Prelude: After being a swimmer as a youngster, all those early starts had a negative impact on me. As much as I love mornings, working out in that fresh crisp morning air, getting up and starting my day with additional hours up my sleeve, it’s fair to say I’m not a morning person.
Knowing my International flight departs at 9am, I was preparing myself for an early rise, much as I would mentally prepare myself for a big competition or tournament. Things to consider – the run to the airport (either route) at any given time of day can be very unpredictable – making it tough to predict exactly how much time is a ‘safe’ allowance for the journey. I decided to go with 1 hour – a decent amount of time and given a good run I may make it well within that length of time. Although considering I had work traffic to contend with, that probably wouldn’t be highly likely.
For some people I know travelling can be quite nerve racking. If we’re not one ourselves, most of us will all know at least one cautious traveller to the point of being a lil’ paranoid I think, almost about everything – ride to airport, delays, the actual flight, turbulance, crashes – you name it. I however, do not share any of these fears. I’m a seasoned traveller, who despite all the drama of prior flights, from every aspect of the journey, (whatever you can think of) the odds are stacked very high that I’ve already experienced it. Despite this, I go into every flight with a relaxed demeanour. The only explanation for this is like many others I love almost nothing more than the adventure, experiences & new discoveries that travelling delivers. So much so that regardless of bad previous experiences (including a near death experience) I remain 100% optimisitc and don’t even let the thought of a possible negative experience enter my mind. I’m typically a realist, all things considered it’s fair to say, when it comes to travelling I’m probably a bit of an optimist.
According to my booking and travel itinerary, I am flying with V Australia – so I head up to the V Australia counter, which I could not seem to find. After asking 4 different airport staff members, we were all left oddly confused. Finally, another airline ground staff member pointed me to the other side of the airport, and I headed towards their weird set up there. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time, I wasn’t too concerned with the delay in finding the V Australia check-in desk. After pleasantries, I notice the screwed up face the V Australia staff member was making – hmm obviously a problem with my booking I thought. Of course she kept staring at the screen in front of her and didn’t say anything to me. I thought I’d break the silence with, “Is there a problem with my booking?”
“Yes. This flight number does not exist, but it says here that you’re flying with V Australia. When you booked did it say V Australia?”
After a wait and conferring with several other workmates, finally someone picked up that my flight number matched a flight number with their new partner Etihad. I walk towards the big board, displaying all departures and notice there is no Etihad flight departing Melbourne that exists. Hmm, strange. V Australia, who else could I be flying with? Maybe my first leg is with Virgin Blue? I wondered. Before I trek out to the Virgin Blue check-in I decide to head back to the V Australia counter. “I realise I’m not actually flying with you, even though it says I am and that’s the ticket I purchased. Is my first leg with Virgin Blue? Should I head over there to check-in then?” I was told to do so and headed over. Some serious time had now lapsed since I had first entered the airport. I wasn’t panicked, I was just pissed off. Luckily, I did not need to check-in any luggage. I only had carry on, or so I thought. As I checked in I was told that my bag was slightly too large for the domestic Virgin Blue flight. Wait a minute, when I packed my bag, I was packing for an international V Australia flight (I had travelled with the same bag on board without any problems in the past), my bag didn’t weigh much either & was clearly only half full, for shopping purposes which I demonstrated. You could literally push the bag in and make it smaller. The Virgin staff member didn’t want a bar of anything I was saying. Despite the fact that I pleaded that I was only away for a short trip and I did not want to be without my luggage for the entire trip. I was forced to check my luggage, much to my annoyance (as Virgin Blue on the same route to Brisbane had not once, but four times lost my luggage en-route of an international flight). Once my bag headed to three other countries, another time nobody could locate my bag at any given time and my fav stuff up of all time would probably be the time I didn’t have my luggage for six weeks and was promised to be reimbursed for the essentials I went out and purchased, which of course never occurred. Not to mention the inconvenience of landing in Brisbane and now having to wait for my bags, collect them, before heading to their seperate international terminal(via train or bus) for apparently my Etihad flight. The V brand was being tarnished beyond repair at this moment. I can’t imagine that Richard Branson would be impressed with his brands performance.
After the Virgin Blue staff member handed me my boarding pass she told me to head to the international gates right away, I did think that was odd but didn’t question it at the time due to the lingering annoyance of being forced to check my luggage. I headed to the international gates & my lack of trust of the “experts” when it comes to flights & travel lead me to double check that I was in fact heading through the right security gates. I asked security at the door, after asking me the necessary questions he in fact confirmed I was in the right place. Once I was waiting in the line to head through security I found myself in an unfamiliar surrounding. Michael Jackson music was blarring out of stereos & up front on a mic was the ‘Security Concierge’ introducing himself and providing information – helpful, sure. The manner in which he did this was very comical (in a bad way). Think circus act gone wrong merging with infomercial salesman with MJ music blaring in the background juxtaposed with the stern security guards, who in this environment felt more like extras in a low budget movie. I was seriously beginning to think that it was a real possibility that my mental alarm had not woken me up this morning (al la Kramer from Seinfeld) & that I was sleeping through the entire morning travel process.
Finally, I was at the head of the line. I’d hit the autopilot switch & was getting ready to hand over my passport & boarding pass and head through the metal detector. Not one person asked for or checked my passport or boarding pass. I actually had it out, waving it around, almost as a reminder for them, ready to hand it over. This doesn’t make sense – I figured surely that I was still asleep, dreaming away. By the time I had gone through the security check point I’d already asked two security staff if I was in fact in the correct place. Yes, I know. I’d been told I was in the correct spot, it just didn’t feel right. Maybe that was partly due to the weirdness created by the ‘Security Concierge’ and MJ’s greatest hits on repeat, at a volume way too high for first thing in the morning.
Next, I was due to fill out my forms and line up for customs. Time was ticking increasingly closer to my boarding time. Call me crazy, but before I lined up again in a monster of a line I thought I’d ask one last person if I was in the right place, another security guard who was standing closeby. I just had this strong suspicion I was in the wrong place & I was starting to get annoyed with myself since I hadn’t backed my own instincts and listened to the airline & security guards instead. “Shouldn’t I be at the domestic security check point?” This security guard looked alarmed.
“Yes, how did you even get in here?”
“Good question! I was told to come through here.”
“Airline staff, security, ground staff, airport staff. How do I get out of here?”
It’s probably a good time to mention that I now sit at the 100% rate for having to sprint at airports regardless of how early I arrive. Yet, I still wasn’t panicked somehow – however I did know that I didn’t have much time. Especially if there was any type of hold up at domestic security. I start sprinting and finally some joy at the fact that I didn’t have my carry on. Made it through security, I was told boarding time was almost over, now, a sprint to the gate and I was there. I made it! Great. I immediately realise that boarding was not complete – passengers are still seated. I sit down and look up at the screen and see that dreaded seven letter word that no traveller wants to see on the first leg of a connecting flight. Delayed – in bold type displayed on the screen next to my flight number.
Epilogue: As I waited to board my delayed flight (since my book was now in my checked luggage) I was looking around & I noticed three other people who had much larger bags then my so called prohibited carry on bag that was forced to be checked (despite originally booking a V Australia international flight from point of departure).