Published: May 6th 2010May 6th 2010
Saturday May 1, 2010
It is Saturday morning and our great adventure is coming to an end. All too soon, but it would be really nice to get home and see Cathy and the boys and share with them the wonders of Egypt.
The plan was to get up early, about 5:30 AM, catch a bus (provided by Trafalgar) to the airport and spend the next 11 hours winging our way home. From Cairo we are to head to NY and JFK airport for a short lay over till our final flight to Detroit and home to be reunited with family and friends. Unfortunately that is not exactly what happened!
Things did get off to a good start. We did get up at 5:30 AM only because Rick was all sleeped out and he just woke up. Unfortunately the 5:30 AM wakeup call never came. First issue.
I showered and dressed, since I packed last night, getting out was easy. We headed to breakfast and decided it was much too early for the buffet so we opted for croissants on a muffin. Issue number 2. The croissant was stale and the muffin was dry. The coffee and juice were good so we felt a little brighter.
Next we headed to the pickup area in the hotel lobby to get the bus. Seems like we were the only ones there when there should have been 6 of us for the 6:45 AM departure. So we waited quietly, recalling some of the sights and sounds of Egypt. By 6:44AM we were still the only ones waiting and we became concerned we were in the wrong place!
I checked with the hotel security who assured me we were in the right place but we were early, “there is still a minute you know”
In exactly 60 seconds we were called to the bus! The other 4 did not show up so we were told to go so go we did.
Now as you may recall traffic in Cairo is really bad and the drivers are worse. But today is Saturday and it is early so there were no other cars and the ride was a breeze. We headed out of Cairo for the last time and soon were on the highway and heading to Cairo International Airport for our final Egypt Air flight home.
We should have suspected an issue when, problem number 3, were told that our flight from NY to Detroit showed a different flight number then was printed on our tickets. Our flight number, according to the computer, was from JFK to Charlotte NC, not to Detroit. The kind associate checked several times but could not find a match for our tickets and flight number so to be “helpful” he booked us only to JFK in New York. Once we got to NY we needed to check in again to get the flight to Detroit. I was skeptical but with screw up number 4 safely behind us, I had no other choice but to check my bags and head to our gate.
We passed security and were asked for our passports about 4 times but we got through alright even though I was carrying a potentially deadly weapon.
As you may recall I bought a walking stick on the journey which I could not stuff into my suitcase. So I carried it right through security and into the plane with not a single challenge from any of 3 security checkpoints. Great maybe things are looking up! No they were not..
We boarded our flight right on time and Rick and I settled into our aisle seats for an 11 hour nap. Aisle seats are a double edged sword, comfortable for you and an obstacle to those in the center and window seats.
Rick slept for 9 of 11 hours. Lucky him. As for me, not so lucky. You see I shared a row with two young people a couple actually, that could not sit still for love nor money.
Either she had to pee every 30 minutes, or he had to get up and stretch, or she had to adjust her position, or he had to play a video game with the sound on, or she had to fight him for the game only to moan that she sucked at the game and he had to get to the next Mario level for her. That damn music is still in my head. Issue number 5 in the bag.
So I tried to sleep as best I could but the flight was longer since I really could not sleep very well. We dined twice on the plane breakfast and lunch and had water to drink. Unfortunately miss pissy had too much water and you guessed it “excuse me please I have to pee”. I will let this pass for now.
Finally at 2:15 PM right on schedule we landed at JFK. A perfect flight with a perfect on time arrival. That was about the last thing that went right.
We deplaned and headed to baggage claim to claim our two bags for the inspection by customs. It took nearly one hour to get our bags but they did finally come and we headed to customs.
Customs was a joke since they did not check anything nor ask us any questions about what we bought or where we were. There was no delay here so we walked right through and entered America once again.
America, the land of the free and the home of those who provide no service to anyone.
I asked the Delta attendant for directions to where I needed to go with my bags to check in for the flight to Detroit. She looked at me and pointed “get in this line”. So we did only to find out we were in the wrong line. The way we found out was she came over to us and said “I said this line not that line”
“No you actually said that line not this line and you in fact told me to stand right there.” She gets all pissy face and walks off. Welcome to America.
Now remember issue number 3 where we were told the flight number to Detroit did not match our destination? Well it was all a misunderstanding in Egypt. The flight number was correct and the destination was Detroit, everything else was wrong however!
You see the flight was to go at 5:30 PM to Detroit. It was now 4:30 PM and we headed to the gate. When we arrived we were told the flight was delayed 1 hour, issue number 6. So we headed to the Delta Club for free drinks and free food. Issue number 7 reared its ugly head. No Air conditioning in the club.
