Long haul flights and multi-hour journeys make for tired travellers. Tiredness leads to anxiety, anger and lack of patience. Yet when airlines and airline personnel struggle to support the long haul flyer through these long journeys bad memories can arise. In this article, Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World shares a rant about a recent long haul journey that didn’t go well….
I think that airport personnel actually enjoys giving a hard time to people who have been travelling for a long, long time, and would only just like to rest their sore bones. I really do think they take pleasure in seeing a petite girl like I am tired and slowly walking from one place to another, carrying a huge backpack, and giving her confusing and misleading information, so that she walks more, and her back may also break. That is what I realised when I landed in London on 22 March, 2015, on my way back to Sardinia from a 4 months backpacking trip across Latin America.
It all had started months before. I had spent the first 3 months of my travels leading tours of Central America, from Nicaragua, via Guatemala to Belize and then onto Mexico for a British tour operator. And then the last one just travelling by myself in South America, cooling off some of the anger that the less than kind, rich upper class and old British passengers I had taken around had caused me to accumulate. The TO I had worked for as a tour leader (or shall I say, that virtually and legally enslaved me, given the low pay, the huge amount of hours worked, and the disrespectful passengers that were impossible to please, and may well have mistaken me for their butler, personal assistant, waitress, or what not), despite priding itself in being one of the top TOs in Britain for travel in Latin America, and despite having all the resources and software to search for flights (they use Amadeus!) was unable to book me on a flight from Italy to Latin America without having to go through London. Beats me why! Instead, I had to book myself a flight to London (which they would refund), a room at a hotel near Heathrow airport (which they would have to refund too) and from there fly to Latin America on the flight they had booked for me. Same on the way back. This meant having to take 4 flights each way. I guess you can imagine my opinion.
It would thus take me a whole 48 hours to fly back from Montevideo, Uruguay to Sardinia, where I normally live. 48 hours which would include a 15 hours layover in Miami and an 8 hour layover in London. My 10 hours flight from Montevideo to Miami was less than comfortable, and soon after boarding the plane I got into an argument with a cabin assistant. I had already squeezed my tiny hand luggage into the overhead compartment, when a couple in the seats in front of mine appeared to struggle with theirs. I removed mine (which was so small that it could be placed anywhere really) and I was going to put it elsewhere. In order to do that I had to move around one of the suitcases of another compartment, to make room for mine. As I did so, the overhead compartment would not lock. Even before I could move things around again, the cabin attendant was telling me off for not allowing the compartments to close. I pointed out that I just wanted to help the couple in front of me, and she kept ranting at me for carrying so much stuff – she obviously had a hearing impairment and could not hear me when I explained that no, all of that stuff was not mine, and that I only had that tiny backpack. So, that set me in a nice foul mood.
Then, the plane was kind of old – I did not even know they still had planes with one tiny screen between seats, I had grown so accustomed to having my own entertainment screen. This also meant that the seats were really small, and they would hardly recline – which, on a completely full flight, meant it was practically impossible to rest. Top this off with a bumpy flight, with so much turbulence, and by the time we landed in Miami I was not only incredibly tired, but also ready for an argument.
For some mysterious reasons, the flight from Montevideo was scheduled at such a time that it would land in Miami at 4 am in the morning. Arriving at such an odd hour meant that there was little sense in getting out of the airport to go to town, and that the many airport hotels (which, by the way, would cost at least 200 USD) I had called would not let me check in until 1 pm: now, this makes sense, in an airport that has flights landing at any time. Or not. Anyhow, being the experienced traveller I am, I did my research and found out that, by paying a 50 USD fee, I could have a 24 hour access to the American Airlines Admirals Lounge inside the terminal (I already had my boarding pass, since I had checked in), which included free wifi, all day snacks (a good continental breakfast, some soup and raw vegetables and dips for lunch, coffee and drinks all day), use of shower facilities (much needed!) and some comfortable couches that I could join together to lay and take a decent nap. A well worth purchase, and even more so considering that I could use some of the leftover hours on that pass at the airport in London, where I had an 8 hours layover.
A 4 hours nap, some good light meals, two showers and much facebooking later, I finally boarded my flight to London. Again, a packed plane, but a much newer one. Not much of a comfort when the 10 hours flight was mostly bumpy, again (imagine wine spilling from glasses, and flight attendants calling on all passengers to sit down and sitting down themselves). When I landed at Heathrow terminal 5 in London, I had to make my way to Terminal 4, where my flight to Rome would fly from. I was checked in already, so I just wished to drop my backpack to pass security, and then, from inside the terminal, go to the Admirals Lounge in terminal 3. However, the baggage drop was still closed. I then opted for the storage (and paid for it). I made my way to the security in terminal 3 via the underground, but the automatic doors would not work and the guards told me that I would have to pass security at terminal 4, from which my flight was scheduled to leave, and then go to terminal 3 via the inside connection. One underground stop (again), and I was trying to pass security in terminal 4. Here, the personnel warned me that once I passed the security checks, I could not be able to go back out to actually check in my luggage. My frustration was increasing. Having gone back and forth a few times, I was so frustrated at receiving bits and pieces of information that could and should have been provided all at once, that in the end I collected my backpack and just sat down near a socket, so that I could at least charge my MacBook and take advantage of the free wifi.
So I went from Admirals Lounge to dirty floor, in just a few hours. I wish there just was a nice decent lounge for travellers who have to take a million flights, and that airport personnel would just be kinder and more understanding!
Visit Claudia’s personal travel blog My Adventures Across The World
Claudia is from Cagliari (Sardinia) and is obsessed with travelling. A former human rights lawyer and academic. After devoting her life to the protection of cultural identity, in November 2013 Claudia decided to give in to her biggest passion and started travelling around Latin America, and she has hardly stopped since. Blogging came as a natural consequence, for Claudia wanted to let her family and friends be updated with her adventures.