Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dios Mio !!!

July 26, 2012
Amsterdam - Madrid - Barcelona
NH Hotel Schipol - ME Hotel Barcelona

Everything happens for a reason... thus when my 5:45am wake up call didn't come I knew I was in for a long day. My flight was scheduled to leave Amsterdam at 7:30am and my eyes first opened at 7:08am. Being that I wasn't sleeping at the airport and rather a hotel 10 minutes away, I knew I had no chance to make it.

I immediately used SKYPE to call American Airlines, because as every good traveller knows, if you don't cancel your flight before departure than you may forfeit it's value. So after a nice 20 minute conversation with someone in Dallas who was working the graveyard shift, she had changed my flight... I was now scheduled to depart 36hours later at 7:15pm on the 27th arriving in Barcelona at 8:10am on the 28th... thus I'd have to spend another night in Amsterdam and then the next night in Madrid... which isn't so bad, other than I'd already booked the room in Barcelona and it was non-refundable so it would have been a $300 probem.

So I get to the airport about 8:15am and make my way to the Iberia counter... there is no American Airlines ticket office in Amsterdam and thus it takes a phone call to change anything. Luckily Amsterdam airport has WIFI but it's not strong enough to get a good connection for SKYPE so after trying about 10 times to talk to an agent to see if something else opened up I gave up and made my way over to the adjacent Sheraton Aiport Hotel to see if their WIFI was any stronger.

The Sheraton has free public WIFI in the lobby and once again I make the SKYPE call and it goes through... except American Airlines can't hear me because it keeps buffering... strike 11 !

Luckily a very nice lady at the front desk felt some compassion for me and gave me the internet code for the "high speed" internet. This enabled me to actually SKYPE with American Airlines... the only caveat is that the WIFI only lasts 30 minutes and because of American Airlines computers working slow as usual we weren't able to finish the transaction in time and I was cut off.

So with my tail between my legs, I returned to the front desk and asked for an additional 30 minutes and she obliged. I think she was really feeling sorry for me and I was starting to feel sorry for myself as well. My next 30 minute internet voucher proved to be the winning ticket as I finally got confirmation that I could fly out tonight...albeit at 7:15pm with a night in Madrid before continuing on to Barcelona tomorrow morning.

I return to the airport and checked in EARLY for my 7:15pm flight and luckily the agent told me that she could move me up to the 12:15pm departure. Amen... luck was starting to shift. I checked my bag, as the intra-european airlines don't like the size of my carry on and made my way to the lounge (which was the worst of the trip) before getting to the gate and taking my seat 1C. Iberia provided a great lunch and I was feeling energized for my return to Espana.

We arrived at Madrid at 3:45pm and I knew there were about 8 more flights from Madrid to Barcelona (similar to the LA - SF) route. I just had to go to baggage claim, scoop up my "too-big" carry on and get to an Iberia counter to change my flight.

A detour was in my future. My bag never came and thus the adventure began. After waiting in line for 20 minutes the Iberia rep, who spoke zero English, (thank goodness I always practice my Spanish) had me fill out the requested information and he told me that he'd hopefully get me my luggage tonight. Highly unlikely...

It was now time to get my onward flight and another detour was in my future. The ticket that I'm on is somewhat flexible in that I can change date and time but I can never change destinations. The only problem is that if the airline doesn't have "award seats" available then there's nothing American Airlines can do. Being that I'm on Iberia, I was forced to once again track down an American Airlines agent to see if they could assist me.

Luckily, American Airlines does have a ticket office (and flights) at the Madrid Airport. Unluckily, it's only open from 6:30am - 12:00 noon. Thus I was forced to scramble once again. I either needed good WIFI for the dreaded SKYPE call or some divine intervention...

Divine intervention tried to show his head at the Iberia Sales office. The ladies were nice, I got to practice my Spanish and they gave me the local phone number and a phone for the American Airlines office in Madrid. After being on hold for 18 minutes I finally got to speak to a real live person and she confirmed my worst fear...the first "award seat" flight available was indeed on the 28th. It looks like I have two nights in Madrid, I'll lose two nights of prepaid rooms in Barcelona ($230) and I have no clothes to wear. My own damn fault... should have double checked my alarm!

It was now 5:15pm and I thanked the ticket agent and she also felt sorry for me and told me there was one last place I could go... the "Puente " (Madrid - Barcelona Shuttle). She told me (in Spanish) that it was near the foot bridge by McDonald's. I wondered for about 10 minutes before finding what she was talking about. I went up to the ticket agent and she gave me the puppy dog eyes and said "No problema". I was in a state of shock. Today I'd spent over 2 hours on SKYPE, 2 hours with ticket agents and I just show up at her counter and she tells me it won't be a problem.

She makes one phone call and within 30 seconds she prints out my boarding pass. She points to the window, tells me the flight is currently boarding and it's time for me to go. Dios Mio !!!

So to recap... it could have been way worse. I'm on schedule to Barcelona with no extra hotel expenses. Hopefully my bag arrives soon as all I have is my backpack which contains: flip flops, a pair of shoes, IPAD, gym shorts, and my chargers. So unless I plan to head to the nude beach (which I'm NOT!) I might need to purchase an "I LOVE BARCELONA" Tshirt and a Speedo... isn't that what they wear over here?

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