It was HOT and humid in the club and we were not comfortable but we only had an hour to wait so we grinned and bared it. Of course it could only get worse.
I checked on the flight departure time and was told it is delayed another hour, issue 8. This delay is because there is a problem with the plane and it needed some quick repairs. Yeah right, nothing is quick in an airport.
Ok so the flight is at the gate, the luggage is in the plane and we are dripping in the club. All was going just great!
Now it is 8 PM and a new update, we are definitely going at 9 PM. I told the lovely hostess at the club, “No we are not going, you know it and I know it”
She assured me we were going, in fact she called the tower 5 times to assure us we were going and 9 PM was the absolute time. At 8:55 the poop hit the oscillator and issue number 10 came to fore.
We walked down to the gate and saw a crowd at the gate and not a happy crowd. It was an obviously angry crowd. Unfortunately the lone Delta Associate at the gate was only interested in getting the people out of his face so he told you anything you wanted to hear as long as you got away from his desk. He told everyone up until 8:49 PM we were going, and then a minute later he tells us we have cancelled the flight! People were HOT to say the least.
So here we are all 70 of us at 9 PM with no bags, no food and no flight in front of a Delta Associate who could have cared less about our problem. He tells us the flight is cancelled and we have to be back here to board the flight at 7:30 AM for an 8 PM departure. We are incensed.
We demanded a hotel room and food or we would literally tear him limb from limb. Interestingly soon as we got our point across he had all the hotel vouchers and food vouchers ready to go! Amazing what bodily threats will do in a pinch.
So we get a voucher for food, good only in the airport where the food stores are closed. They call the Hotel to see if they will accept the vouchers and they agreed. So we tried to find the shuttle bus to go to the hotel for a quick sleep only to return in the morning.
Now we have 70 people and a shuttle bus holds 15 at most so I can see a problem coming. Apparently I was the only one to see the issue but hay that is how it is sometimes.
Since there are no signs at the airport telling us where to go to get the shuttle bus we were a little lost. So I asked a traffic guard a simple question, mistake number 11.
“Is this where we get the shuttle bus to the hotel”
“I already told you that this is the place to get the bus”
“No you did not, I just asked you for the first time so chill out”
“I told you once already, can’t you listen, I am not going to tell you again”
Those of you who know me know I am now pissed and someone is going to die.
“Look pal, just shut up and walk away before I take you apart”
Of course he cannot stop running at the mouth, so I am forced to take action and I get right in his face.
“Look just walk away or I can assure you one of us will walk away from this and it will not be you, so just move along” He can’t
Well fortunately another traffic guard told him to walk away which he did for 5 feet, and boom off goes the mouth again. He just cannot shut up. I give him one final look and take a step forward and the gods must have seen the potential for action so the bus showed up.
Unfortunately not our bus. You see a nice large bus showed up and the driver asked “are you going to the Sheraton Hotel”
Yes we are and we pile in. Remember I said it was not our bus. So after we get in he informs us that this is a private coach hired by someone to take a group to the Sheraton and we were not that group.
I asked how many are in the group and was told 15. Now we were only 20 and the bus held 49 so there was plenty of room, but this is NY and service is not an option. So I tried logic.
“The bus is going to the Sheraton. We are going to the Sheraton; the bus is empty so what is the problem?”
“You are not the right group so get out” We did.
Finally the shuttle does arrive and at 10:30 PM we arrive at the hotel. Now finally someone cares and we are courteously given a room for each of us and we head to the restaurant, which is closed of course (issue 12). Starving we are resigned to go to our rooms and get some sleep.
I ask for a 5:30 wake-up call and off to sleep.
Fortunately I have a natural alarm clock because I get no wake up (issue 13) call. A quick shower and I put on the same clothes I have been wearing for two days and I head down.
In the lobby there are the 70 stranded passengers waiting for the shuttle bus. Déjà vu hits me and I see immediately we will not have enough room on the bus for all of us so I quietly head out the door to be first in line for the shuttle. Rick catches by eye and I signal him to follow, but unfortunately I became the pied piper and all 70 head out.
The shuttle arrives, 15 seats, and the driver opens the door and says “this is not your bus”
Now I have heard that before and I ask “ are you going to the airport”
“Yes I am”
“Well so am I so we are on the right bus”
Soon all who could fit are on the bus and the driver is telling us to get out.
I tell him “look pal, we are hot, tired and more than a little pissed. If you want us to get off the bus you better get an army because this bus is going to the airport and we are on it. You can drive it or one of us will, your choice”
A rousing “yeah” from the bus and our driver takes his seat and we are finally on our way, well we thought so anyway.
