Friday, November 04, 2005
Staying: Asturias Airport
So I get to the airport at 4:45 for my 5:25 Iberia flight, thinking I'll just swipe my card through the automatic check in and be on my way (to Asturias). But no, the machine swallows the card, then spits it out, swallows, spits, swallows, spits, before telling me it can't read it. I try entering my passport number. "No Reservation Found". So I try another machine, to no avail. The lines at the counter are monstruous, too long for me to wait in and still make my flight. I go to an agent who is supposed to help passengers use the automatic check-in machines. I explain my plight; her response is to try the machine again. When she is satisfied that I am neither lying nor an idiot, she tells me to go stand in one of the monstrous lines. I explain that if I do that, I won't make my flight. She tells me she can't do anything else: her job is to help people with automatic check in.
I see that the lines for Business Class are much shorter, so, with about 20 minutes until my flight leaves, I choose one to stand in. When I get up to the counter, the man taps on his computer until he discovers that my ticket is coach. "This is a coach ticket," he says. I reply that I am aware of that fact, but that my flight leaves in 15 minutes, and the machine doesn't work and the lines..." He tells me he can't check me in: his job is to check in people in Business Class.
He then points me to two counters at the end of the terminal for "Last Minute" flights. There are two lines, each 3 deep with very antsy people, but there is only one agent, working very, very slowly. When I finally get up to him, he chides me for getting to the airport so late, but hands me my boarding pass. I speed off through security, pissing off a security guard and lots of other Spaniards by jumping the line. I get to the gate with about 4 minutes to spare. The agent there is talking at length to another passenger. I try to interrupt (politely, of course). She snaps at me and tells me to wait until she is done. When she finally turns to me, she has adopted the tone of voice that one would use with a very naughty, if tragically slow, child. "The plane," she says, "has already left."
She sends me to the Transit counter, where the line is, if anything, even longer than the original check-in lines. I stand there, along with a seething mass of Germans, Swedes, French, and the odd Spanish--who know better and keep trying, with more or less success, to jump the line, for about an hour. Finally, an agent takes my now-useless boarding pass and says, "let me get you a boarding pass for the next flight." I am joyous. For about 10 minutes, until it becomes clear that she is not, in fact, doing anything of the sort. After another 20 minutes or so of just standing there, another agent, newly arrived, waves me over. I hand her the same now really useless boarding pass. She types away for a bit, then tells me she can't give me a new boarding pass: her job is to give boarding passes to people who are connecting from other flights.
I go to the sales desk. The woman there, the only sympathetic person I've met in this whole ordeal, tells me she can only sell me another ticket for an additional 170 euros. But she does suggest I talk to a supervisor.
I go find the supervisor who is busily typing at a computer. I stand there for 15 minutes until she is done. I tell her the whole saga. She issues me a boarding pass for the next flight. It is, of course, delayed, meaning I get to Asturias far too late to pick up the car (which is still at the shop where I left it, shattered of window, back at the beginning of October). Which is how I came to spend the night at the Hotel Cristal, conveniently located in what is basically the Asturias Airport parking lot.
It's funny: the Spanish are so famously independent, so "viva yo," and all that. But give them meaningless bureaucracy and they'll enforce it for all they're worth. On the positive side, my Spanish really came together during my tirades.