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Published: February 17th 2014
The natives are getting restless
When the Spanish, female, paramilitary officer grabbed the man's i-Phone out of his hand I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The Chinese man protested that he had just taken a picture, with the i-Phone, of his family at the airport departure gate. The policewoman began viewing and deleting pictures from the man's phone as he looked on in bewilderment. When he tried to take his property back the woman told him; "I am the police. You must do what I say." Oh Really?
Welcome to the new and 'improved' Catalonia, Spain.
We had arrived in Barcelona the night before and were supposed to be flying out the next day to Saigon via Moscow on Aeroflot Airlines. The first thing I noted when we arrived in Barcelona's city center were the large numbers of government security personnel. Besides the city police there were duos of civil guards patrolling the perimeter of the Plaza de Catalunya. Green-fatigue garbed military police armed with automatic pistols and sub-machine guns watched the Plaza from surrounding streets. A very odd sight given my previous visits to Spain had always been peaceful and unremarkable stays. Amber alert? Defcon five? Taliban hate-mail? NSA meta-data? I wasn't quite
Spanish Aeroflot Manager
This was his favored body language during the entire day.
sure what to make of it all as the crowds were primarily Western in origin and couldn't have posed much of a threat given that their mouths were full of Paella and their hands encumbered with shopping bags. There's something bad happening in Spain and as a culture they've never coped well with paranoia. Remember that 'Inquisition' thingy they got wrapped up in for... how long was it? Oh yes, now I remember; Centuries.
We headed to the airport the next morning, checked our bags, cleared passport control and headed to our gate for an 11:10 AM departure. At 11 we were informed that the flight was being delayed due to mechanical issues. We looked at the plane sitting forlornly on the jet-way. There was no evidence that any work was being done to the aircraft. The Aeroflot desk was being manned by a trio of Spanish Aeroflot subcontractors who studiously avoided making any eye contact with the passengers. Two guards wearing 'Vigilante Security' (I'm not making it up) name tags blocked the door to the jet-way in case somebody tried to force their way onto the defective plane and fly off with it.
At 2 PM they
I just wanna be fixed.
Is that so bad? Is that so awful?
announced that the flight was canceled but Aeroflot would do its best to get everyone aboard the scheduled 5 PM flight. At 4 PM we were told that due to limited seating not everyone would be get a spot on the flight. Priority would be given to those folks traveling with children, then business class passengers and then frequent flyer members. There were approximately 40 Chinese citizens with small children in our group. They were on their way back home to Beijing after vacationing. The Spanish Aeroflot employees assured the Chinese families that they need not worry as they would all be seated with their kids on the next flight. I was there. I heard them say it. It was a lie.
While the now-placated Chinese sat off to the side, Aeroflot proceeded to divvy up the available 5 PM seats to all of the Russian and Spanish passengers they could. Armed security personnel started popping up in the gate area where they traded knowing looks with the Aeroflot workers. When the female cop grabbed the guy's camera everybody started smelling a large rat. At 5 PM the rat made his appearance. Indeed; The Chinese were going nowhere. Hell;
Aeroflot Russian Manager
Took this picture from under my arm as the police were watching anybody with a camera. This woman was the poorest excuse for a corporate rep I have ever met. With me she was dismissive. With the Chinese; Hateful.
Karen and I were going nowhere. There was another flight to Moscow that night at 11 PM but since Karen and I had NO chance of making a connection to Saigon we figured it best to stay in Barcelona at Aeroflot's expense and figure out what we were going to do. We joined the Chinese and Poles at the Aeroflot desk to reschedule. The police remained close by. It took us over three hours to reach the Aeroflot window which was staffed by a single person who did her best to reschedule everyone using a single, slow computer. Another woman, the Aeroflot manager, appeared, refused to answer questions and avoided eye contact at any cost. At no point did Aeroflot's staff make apologies to any of the passengers.
We spent the night at the airport Best Western. Made our flight to Moscow the next morning. Barely made our flight to Vietnam. Unfortunately the only place in Nam Aeroflot could put us into that day was Hanoi which is nearly 1,000 miles from Saigon. 'No problem', we had been told the night before by the surly Aeroflot manager in Barcelona. 'We will assist you in transfer to Ho Chi Minh
Aeroflot Desk Closed
Scene the next morning when we went back to get our boarding passes. It finally opened 45 minutes later.
City and we will make sure your bags arrive safely with you'. In Fact; Our bags never left Barcelona. We spoke with the Aeroflot manager in Hanoi. Hallelujah! A real human being. He helped us fill out our claim documents, gave us some money to purchase toiletry items till our bags arrived and then the guy actually APOLOGIZED for putting us through all this trouble. He didn't know a thing about helping us onward to Saigon so we bought our own tickets and filed another claim. This time with our credit card company.
In the end Aeroflot ended up eating our hotel bill for the night. Paid for 6 meals. Reimbursed us for our 'inconvenience, lost two potential customers FOREVER. Aeroflot has quite the business plan. As for the Chinese families; We never saw them again.
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