Issue number 14 was waiting for us at the airport. You see we all had a boarding pass for Saturday, but it is now Sunday and security has no intention of letting us through security! So again we are in line to get a new boarding pass which is another problem (number 15) because the Delta Agent did not rebook us on the flight for Sunday so we had no itinerary in the Delta computer.
I somehow am appointed spokes person, since I am basically the only one who speaks English! We have Indians, Russians, Chinese and Spanish. Rick and I are the only Americans in the line so I have to convince Delta of our plight.
Soon we have our boarding passes and we head through security and we head to the gate. Now I am sure there is still a problem and there is (issue 16).
The plane is at the gate, the Delta Agent is at the desk and there is a guy crawling up into the nose of the plane! Not a good sign.
Three guys are in and out of the nose of the plane. They carry in and carry out various components. They try this, shake their heads. They try that and shake their heads. I am firmly convinced we are never going to leave JFK and sure enough we are not.
We are told 8 AM departure, then 8:30, then 9, then 9:30 blah, blah, blah. I head to the club to get a real person to tell me something and soon learn that no one knows anything.
I walk up to the gate agent and state quite calmly “either you get me out of this airport and send me someplace else to catch a flight or there will be a riot” He looks at me and sees I am serious and he starts hitting computer keys.
“There is a flight out of LaGuardia Airport at 12:30 PM to Detroit and I will get you on it”
Finally some action, Yes and NO. Issue 17
The agent gives me a new itinerary out of LaGuardia, a cab voucher, some food vouchers and $200 in Delta cash to help me feel better. I do not want to feel better I want to go home.
I ask "Where do we catch the cab to LaGuardia?"He tells me to go outside to the first level and look for Rockport Cabs as they are the only one who accepts a Delta voucher.
I thank him, little do I know how little he actually did correctly and we head to the exit and freedom from JFK.
We head to the door and see there are two exits. We ask the cop at the door for directions to Rockport Cabs. He instructs us to go down stairs so we do. We see the cab stand and ask for our cab and the cab stand manager informs me Rockport cabs do not stop here.
“Well where do they stop?”
“Not here” and he walks away. Another service employee providing excellent service.
I see a Delta agent and ask him where the Rockport Cabs stop.
Great so we head upstairs. There is no cab stand there and no one to ask (Issue 18). I leave Rick upstairs and head down stairs to traveler’s aid. I am a traveler and I need some aid.
“Can you tell me where the Rockport Cabs stop?”
“Upstairs or downstairs, I am not sure”
If you are not sure how the hell can I know where to go? She suggests I go to the Delta desk in baggage so off I go.
“Can you tell me where the Rockport Cabs stop for passenger pick up?”
“Sure go downstairs. I just sent a nice Asian man there to can catch a cab with him” Finally someone who knows what they are doing.
Now I have to run upstairs grab Rick and head downstairs to tackle the Asian guy before he heads out with my cab. As I am heading up Rick is heading down.
“Phil the cab is here”
“I know, come on it is downstairs”
“Downstairs? No it is upstairs and he said he will not wait”
Damn didn’t they make a moving about this called up the down staircase? Oh well down, I mean up I go and into the cab for the 30 minute ride to the next airport and hopefully a flight home. Sorry not yet.
We get to LaGuardia and head to the terminal. Of course we have no boarding pass so in line we go at Delta. We get to the front of the line and hand the agent our new itinerary that the nice Delta Agent at JFK booked for us and we are not anywhere in the computer base issue 19 hits home.
“Where are you going”
“Do you have a ticket?”
I explain the last 20 hours to which he replies
“Oh. Do you have a ticket?”
“NO DAMN IT I only have what the Delta Agent at JFK gave me”
“Well you need a ticket and this is not a ticket. I do not know what he did but you are not in the computer”
GREAT issue 19 is going to be a real bitch to solve.
Soon a nice Delta supervisor sees my anguish and offers assistance. I explain to her in excruciating detail our plight and she says “oh”
She looks at Rick and I and starts hitting the key board on the computer. After 10 minutes we have two tickets to Detroit and we head to security.
Through security we go and after a few minutes argument that my walking stick in not a weapon we are cleared to go, or rather wait. The flight is delayed.
Our 12:30 flight is delayed until 1:30, then 2:00, then 2:15.
We head to gate 8, then gate 11, then gate 19 (issues 19 - 21) and finally we see a plane and a huge crowd.
It seems that there are now 4 flights going to Detroit out of 4 different gates. Gates 18, 19, 20 and 21 are all going to Detroit so there must be 500 people all crammed in trying to board a flight.
No one can convince me that Delta has any idea what they are doing when I see what is about to happen. We have 500 people, 4 gates, 4 different flights all going to Detroit 4 minutes apart. Anyone can see what is about to happen.
