April 4, 2008

Returning to Paris…or so we thought

Posted in Air Travel, Travel, Visitors tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:04 pm by Lauren

On Monday, March 10, Allen’s birthday, we spent the entire morning packing and preparing to leave Malta again. This actually didn’t take Mom very long, as the airlines had lost her luggage on the way in, and despite daily phone calls to the airport and daily promises from airport staff, her clothes had never arrived at our hotel.

We didn’t have time for lunch, but we picked up a few snacks in the deli before our taxi arrived. Our ride to the airport was much smoother then when we first arrived in Malta (when I thought I was surely going to throw up during the entire vacation). We checked in with no fanfare and then went to inform the luggage services that we were leaving Malta, should my mother’s bags arrive later.

“We tried to call you, but we couldn’t reach your hotel, and we left a message on your phone.” That is what the liars at luggage services in Malta said when they revealed that my mother’s bags had indeed arrived. However, Mom had called just two days before – in fact, she had called daily until the fifth day (when she found out that Alitalia would give her a 50 euro a day allowance for purchases made on the first four days only). So the luggage must have arrived on the sixth day since our arrival in Malta, the day before, and we highly doubt they called (and there was no message on the phone).

It was all fine and good (better even) that my mom got her luggage back, but since we didn’t remotely predict this would happen, we’d already checked in, and we now needed to go check back in. Or my mom did. But eventually, we all made our way onto our flight, which was delayed. (I think if I counted, I would find that nine out of the last ten flights I’ve taken have been delayed.) I tried to take my normal zen approach to things I can’t control. C’est-a-dire, I knew we’d miss our connection in Milan.

Touching down in Milan, Allen and I had about ten minutes (must have been) to catch our flight. We said goodbye to my parents (not really sure when we’d see them again because their flight to Paris was purportedly delayed already) and ran – yes, ran – through the airport. We arrived at our gate at 8:15 pm, just as our plane was starting its taxi. In retrospect, I wasn’t sure why we ran, except it seems you should always try at least, even if you know you’re going to fail.

We panted a bit before figuring out what to do next. At the transfer desk, we were informed that we could catch a flight the next morning around 7 am. Unlike on my trip to the US when Lufthansa/United shafted me, Alitalia representatives quickly told us we’d have a hotel, dinner, and breakfast provided to us for the inconvenience. The whole process was taken care of in moments. In fact, we got out of line just as travelers from our Malta – Milan flight who’d also missed the Paris flight started to trickle over. (This only goes to show that we were the only ones who ran – either they are all smarter than us, or the need to try in the face of failure is an American sensibility, or both.) “Look at it this way,” I said to Allen of the delay, “Now there’s no chance I’ll be deported on your birthday.” 

We decided we should try to find my parents before their flight left. We got lucky. My parents’ flight was actually cancelled, so they’d been sent to the same desk (in a different terminal) that had taken care of us. While trying to get their mess sorted (the cancelled flight was Air France, while our missed flight was Alitalia), they picked up Jo, a Bulgarian college student in a similar situation. My parents were told to pick up their luggage before going to speak to the Air France desk about hotel and meals, and Jo likewise, so as we walked towards the baggage claim, Jo caught up and asked if she could come with us all.

The five of us headed to the baggage claim, where we were told our bags would come out eventually (and eventually was the only way to describe how they arrived). As we stood there, a man with a German-sounding accent walked up behind us and started shouting over our heads, “Where the bleep is my luggage? Get our luggage out there right now!” It sounded like the hatch on the plane was somehow stuck, and the patient man behind the counter told him the luggage would be out as soon as they could get it there. “I don’t have time to wait!” the angry man yelled, “You will deliver my luggage to my hotel.” The man in luggage services shook his head, “No, sir. You have to wait here.” This wasn’t acceptable (of course) to the angry man, “It is your duty to deliver my luggage.” (This made us want to laugh, if we hadn’t been a bit afraid of the angry man.) “No, sir. We only deliver luggage if it is lost.” Without missing a beat, the angry man replied, “Where is my luggage? I don’t see it, so it must be lost!” Fortunately, at this point, we were leaving the desk.

Mom, Dad, and Jo headed upstairs to try to get the hotel situation sorted while Allen and I stayed in the baggage claim to wait for the luggage. Our luggage came first, together, and then after a long wait, Dad’s luggage appeared. At this point, we were fearful that Mom’s luggage would have been lost again (since it was checked after our other luggage). But after another 20 or so minutes, it arrived. Since my parents and Jo hadn’t come back yet, we headed back upstairs, where I called to let the Marriott Champs-Elysees know about my parents delayed arrival while they finished hotel arrangements with Alitalia and Air France. (Ultimately, Air France made the argument that they’d cancelled the flight three hours in advance, so they had no responsibility. My parents pointed out that when we checked in, their flight was listed as suspended, rather than cancelled. However, Alitalia saved the day.) Then we all headed back downstairs for Jo to look for her luggage, which turned out to be temporarily lost, before heading to the hotel.

Everything about our stay in Milan was pleasant (aside from having to do it in the first place). A shuttle picked us up from the airport and arranged pickup for the next day. The staff at the Grand Hotel Milan Malpensa were very friendly. They asked Mom if Jo was her daughter when they arranged for rooms next to each other. Mom said, “She is for tonight. But that’s my real daughter.” (Meanwhile Allen and I had a room on the floor above – and we chuckled together about sharing a wall with my parents on our wedding night.) Poor Jo asked if she could join us for dinner, which of course she could, which we expected her to! So we all threw our bags in our rooms, which looked quite comfortable.

 

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was a simple but yummy prescribed menu. We made a lot of lame jokes about Allen’s birthday dinner. We had a breaded filet of fish (which Allen doesn’t normally like, but it wasn’t too fishy) and some tiny pasta with sparkling and still water, and when we had cleaned our plates, dessert was set in front of us. The dessert was very good – some kind of fluffy meringue cake (Mom said something about Baked Alaska, but I’m not actually familiar with that dessert). We’d hoped for coffee, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least we weren’t sleeping in the airport or paying for our own hotel rooms (thank you very much, Alitalia, and no thank you to lame United/Lufthansa).

When we returned to our room, I was very surprised to see this:

It gave me paranoid pause for about three seconds before I laughed and reached for the camera. Talk about personalized service. (I have to say, there was a slight twinge of satisfaction to see my name there and not Allen’s, as we have all manner of difficulty getting my name on things like utility bills or the car deed even when we try to put me as the primary contact because America still finds it simpler to list the male first. And Allen has never been asked to provide my social security number to gain access to an account, but all that’s a series of other stories.) So, there I am.

Unfortunately, our bus back to the airport left at 5:30 am. We were supposed to have a 4:30 am wake-up call, but the man at the desk was actually sleeping when Mom called him frantically at 4:45 am to find out what time it was. (After which, he called us immediately.) Still, we all managed to shower and pile onto the bus and board a plane to Paris. We said goodbye to Jo in the baggage services area, where they were promising to deliver her bags later that day. And we left the airport with nary an official looking at our passports. France, thank you for taking me back.

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2 Comments »

  1. Steven Gosap said,

    What a delightful read!

    This entry begs more entries on the laughter and tears of being a woman with two last names in America….

  2. […] if given the opportunity – and forewarned my parents. We were the first passengers to the desk (we’re pros at running through airports), and we handed over our boarding passes to the agent. She said we wouldn’t be able to make […]


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