First, I need to explain how I travel. My dad is a pilot for a commercial airline in the United States. Because of this, I receive certain benefits because I am his offspring. The biggest one being that I fly for free on this airline, for the most part. I do have to pay to sit in first and/or business class. When returning to the United States from international travel, I have to pay the exit taxes of the country I am leaving; which range from $10-$200. But the biggest caveat to this “flying for free” business is that I fly standby. If you are unaware of what “flying standby” means, it is simply that I only get on the flight if there’s seats available. That being said, the best chance for me to make flights are typically those flights at six and seven in the morning as well as red-eyes. The worst time for me to fly? Middle of the day, summer and during the holidays.
As it is currently mid/end of June, summer holidays are in full swing around the world. Making travel for me a challenge. Typically flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my best bet for making flights during “busy season”. That’s because most people take week long or weekend trips, in which they fly Thursdays to Sundays or Mondays. My plan to get to Spain was to leave on Tuesday from the United States. This would put me in Barcelona on Wednesday morning, giving me all day Wednesday and Thursday to enjoy Barcelona – a city I fell in love with six years ago. But as you can probably tell, that is not how things went down…
I hopped on the 6a.m flight from Cleveland to Newark. Once I landed, I went straight to the United Club (I have a United Mileage Plus card, which gives me two United Club access passes per year – as well as other airline benefits). I sat in there for ten hours… eating, relaxing and watching Netflix on their free wi-fi. Through out the day, however, I watched my flight. The flight load changed constantly. Before I knew it, The flight had zero available seats and I was number thirty-one on standby…
I start looking for a backup plan.
Unfortuantely, most of the flights to Europe had already left earlier that evening. There was only two more flights to London Heathrow after the Barcelona flight. They seemed to have seats, so I figured I’d try for one of those flights if I had to. I didn’t really want to of course – I wanted to go straight to Barcelona. Even before they began boarding, the gate agents cleared standby and let the rest of us on standby know that we were not going to make it.
Oh no… my bag. I had checked my backpack to Barcelona. If I didn’t get on the Barcelona flight, my bag was staying in Newark. I sprinted down to baggage claim where they sent to get my bag and have it rerouted to London. Once that’s done, I run back upstairs and get in line for security. Luckily it’s a breeze (very unlike Newark).
While I’m in line for security, I buy a ticket. Cheapest flight that got me to Barcelona by Thursday night is what I got. Done!
Within an hour, I board my flight to London and luckily, sleep the majority of the flight. I land in London, where I have to go thru immigration and customs because I need to re-check my bag with the other airline that I’m flying on to Barcelona. The customs line is long, but moves relatively quickly. I have two hours until my flight leaves. I run to baggage claim.
My backpack is MIA…
Over to the service counter I go, where I discover that my bag never made the flight to London and is still sitting in Newark. Thank God for this woman at the service counter however. She found a way to get my bag to me in Valencia! Only problem is, my bag would not be there yet when I landed in Valencia. But at least it would get to Valencia.
Through security at London Heathrow, I go into W.H Smiths. Silver lining to this reroute is that I get to grab some Lucozade (my favorite drink and it’s, unfortunately, only sold in the UK). My gate has been announced, so I begin to walk. Next stop Düsseldorf, Germany…
Because the UK is no longer a part of the European Union, when I land in Germany, I go through immigration once again. I had about a two hour layover so plenty of time to go through immigration and check in with friends and family. Next stop, Barcelona!
Finalmente! I’ve made it to Barcelona. Unfortunately, by the time I catch the metro to my hostel all the shops are closed. Meaning, I am stuck in the same clothes I’ve been in for almost two days. Not pleased about that, but at least I made it Barcelona. Unfortunately again, I was shattered from the traveling and just went to bed, without getting to see Barcelona. I was up early the next morning for a 7:30a.m flight.
4:30 a.m wake up call. I quietly gather my things in the hostel and head downstairs to check out. Once at the airport, I grab some breakfast (coffee and a sandwich) and wander around a bit. I always get to airport way earlier than intended. Eventually my flight boards and I’m off to Valencia.
When I landed in Valencia I checked in with the airline counter that my bag was going to be flying to Valencia on to let them know of the situation. The next day I took the metro to the airport and was reunited with my belongings. So bitter sweet. It had been four days since I had seen my backpack and I had been wearing the same clothes for that same amount of time… I was ecstatic to be able to put on my own clean clothes.
Side note: The irony of this happening is that I was actually writing a blog about my worst time flying standby during my layover in Newark. That post to come later, as it is still the reigning champ of my “worst”s. 😛
I’m starting to settle into Valencia now. Enjoying the amazing weather, people and culture that Espana has to offer. In the first week I can already tell that my Spanish is coming back and improving. I hope to be at least close to fluent by the time I leave here in two months! Time will tell though.
Hasta luego 🙂