), and book me a seat on the next flight because "it's an overbooked flight, but there's still one seat left". Wait, what? Anyway. I grab my ticket. Walk back to Customer Service (all through the terminal). I ask them if the ticket is valid and if I am on that flight or not. They say yes.

I also ask if they know where my luggage is. It's on the flight I lost, the one I tried to board, or will it be on the next? They have no idea.

This time rather than walking to the gate, I wait where I am and get some dinner. then, 10m before boarding time, I walk to the gate... all through the terminal again.

The moment I sit down I hear "gate change, the flight to Edmonton is now on gate D26". On the other side of the terminal.

At this point I feel murderous. The look on my face must reflect that since people now are taking quite large circles around me.

The flight is late, but at the end we manage to board. This time the ticket is correct, so I board the flight. I exchange a few words with a nice Polish guy that is traveling with his family. I read a bit, I sleep a bit. We land in Edmonton alright. The aircraft taxis, then stop. We stand up and grab our carry-ons.

Then the Captain voice announces: "we seem to have some problem, the bridge of the airport will not extend so we cannot get out of the aircraft. We just called the airport, so hopefully the problem will be solved soon". At this point I can't help but start laughing hysterically. This day just won't let go.

20 minutes later they fix the problem, walk through the terminal (it was the last gate), my legs are killing me. Eva and Celeste are waiting me at the exit and I get all my luggage immediately. My odyssey is over it's good to be back.

Until next time :-)

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