The Take-Off that never was…

February 24, 2010 – It’s 10pm on Monday and I am at the JKIA, excited to be travelling to Barcelona, Spain, a city I have never been to; only heard of thanks to their famous football team.

Unfortunately, this is not a leisure trip and I may not get a chance to visit one of the Barcelona stadium’s (I am a die hard soccer mum, I might add), nor visit the beaches that sit on the shores of the Mediterranean, as I have a tight schedule.

Anyway, so I have arrived at the airport two hours prior to our scheduled take off on Swiss Air, which is known for their hospitality and high standards of quality and service – think skiing, watches, chocolates.

I am next in turn at the check-in counter and a lovely Kenyan lady greets me with an equally lovely smile. Can’t help but wonder if it’s part of the Swiss training… but a quick jolt into reality reveals that Miss Smiley is telling me that my flight has been delayed.

WOMAN_AIPORT_579477417.jpgOk, I say, a couple of hours or so at the airport won’t be that bad since I have my laptop and probably could find some unsecured wireless somewhere to hack into.

“Actually, your flight has been delayed for eight hours,” says Miss Smiley, without flinching. “What? You’re kidding me right?”

I wondered if this is a ploy for me to give up my seat on a crowded flight and be compensated…

I calculate how this delay will affect my virgin tight schedule. For one, I was supposed to arrive in Barcelona at 9am and attend a full day of meetings from 10am to 7pm, then a dinner meeting at 8pm. Now I will arrive at 7pm, so all that is left is my dinner meeting which I will probably be too tired (and pissed off at Swiss Air) to attend. So, one day gone.

Of course there is the matter of my hotel booking which was going to be cancelled if I didn’t check in within six hours of the time I had told them. Darn, I will now have to sleep on the clean Barcelona streets because all the hotels are fully booked thanks to the 5,000 delegates attending the same conference I am going to.

I actually consider cancelling my trip altogether but weigh the financial challenges. First, my ticket is non-refundable, so there goes a few hundred Euros down the drain. Second, the conference registration fee was paid months in advance, so that too will go down the drain, and finally, the hotel has my credit card details so they will definitely charge me a cancellation fee. Wow, I probably should just go and salvage what I can.

The airline has decided to put us up in a hotel for the night, thanks to their big mess up, which I might add, they haven’t bothered to explain. After getting a group of disgruntled passengers come together, the airline puts us in a van to head back into the city centre to spend a night at the Sarova Stanley hotel. We arrive some minutes past 11pm, and I must give it to the Stanley for the super fast check in we got. In addition, the front office attendant promptly called the restaurant which was closed, and requested them to reopen to serve us dinner – which they did. After a peaceful and comfortable sleep at the Stanley, my 4:30am wakeup call reminded me I had to be at the airport by 6am to catch the 8am flight. Once again the Stanley ensured we had an early continental breakfast before we were sent on our way.

Back at the airport, we were required to check in again, something about a different plane seating, and then we proceeded to the departure lounge. My boarding pass indicated we would be boarding at 7:50am for an 8:30 take off.

However, after endless hours of waiting and no explanation, we finally started boarding at 9:50 for a 10:30am take off! By then I was totally starved seeing as how we had our breakfast at 5am! Anyway, we finally take off and thank God the flight is uneventful, no turbulence, ok food, and a mediocre selection of entertainment. Oh, at least the pilot gave us an explanation about the delay – very nice of him, since no one else had bothered to communicate with the paying passengers!

The lesson I learnt- “always be prepared!”

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