Neil's wheelless 22‏

23. Morning, my time, on May 30, 2012.

Neil’s half-way home.

Short version: After Istanbul airport chaos, Neil arrived in Germany.

Long version: By 4:45 in the morning, Neil was checked in and ready to go. They sent him up to a waiting area near the gate. He was so early that there were airport people sleeping on the chairs in the waiting lounge. A few woke up and Neil told them to go back to sleep.

The flight was scheduled to board at 7:20 and depart at 8:20. As the crowd of departing passengers arrived, the electronic board above the gate changed from “one hour delay” to “two hour delay” to “three hour delay” to “4:45 hour delay” to BLANK.

It seems that they need 8 flight attendants to fly – but they had only 6 on the plane. No explanations for the delay were given to the passengers other than the absence of flight attendants. The real reason was because of the strike, the extra 2 either could not or would not be arriving.

There was one woman at the reception desk for the flight who was inundated with loud complaints. When it was Neil’s turn to talk with her, she said that possibly he could get on a direct flight to Los Angeles. He agreed and she took his printed boarding pass and luggage claim ticket and went off.

Neil was a little nervous because she had taken all of the documentation that he had about flying. If she never came back, how would he prove that he had purchased a ticket?

One hour later, she returned with his papers and told him that he had just missed the LA flight.

Next, they took him up to a room full of airline people talking on cell phones and 4 passengers trying to figure out what to do. One gate attendant worked for about 20 minutes at a computer trying to get Neil on a plane. She gave up. Another guy tried for another 20 minutes.

At this point, Neil had to pee. He walked out through the door and went to the restroom. When he returned, guess what? The door had no knob on the outside and tons of people were trying to get in.

Finally he barged in as someone was coming out. His papers were located in a pile with many other passenger’s stuff. Finally, they sent him to a gate for a flight to Frankfurt. There were two lines of upset people at the gate trying to get on the plane. By the time that he worked his way to the front of the line, the attendant told him that he could not get on this plane. Of course, he moved into the second line. When he got to the front of it, they told him OK. Get on the airport bus to go to the plane.

The bus took them out to an airplane. Everyone off the bus. No, not this plane. Back on the bus. Move to another plane. They got on the plane. The plane taxied for a bit and stopped. Mechanical difficulties. The passengers sat for about 30 minutes without air conditioning. Finally, they took off at 6:30 PM (instead of 8:20 AM) for the 3 hour flight to Frankfurt.

At the Lufthansa help desk, they hit him with the happy news that, because he missed the connection, he would have to pay an additional $250 late charge for a ticket swap to the next day’s flight. The standard airport hotel was going to be another €180. Neil gagged. The lady then helped him locate a €50 hotel. She spent almost a half-hour helping him.

Neil thanked the lady and also told the lady’s supervisor what a nice employee she was. He said that the employee and supervisor were greatly surprised by his kind words because they mostly deal with angry passengers.

While Neil was waiting for the bus, the Lufthansa lady came down to be certain that he was at the correct bus stop. Politeness is rewarding. He caught a bus to the hotel and slept for 7 hours.

If all goes as planned, Neil will catch the return bus and be in the air on the same flights as previously planned to San Francisco and Eugene – just one day later. He is now scheduled to fly and arrive on May 30.

An advantage to being 85 years old is that he has seen and experienced many things. He doesn’t get emotionally involved in confusion. Unlike many in the Istanbul airport who were yelling and screaming at whoever was available, he proceeded with equanimity and calmness – an admirable trait.

Exactly where his luggage is, and when (or if) it might arrive, is anyone’s guess. If you were expecting a big Christmas present from Iran or Turkey, you might be disappointed.


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