Passport: check. Camera: check. Ticket: um…
4 a.m. / December 23, 2011 / Madrid’ s Barajas aiport
Itinerary: Madrid-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Newark, Newark-Little Rock
I stood in line at the airport, waiting to check in for the first leg of a 3-flight journey. On top of being long, the line at Lufthansa as slow as Christmas. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait much longer–it was December 23 and I was set to arrive in Little Rock at 10 p.m. central time. However, when I handed over my passport, the airline employee frowned–she couldn’t locate me in the system. “Go over there,” she waved toward the main office. “We’ve had problems with our United partner today, go see if my colleague can help you.”
That’s when I went to the Lufthansa counter and realized that, because of a flight change made by United Airlines in September, a piece of my reservation was never made. I hadn’t been assigned a seat for the first flight, and because of that I was going to miss my ride to Frankfurt. That’s how the following What’sApp conversation* between dad (Michael) and me (Dot) came about.
22:02, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: By our calculations you must be at or on your way to the airport. Surely you couldn’t have slept during this short period. We didn’t. Of course, it is just now bedtime for us.
22:09, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: Tell us what we need to do.
22:09, Dec 22 – Dot Gambill: Maybe you guys can call United from the states? My United confirmation number is SW**** and my Lufthansa one is 6F****
22:12, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: I am looking up the number
22:32, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: They say that Lufthansa is responsible and to hold firm about getting aboard.
Having trooped to T1 to try to talk to a United representative (but finding the office closed at this ungodly hour), I hauled everything back to the Lufthansa desk in T2 to talk to the same unfriendly woman. She still refused to give me a seat, in fact rubbing it in my face by saying that there had been plenty of seats left on my flight, which, at this point was boarding. Another girl my age had encountered the exact same problem. The Lufthansa employee remarked, “United says that you are confirmed for the flight, but you must either be taking a car or a boat to Frankfurt, because you sure aren’t flying there.”
22:37, Dec 22 – Dot Gambill: She refuses to give me anything without a ticket number
22:37, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: She suggested the flight might have been full and were just using that as an excuse. Should I call again?
22:39, Dec 22 – Dot Gambill: Yes please. If you can just get some sort of ticket number, that would appease them. She keeps saying it isn’t “correct information” that Lufthansa owes us a flight
22:44, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: More helpful now. When the flight was changed someone failed to issue a new one to Lufthansa. Working on an 11:00 flight -Madrid to Newark with Continental
22:55, Dec 22 – Dot Gambill: Ok, good! I was having nightmares of lugging my stuff back through the metro
22:55, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: Not done yet, they are trying to arrange it
23:00, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: Still on hold
23:07, Dec 22 – michael.gambill: Check your email
23:09, Dec 22 – Dot Gambill: Yesssss!! Looks good! Thank you again. I’m going to turn my phone off now, it’s about to die and I didn’t bring the charger
The next few hours were spent pacing and reading. When it came time to check in, I had problems yet again. Thankfully the employee dad talked to on the phone had sent an updated itinerary to my email address. I was able to pull this up on my phone to prove that I was supposed to be on the flight from Madrid to Newark.
03:59, Dec 23 – Dot Gambill: Hey! I’m onboard!!!!
04:02, Dec 23 – michael.gambill: Great! We’ve been awake waiting. Don’t let them drag you off.
04:05, Dec 23 – Dot Gambill: Ok, good. I’m turning my phone off, ciao for now : )
And that’s how, after 3 rom-coms and a 5-hour layover in Newark, I made it safely back to Arkansas.
Sara and Brian surprised me at the airport!
*Note: this is an abbreviated version of the exchange. I’ll save you the details (and the expletives).