Issue 22 begins when the Delta Agent announces “We will be boarding those passengers for Detroit in just a few minutes”
Which passengers? Which flight? Which gate? PANDEMONIUM and CONFUSION.
I am more than tired and cranky so I go to look out the window to see what is happening. A gate agent demands “you cannot look out that window. You have to step back”
WHAT? I cannot look out a window. You have got to be kidding. Evidently she was not and tells me to move again.
I said “Look I am just looking out the window for one second, if you want go get a cop and have me arrested if you like I am just trying to get home.”
She said something about coitus with my mother and stormed away. Nice lady to leave me alone.
Anyway our 12:30 flight finally boards at 2:30 PM for the 2 hour flight home through the thunder storms and tornado warnings! Needless to say it was not a smooth flight (issue 23), but we land safely at 4:30 PM a full 24 hours late.
Next stop, Baggage. Issue 24 was waiting for us.
Now I knew our baggage was still on the flight that was still on the ground in JFK so I did not have high expectations from baggage claim in Detroit but I had to put in a claim to get my bags eventually.
We get to baggage claim and there are 6 people there, great service at last.
I walk up to the desk and before I can say a word she tells me to step back and wait my turn.
Wait my turn? I am first in line and she is not doing anything except staring off into space.
I look here in the eye and state “look there is no one there and you are not doing a damn thing so what gives?”
Three Agents suddenly disappear and it is her and I face to face. I tell her my story and the male agent at the next desk, who was actually helping someone, says “Those bags came in on the 8 Am flight out of JFK”
“Look pal, if the bags were on the 8 AM flight I would have been on the 8 AM flight and you and I would never have met and we would both be much happier.”
“It says right here in my computer the bags came her on the 8AM flight”
“OK so if they are here just give me my bag and I am gone”
Another Agent pipes up They are here in the back room, you can look if you like”
So we all head to the back room, the rest of our little band of friends have joined me in bag and seek. There are 15 bags in the whole room!
“Look lady, we were 70 people on that flight. Does that look like enough bags for 70 people?”
She turns and walks away.
Back to the desk and the guy with all the answers. I give him my claim number and he punches it in and tells me once again the bags came in at 8AM!
“Look sir, no they did not. You know it and I know it so look again”
“Oh yeah here it is. The bags are coming in tonight at 9 PM”
Great finally an answer that makes sense. So how do I get my bags? Issue number 25 will provide that solution.
“When the bags arrive tonight they will be sent to Toledo on the first flight on Monday (it is now Sunday early evening). From there they will be picked up by a courier for delivery to your address”
Perfect. I can live one more day without my bags. I give him the claim numbers again, my address and phone numbers. He gives me my lost luggage claim number and a phone number to follow the status of my bags. We turn and walk away and finally leave the airport at 7:30 PM a full 27 hours after we arrived in New York.
We head to the parking lot bus to catch a ride to my car and the short 45 minute ride home. Behind the wheel of my Avalon I am finally in control of my own destiny. We drive home without incident for the long delayed reunion with Cathy.
The next morning issue 25 has become issue 26. I called the number for lost bags at 10 AM. We were told last night that the first flight to Toledo was at 7 AM so the bags would be delivered by 11 AM. I get through very quickly and enter in the claim numbers only to find the bags are still in Detroit!
I call every 4 hours and still the bags are happily in Detroit. Issue 26 has taken on a life of its own. By 10 PM Monday night I still have no bags. I give up and head to bed.
The next morning I try the number again and find that the number of my claim is no longer in the system. Issue 26 blossomed into issue 27. Now the system knows nothing of our bags at all. Where the hell did they go overnight?
I listen to more of the recording and I am instructed to go to a website which will give me up to the minute reports on my bags.
Off to the World Wide Web, thanks Al Gore, and Delta Baggage claim. After a few false starts, it seems that had my name wrong, I find my bags are still in Detroit! I am exasperated and frustrated when the phone rings.
“This is express courier, we have your bags. We will deliver them to you by 10 AM”
“You have my bags, GREAT. But they are in Detroit and it is an hour or more drive. It is 9:30 now, how can you have the bags in Toledo by 10?”
“Sir, the bags are in Toledo. I will have them right over”
Sure enough on Tuesday morning at 10:03 AM I am reunited with my bags and the vacation (ordeal?) is over.
Despite the return trials and tribulations the trip to Egypt is a once in a lifetime event the memory of which will live with me forever.
If ever you get the travel bug GO.
Travel, live, enjoy. You only go around once and you should make the best of it.
Until next time travel well and keep a blog. I would love to read about your trip!