Sunday, 26 June 2011

Getting to Miami

I was supposed to be in Miami at 3pm today. I had planned to go shopping because apparently there's good shopping in Miami and I need the odd thing for my new life in the Caymans. Instead I spent the whole day traveling. This happened largely because I forgot to use my usual process of getting the best answer to my questions. That is, asking many people the same question until I solved the issue. I also didn't know how things work around here, the rules of airport engagement. I had done my homework. I'd checked the website for American Airlines to make sure that my bag was okay, the check in time for domestic travel and the terminal and gate numbers for my flight.

It was an early one, 7am and the site advised that I be at the airport 90 minutes before my flight, fine I can do that. How busy can it be at 5.30am? When I arrived at LAX there was total chaos. It was like being in one of those airline programmes, actually it was exactly like that. High levels of angst as people tried to get important places with precious belongings to be with their loved ones for special occasions. Even the locals didn't appear to know the rules, this mostly polite New Zealander did not stand a show. For once in all my travels, my wheels became wobbly and then fell off completely as I missed my plane.

I'm sure that one day I'll see some humour in it all and there were some lovely people who helped my along the way, who did give me the best response to my questions. I can also see where I made my errors of judgement. If the first person had been at all helpful, I would not have queued for over an hour only to be told I'd missed my plane and for 150USD I could change my itinerary. You see that person should only have asked to see my ID so the auto check in could spit out my boarding pass and bag tag. How was I supposed to have known that.

It wasn't helpful when another looked at me as if I was from another planet and said that I needed to allow 4 hours for check in at the start of spring break. A rule I was not actually aware of and obviously, given the chaos, neither where others. And I am from another planet really. American Airlines were a big part of the problem, they should have better systems and more staff available if they know this is a pressure time. They should also put a note on their web site.

After passing through security, I passed the gate for my original flight. The plane was still being loaded and I could have made it, sigh. My new flight was to leave at 8.40am, no worries. It was late and didn't leave for 2 hours after that. LAX is not the best airport to be waiting in, but wait I did. I'm usually quite good at solving problems, I tend to be able to think outside the square. I was stopping in Miami and yet I was booked through to Grand Cayman. A small oversight by those who were supposed to have changed my booking. My bag was booked through and I couldn't go with it. 

On the plane I worked out a strategy, I would get it off loaded. Again I had to ask questions of many people who sent me to other people who sent me up and down the lift to yet other people. Actually, had the first person known their job they would have started the off load process as I checked in at LAX. It wasn't that difficult. Finally I got a very helpful lady who got the forms correct and a bit later I was on my way with my bag in tow. 

Altogether I spent from a bit before 5.30am until 7.30pm traveling on one flight that takes 5 hours and 20 minutes. There is 3 hours time difference between LA and Miami, so a total of 11 hours for a domestic flight. And I have to do it all again in the morning, you guessed it American Airlines to Antigua, Port of Spain and Saint Vincent. I'm wiser after today's experience, I hope I can keep being polite. Note to self, avoid LA stopovers in future. Note to self, avoid flying American Airlines when ever possible.

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