If you read my articles regularly, you’ll know that I consider myself a ‘sunny side of the street’ type of person. But, sometimes connecting flights can be your worst nightmare, and I just really need to share this topsy-turvy experience.
We Love to Travel
My husband Shelly and I love to travel all over the world. I am privileged to have traveled with my sidekick near and far, experiencing one adventure after another. We have flown into more airports than I can count. We have millions of frequent flyer miles, and we have often had to zig and zag through airports to reach our connecting flights.
In this situation, our trials and tribulations were caused by several factors. Bad weather led to late flights. Understaffed airports led to long lines. Untrained and careless personnel led to incorrect tickets. And last, but far from least, few working at the airport seem to care about the travelers. All of these elements caused multiple unplanned upsets that created a snowball effect and continual stressful race to our connecting flights.
At any age, and especially at our age, many travelers would cave under the pressure we endured. I know we saved ourselves from committing hara-kiri because of our experience maneuvering through airports and our personalities. We grin, and we bear whatever comes our way and always quip to one another, “It could be worse.”
The Saga of Connecting Flights Begins
The problems started at the Palm Springs airport as we excitedly prepared to leave for France and England. Unexpectedly, all of our flights had to be changed because of bad weather in Chicago. (You can read my story ‘How to adapt and thrive.’) Once our problems started they never stopped.
We arrived at O’Hare airport in a downpour; a stark contrast to Palm Springs. All of the flights were held up due to the bad weather. We finally boarded our connecting flight an hour late. This was our British Air flight for London’s Heathrow airport.
We knew from experience we might be in trouble making our connection into the Nice airport, so before boarding, Shelly spoke to an attendant about our chances for making the connection. The attendant was uncertain that we would make the flight. Her suggestion was to book us on two connecting flights into Nice, each leaving an hour apart. She felt we had a chance to make the first connecting flight, but would definitely make the later flight. However, she warned us if we missed both flights that the next flight would be nine hours later. This would get us into Nice after midnight. So Darlings, at this point we had two sets of tickets connecting at different times; our original tickets for the closest connecting flight, and another set of tickets for the flight leaving one hour later.
London Heathrow Connecting to Nice
Arriving at Heathrow we made a mad dash to get our boarding passes to go through security. We handed the agent the two sets of different tickets. Shelly stressed to him we wanted boarding passes for the later option so that we would be sure to catch the flight. He printed our boarding passes and told us to hurry; there were long lines at security and our gate was a long distance away. We cleared security and raced to our gate to make the connecting flight to Nice. We hurriedly handed our boarding passes to the gate attendant, who looked us and said, “Your passes are for the flight that just left.”
“That’s impossible,” Shelly said.
“We cannot put you on the next flight unless you go back to British Air and have your boarding passes changed,” said the gate agent. “And by the way, you have to fly with your luggage because it will never make it on the flight at this point. Don’t bother rushing for new boarding passes because the next flight is at 9:00 pm.” It was noon.
“OMG,” We said in unison. That agent at British Air gave us boarding passes for the first connecting flight rather than the second!
Shelly was beside himself. He was so aggravated. I forced myself to stay calm, so I could calm him.
We sat in the British Air lounge for nine hours waiting for the last flight to Nice.
It really was our fault. Shelly always checks our tickets. In this case, we were so hassled by the time that he put his trust in the agent and didn’t double-check.
We Arrived in Nice
Fortunately, I had emailed our travel agent back home to cancel our early afternoon pick-up at the Nice airport, and she rescheduled a driver for midnight. When we arrived our driver was one of the few people in the Nice airport. There were no taxis. We would have been stranded!
We had a lovely time in Nice, Shelly’s business meeting was a success and our flight back to the dreaded Heathrow was lovely.
Back to Heathrow
Arriving at Heathrow, we entered the fast track lane so we could quickly clear customs, meet our driver outside of and begin enjoying London for the next five days. We were excited to be in London after our first trouble-free flight on this trip.
No such luck. Unfortunately, the fast track line had over 500 passengers, two of them being yours truly and Shelly. There were two agents to clear all of these passengers through passport control! We were in line for two hours! Everyone was complaining. People had connecting flights they were sure to miss. We had a driver standing on his feet for two hours with a sign that said, ‘Good.’ It was crazy! Shelly and I made the most of it talking to some interesting travelers. But it was not a picnic.
Five days later we were back at Heathrow, fearful of what may lie ahead. Our experience was fine. Our return flight over the pond was uneventful. A small win!
The Saga Continues… Are You Carrying Drugs?!
Landing in Phoenix, Arizona we went through Global Entry and hurried to get our luggage because we had to go through customs, drop off our luggage at American Airlines, go through security and find our gate to board for Palm Springs.
As we waited for our baggage, a security officer with a dog approached me. The dog started sniffing me.
I smiled and said, “I am not carrying drugs!”
The officer said, “I am not with Drug Enforcement. I am with the Agricultural Department and my dog is smelling food. You are not allowed to bring in any food or plants from a foreign country. What did you bring in from London? Plants or foods?”
I replied, “I have no plants or food. I was served food on our flight. That must be the scent he is picking up.”
He gave me a paper with a number. We went to customs and were told, “You have to go to Agricultural Control and have all your luggage and clothes and handbag checked.”
I repeated to the customs control officer, “I have no plants or food. We have a connecting flight to make!”
They could have cared less. All of our luggage was checked. They found nothing. Time was running short.
After the search and cleared customs, left our baggage at American Airlines and proceeded to go through airport security. And I was stopped again!
Wait, Is That a Gun?!
My carry-on was pulled off the conveyor belt. They thought I had a gun! Can you imagine? They took my jewelry case and ran it through the x-ray machine again and the machine happened to get stuck. We were frantic we would miss our flight home. Finally, the little bag came through.
The woman who checked my carry-on showed us the picture of why they suspected a gun. My jewelry inside the bag had shifted around, and honestly, the way it was laying looked just like the shape of a gun!
I’d had it! I was frazzled, and not dazzled by any stretch of the imagination. I was ready to cry. This time it was Shelly that came to my aid. “Just relax and take a deep breath,” he pleaded. I tried. I really tried.
We made our flight by the skin of our teeth. It was pleasant enough. Landed in Palm Springs, collected our luggage and grabbed a taxi for home. Had our ordeal ended? Yes!
The Silver Lining
Gratefully, there is a tendency to forget the bad and remember the good. Our stay in Nice and London was perfect. We will remember the positive part of our experience. Will we travel soon? Of course. And we are going to continue to take a big bite out of life as long as we can?! And, I might add… with humor and style.