Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Nightmares of Flying

In less than two months I have been on 14 flights. Yes, 14. I counted yesterday, while I sat bored out of my mind, yet too tired to read, at the gate, waiting to board my flight - one of 4 I had to take to get back to Sudan. And it seems every flight is worse than the one that preceded it. Service is dead. Punctuality is dead. Efficiency is dead. Competency long buried. In the good old days, a delay or baggage loss was the exception. These days, it seems that it’s impossible to fly problem-free. On my way to Vancouver to visit my mom, we sat in the airplane on the runway for 3.5 hours before taking off for some de-icing exercise – apparently the West Coast doesn’t understand how to handle snow. On the way back, I was delayed I don’t know how many hours, then my bags didn’t show up.

When I booked my ticket to return to Khartoum, I was amazed at how smooth it appeared. Ottawa – Toronto – Frankfurt – Khartoum. No more than 2 hour layover in both stops. Less than 20 hours flying time. Perfect. Well… until the Toronto flight was delayed 2.5 hours and I missed my Frankfurt connection. Then I had to wait in a line for God knows how long, before being directed to another line, where I was told the next ticket wouldn’t get me there until 2:20am … instead of 5:40pm. Ugh. At this point it was 5am Ottawa time, I hadn’t slept, and I wasn’t in the mood. The only available flight was through Istanbul, adding another leg to the journey – which, with two heavy carry-ons, is never fun.

‘Is there any compensation?’ I asked. ‘We can give you a meal voucher, but that’s about all I can do for you here. You can send a fax to this number though…” This is crap, I thought to myself. But I took the voucher anyway. I wasn’t hungry – not one iota. But I wanted Lufthansa to lose as much money as possible. So I stood in line at McDonald’s and ordered 10 euros worth of stuff. (Frankfurt fries are not quite as crispy, but the sundaes are quite good!)

If before, only certain airlines were known to be poor – now even the best ones are inconsistent at best. But what to do? With this work, I have no choice but to submit to their ridiculousness.

The only plus of this journey – if you could call it that – is that the Finnish World Junior Hockey Championship team was on my flight from Toronto – a bunch of lads who couldn’t speak English getting drunk and causing havoc. It was quite entertaining.

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