Friday, January 7, 2011

Air France? No Thanks!

So I finally have the time to sit down and update my blog! Woo hoo.

So much to update, from Christmas at home, to New Years beginnings. Where to start... Ah yes, with my fun filled and exciting departure to Washington.

I left Cairo right around the time that the travel chaos ensued in Europe. Unfortunately for me, I didn't learn about it until I was already on the bus to Cairo. So I had no choice but to try my luck! I get to the airport, and there are HUNDREDS of people milling around the Air France desk. The queue stretches some 200 meters towards the door. I look at it and think, " that what I'm going to have to wait in?"

I walk up to an Air France clerk, and ask if the flight to Paris has to wait in that queue. He looks at me as though I've asked the most ridiculous question in the world, and says "Yes. of course." So I join the queue.

About an hour and a half later, having moved about 15 meters, I see the a-typical Egyptian family in front of me. Who are convinced that by jumping to the front of the queue and barging in front of other people, they will be served. To my surprise, they come back to standing in front of me, grab their bags, and walk off. I'm standing there thinking "wtf? did they actually just get served?" with my frustrations mounting. Approximately 15 minutes after this, a clerk steps out of the Air France office, gesturing at the door and shooing people away.

Now, before I continue, let me give you a little information on the layout of Cairo Airport. In an attempt to show how sophisticated the security there is, you have to walk through multiple security points. One of these is the security scan BEFORE you even get to the check in desk. So the Air France office is located outside of the security scan, their check-in desks are located on the other side of the security check-point.

And to continue...

Mr. Air France comes out of his office, gesturing madly at the sign on his door, which proclaims that the office hours were from 8 am to 12 am. And that it now being 12-40 am, he was working after hours, and had to shut the office. I stood there incredulously, unable to actually believe that with a "Flight Crisis," they were actually going to shut the information office. I join about 50 other people milling around, who like me, were wondering where the hell we were supposed to go next. Mr. Air France shouts "CHECK-IN DESK FOR AIR FRANCE," and promptly shuts his door, obviously entirely unwilling to deal with any more begrudged travelers.

I grab my suitcase and bags, and head to the growing queue at the security desk, where on the other side, crowds had begun to congregate. Air France decided to be smart, and open three check in desks (lol). I pick a queue, and begin waiting again. By 3 am, I still hadn't seen a clerk.

When I finally made it up to the check-in desk, it was obvious that people were losing any patience they had left. Our flight was meant to have departed by 1:40 am. It was now nearing 4:30 am. I had seen frustrated travelers shouting obscenities at the check-in agents. At that time, I giggled to myself, knowing that the agents themselves were not at fault. Upon arriving to the desk however, this patience ran out. By the desk next to me, an Egyptian male was shouting at the top of his voice. Proclaiming the complete incompetence of everyone working at the time, how HIS flight was more important that anyone else's. This outburst prompted more outbursts, and one male actually CLIMBED ON TOP of the check in desk in an attempt to get at the clerk.

Anyhow, I get to the desk, and try to find out what is going on. With this delay, there was no way I would have made my connection flight to D.C., so I start trying to figure that out. The girl at my desk, was, to say the least frazzled. AND COMPLETELY INCOMPETENT.

I know that I'm still in Egypt, so I chalk it up to that. (haha...I WISH that was the excuse).

This girl proceeds to tell me that there are no further flights to DC. That I could fly to New York JFK, but then I would have to find a way to get to NEWARK airport. I said just into New York was OK, I could figure out my own way from there. This was not an option. Apparently Air France will ONLY let you fly through to your final destination, despite them having caused you to miss the connection in the first place. 
>> later, I was to hear an Air France agent tell a couple who were considering this option, that if they had to take a taxi to Newark, that Air France would NOT reimburse the price of the taxi, as they were "no longer" in the country that the problem started in - Egypt. <<

After about 20 minutes of banging on the computer, the girl says "you'll have to wait for the booking agent. I cannot fix your problem. Please stand to the side." (insert me thinking wtf? again!)

I move to the side, and begin waiting with four other people who have been told the same thing. Eventually, the same girl that told us to move aside decides to help us with our booking. She disappears for a while, and reappears telling us that we have to move back to the other side of the security point, BACK TO THE ORIGINAL BOOKING OFFICE. Which, by this time, had been re-opened to deal with people. (Geniuses. If they had just left it open to begin with, they would have saved many people a great deal of standing around and waiting - because there was NO where for anyone to go other than the area in front of the check-in desks. No seats, no cafes, nothing).

I head back towards the booking office, being led with about 8 other people through the back side of the check in desks, around through the front and back in through the airport main door. The whole time having to cart around my heavy ass suitcase, and carry on bags, while an employee from Cairo Airport trotted along happily beside me with a cart carrying one suitcase.Apparently he figured my arms could use the work out!

At the booking office, I again join crowds of people waiting around. When I finally get my flight, I've been put on a flight for the NEXT day, and told to "take care, and be back tomorrow." No accommodation vouchers, no food vouchers, nothing. When I asked the girl where these were, she points behind her at the very crowded and exceptionally tense booking office, and says "I don't deal with that. You'll have to go back in there and wait in there to find out."

Now by this time, it's almost 6 am in the morning. I'd already been hanging around for seven hours, and wasn't willing to do it any longer. So I gave up the ghost, and headed to Maadi to spend the night at Karim's house, and try to get some rest....

I could only imagine what the next day was going to hold...but that warrants a new blog in it of itself.

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