Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Joys of Jinxing One's Self

So we flew out Tuesday evening, destination: Sofia, Bulgaria. With a connection through London, this looked like a pretty easy jaunt. But, because I am a complete and utter moron, looking at the itinerary as we waited to board I comment, offhand really, wow that connection is a little tight.

We were scheduled to land Wednesday morning at Gatwick at 9 and our flight to Sofia departed at 10:30. 90 minutes - definitely doable but tight, especially when you are flying Northwest (note to self - these are comments to make once you are comfortably in Sofia - not in the waiting lounge at MSP). It really all started ok. They began boarding promptly and were keeping people moving pretty quickly. We got settled in our seats and began chatting. After awhile we noticed that we had been sitting there for kindof a long time and just as we started looking at our watches - the captain came on and announced that two passengers who were connecting from a flight from Toronto had not gotten on the plane. He joked that they might have decided that they preferred a trip to the megamall over an 8hr plane ride. The delay of course was their bags. They were already on the plane and of course they were way in the back so they had to unload and reload all the bags to take off the shoppers' bags. So 45 minutes late but at least it was not a weather or mechanical issue and besides the pilot thought we could make up some of the lost time over Greenland.

Fast forward 8ish hours later. We are sooooo not on the ground. Fog around Gatwick had forced us to circle and circle until there was not enough fuel to continue. By that time the fog had lifted but we were too low priority to get a spot on the backed up landing strips. Instead we were forced to land at Manchester and refuel before heading back to Gatwick. By this time it is late, like 10, 10:30, no way we are making that flight. Unless all the flights are delayed... I mean if you can't see to land, you can't see to takeoff and how much priority are they really going to give an Air Bulgaria flight anyway. So we were still holding on to some hope. hope that is until after the 45 minutes or so it took to refuel someone two rows back had a medical emergency requiring first assistance from the crew and a nurse who happened to be on board but then finally medics came on and removed him. Another hour or so. We then got back in the air and quickly landed at Gatwick, around 1 or so. This is about when we were scheduled to land...In Sofia.

The crew announced that anyone traveling on to Bulgaria should see the staff just off the plane. At first we were encouraged after all why would they single us out unless there was some hope to catch the flight. We didn't actually see any staff just off the plane so we headed over to the connecting flights. There we were told that we had missed the flight and were being rebooked on the flight for tomorrow. This would get us in to Sofia around 4 on Thursday. The reason we came this week ahead of the rest of the group was to observe court on Thursday so this was a problem. We asked the woman if there were any other routes and she sent us to the northwest counter- about a million miles away. (Did I mention Gatwick is huge and I am traveling with a 76 year old) we went through immigration but were told to leave our baggage for now as it was checked through to Sofia.

When we finally found the northwest counter we were first told that there was nothing they could do. Then she found a flight through Athens which arrived at 8am, but it meant getting to Heathrow - quickly. She sent us back, with a staff member, to baggage claim to find our bags in a rush. We were re-searched including swiping down everything in our hand luggage. We finally got to our bags and then headed back. By the time we made it back to the counter we should have been on the train for Heathrow. The attendant had found a new plan though. She decided to route us through Budapest on a Hungarian airline, Malev. This would get us to Sofia at around 2am. She was unable to book it on her computer though so she had to call Malev. She was on the line with them for 40 minutes easily - mostly on hold, during which time she amused us endlessly in that classic British way by rolling her eyes, banging her head on the desk, and telling us she was losing the will to live. She had to explain how to do the transfer repeatedly to the badly trained chimpanzee I assume she was talking to. She said it sounded like she was on a mobile with someone in their sitting room somewhere. After roughly 200 years we got our tickets and headed to the airport pub before finally leaving England.

The rest of the trip went swimmingly and by 3am we were in the hotel and getting ready for our next adventure. Next time though - no mentioning tight connections, it's like saying Macbeth in a theatre.

-A. Monkey