From bad to worse to great… this sums up my experience today with Spanair flying back to Copenhagen from the Mobile World Congress.
My return flight was via Madrid with a 3 hrs. layover with not other consolation than my Star Alliance Gold status which would allow me inside the Airport lounges for comfortable chairs, free coffee and mediocre internet, however this flight was not meant to be.
Having come to the airport in the wee hours of the morning in order to save money on the hotel budget (hotels in Barcelona reaches outrages prices during the major conferences), I had already spent the most of the night on the floor, only separated from the chilly marble tiles by my coat and the suit I had been wearing all day since that same morning when I had boarded the plane from Copenhagen to fly into the conference. So when the Airport lounge opened at 5 AM I made sure to get one of the attractive corner seats, set the alarm clock and fell a sleep. Awakened, not by the alarm clock, but a couple of messages beeping in on my cell, I felt assured that I showed due diligence by observing the flight status on the departure screen. The gate was not far from the lounge so I decided to sit out the boarding status and just go to the gate when it went into Last Call state… mistake number one !
Having fallen a sleep again, I was eventually awakened by my alarm clock. Soon after regaining consciousness I went to the monitor and to my surprise saw the flight having reached Last Call state… surprised I grab my stuff and run to the gate… Arriving at the gate I’m told by the typically less than helpful Spanish gate attendant that the plane had left already… confused and dazed look at the clock on my iPhone and to my great dismay I realize that its still set to London time which is one hour behind compared to Barcelona… I asked why the sign still said Last Call when it actually was the case that the gate was closed… she responded that because she was still working with the computer, the state of the gate would not go into Closed.
She resumed serving a couple of distinguished gentlemen whom I expect was in the same situation as I, but somehow had managed to motivate the less than before youthful attendant to serve their needs more than she felt compelled by my panda eyes (generally sad-looking and very dark around the eyeballs) to assist me in my quest to get back to Copenhagen.
She continued to advice me to go to the Spanair Ticketing office for a change of flights… for good measurement I took at picture at the overhead monitor displaying the infamous Last Call state and by that triggering an offended “Do you know what time it is, Sir” from the attendant as I started the death march to an office of unknown whereabouts. Naturally there was no point in attempting a clever response as I very well knew what time it was and only remotely her mistake that I missed the flight as I had already slept through the departure time sitting in the comfortable lounge chairs.
Having reached the ticketing office, I’m for some reason not surprised that there are no people in sight, moving along the isle of ticketing offices I finally reach the information desk who can inform me that I need to go to the Ticketing office outside the Terminal (eventually passed baggage, security and all the other measures the Airport management has installed purely for out amusement and continuous entertainment. A visit to an airport today has a certain resemblance to a roller-coaster ride in an amusement park).
Finally I reach the next stop on this flight which turns out to become a marathon of challenges to both bodily stamina and mental patience, the outside Ticketing office for Spanair.
After having described the situation to the young guy at the counter, he quickly (after Spanish standards, in Denmark it would have been described as excruciatingly slow) responds that all is sold out and that he can not change my ticket. Not being satisfied with this I put my Star Alliance Gold card on the counter and instruct him that I’m a Star Alliance Gold member and that there must be something he can do. Not knowing if this bold move would pay off anything but annoyance from the young guy behind the bullet-proof glass, I’m refueled with optimism as he takes my card and restarts typing what appears to be random keys into a computer running a computer-program hidden from my view. After what appears to be an eternity, he hands me back my former boarding-card for the flight, I missed, my passport and my Start Alliance Gold card and tells me to go to Checkin Counter 514 where the person will issue my boarding card… and then he runs off and closes the counter.
Quickly regaining my composure, I start walking in a rapid tempo towards Checkin Counter 514 where there hopefully will be a boarding card awaiting me. Not knowing if this eventually will be the case or not, I queue up as I get to the counter quite happy that its the Business Class counter and hence allowing me to skip the line of apr. 150 people waiting in line for the 4 open Economy class Checkin counters.
When it finally is my turn it turns out that I most likely has been sent for a ride by the young delinquent at the Ticketing counter… however, when I the third time explain the situation to the sweet lady at the counter, she finally understands and responds by grabbing my documents and starts typing in what appears to be equally random characters into the computer as the young delinquent at the Ticketing office. With s subtle expression of slight indignation she responds that she indeed has found my ticket and she asks if its ok if I fly directly to Copenhagen and hence missing my much anticipated layover in Madrid, I naturally respond that it will a sacrifice, but that we all must make sacrifices from time to time… this lightens up her mood a bit and she signs off with wishing me a safe flight.
Being tremendously happy that I was rebooked on an even better flight than the original and without any additional cost, I head off to security in a pace which can not be interpreted as anything else than impatient.
Eventually making it through the line of people queued up for security check, I realize by glanzing on my boarding card that the name on the card matches not my name, but a guy called Peter Fritz Mortensen who seems to have been booked on this flight on seat 35D !! For some reason the lady had mistakenly thought that Peter is not a common name in Denmark and had apparently printed the boarding card for the first Peter on the list. Now getting a bit desperate with the outlook of not getting out of Spain in the near foreseeable future, I partly run, partly stumble back to the Checkin Counter 514 to see what can be done about my recent identity involuntary identity crisis.
Had I not been through problems before, I was sure going through it now… The operation of taking back the boarding card for the other Peter and giving me the right one proved to be among the most difficult situations an Airport clerk can face.
After 3-4 phonecalls (I lost track sitting with my head between my legs next to the counter) she finally was able to print MY boarding pass and hand it to me accompanied by a very sincere excuse (she was apparently truly embarrassed) and a set of puppy eyes well fitted for a 3 week old puppy of a Labrador K9.
Revalidating that every piece of data was correct on the boarding pass I reiterate through security and the other amusements in the Airport amusement park, I finally make it back to the Lounge where I’m now sitting sharing with you this story.
Determined to make my flight, I have positioned myself adjacent to the monitor and there is no way I this time will miss my flight, however if I do I will be sure to share the story with you at a later point when I’m released from the prison or asylum where they have put me.
Having arrived now to Copenhagen, I’m so very pleased that I made it, however not only did I make it back – I made it back 3 hours earlier than I originally would have done with my flight via Madrid…
I would like to thank everyone at Spanair for giving me this opportunity to share this story – a story I expect for many frequent travelers is trivial – however for me might just be the beginning of a lifelong career as a generally disgruntled and pessimistic passenger… We will see about that…