I have been struggling with something for years and I’m afraid a recent situation has caused my concern to come to a head. My issue is air travel. No doubt many share my uneasiness and much has been written on the topic. Here’s my take:
Air travel sucks big time! Unless of course you have a private jet and “people” to handle the details of your travel. I’m not in that category of flyers and I doubt I will ever be. I had an incident a few days ago at Edinburgh airport that still has me in cold sweats. A flight delay of over an hour led to an unfortunate domino effect with my connecting flight and had I not advocated for myself, I would have either had to spend the night in either Cardiff or Lisbon. Eight hours sitting at the airport was gruesome and disturbing, but an overnight at some airport hotel would have been more than I could bear on Sunday. It’s happened before and it’s never a pleasant experience. What troubled me most was the airline’s handling of the problem. Their first solution was to put me on three flights which would get me home sometime after midnight — this was being negotiated at 1:00 p.m. I was fairly certain that with three flights pending, a delay or cancellation was almost a guarantee.
I asked about a direct flight I knew was scheduled later Sunday afternoon. “Oh no, that’s not possible,” I was told. When I questioned the denial of my request, I was told that the airline going direct was, “not a partner airline.” The one great thing about being a New Yorker is that you are taught to never accept an initial “no” response. I gently pressed and was told that I had a good case because my handler was having some trouble getting me on the Lisbon to Faro leg. A tiny corner of my brain was hopeful. There were at least 10 people behind me on the customer service line. Several of these troubled individuals even made their way to the counter to beg for assistance. When I heard some of the issues being presented I thought that my own issue was rather insignificant. I even allowed one woman to remain at the counter so that her problem could be resolved before mine (I knew I was not going anywhere, anytime soon). She was traveling to Australia; she somehow misplaced her boarding pass, and was being sent to several different help desks for a new one. This particular help desk did not have a printer and sadly, this distraught and panicked air traveler missed her flight. She had a family of four waiting for her arrival and I could not shake her justifiable despair.
I forgot to mention that my help desk person was mild-mannered and persistent. She asked me to stand in front of her so that no one else would interrupt. She was put on hold with my airline (I won’t mention the name until this is resolved) for a very long 10 minutes. She was able to get the airline to “sort of” commit to a refund of my ticket. She went ahead and booked me on the Ryanair direct flight. Some of you may read this and wonder if Ryanair got me home. To be fair, Ryanair has become a more efficient, friendlier (I may be pushing it) airline. I was grateful despite the fact that my flight was seven hours away. It was direct and there were five or six nice bars at the airport. I knew that I was about to have a real martini in a real martini glass — still haven’t found one in Faro.
A really great thing happened at the bar I chose to visit. I had been having major iPhone issues over the past week and I asked my neighbor if he knew how to force close an app. My Waze app was doing flips on me and I couldn’t erase it. He tried to help and we both failed; however, he asked me if my screen had been replaced recently. I said that I had replaced it a few weeks back. He asked me if I had gone to an iphone store and I laughed because that store doesn’t exist in Faro. I told him about this Chinese repair shop near my apartment and he said, “I hate to tell you this but you got a bad screen.” If I’m going to be truthful, I thought his diagnosis was wrong. Turns out he was right. They replaced my screen with a new and improved screen and all is well in iphoneland . . . for now. My airport angel strikes again! Kenneth took my mind off of the delay for 90 minutes and now I have a London acquaintance.
Anyway, I digress. This kind of delay can cause more anxiety than a fourth cup of coffee and I am once again questioning air travel. After all, I can take a train or drive to several other countries and I can walk to my own local paradise. There are obvious advantages to remaining closer to home: save money, eat healthier, less stressful, do not have to leave Giorgio with a dog sitter, explore local sights you may not see otherwise, and countless others. Still, my hunger to see and experience as much of the world as possible while I have the energy and the means, is not an easy urge to resist.
Prior to opening my laptop to write, I researched the airfare for Sicily. I also have not been able to shake the idea of an African Safari. That should tell you the should tell you the clear winner of this battle.