(Although this has passed, I wrote this long-hand when it happened so here is the original transcript)
Today’s tale is not the lighthearted, “oh-you-silly-thing” sojourn which usually occupies this space. Today I experienced my worst flying experience ever. It wasn’t bad food or turbulence or even cancellation frustration, it was apathy. I arrived at the airport 3 hours ahead of my flight boarding time, spent the first 30 minutes finding the terminal from which my discount airline departed. I know now why my flight was to be so short. I had walked half the distance by the time I arrived at the check-in. My venture required a shuttle bus and a trip outside to get to the terminal! I finally entered tired but invigorated as I am heading to England to see two and possibly more of some of my favorite people in the world! The riots have subsided so my vacation was to be hopefully without incident. Now when I went to check-in at my knock-off airline, the misnomer Easyjet not lost on me, I was already filled with a sense of foreboding. I knew not why not one person warned me before I booked at the nightmare that awaited me, as they were all too willing once I’d paid the money to relay their horror stories. Well, no matter, forewarned is forearmed. I had paid the extra fee for my bag and the “nominal” convenience fee of 16 euro, approximately $22 US to use a credit card. I had carefully packed my computer bag in my carry-on as it is considered separate luggage. I was a bit concerned I was overweight-my bags-how rude! But no worries, only 2 kilos. I can manage to move 2 kilos. How much is a kilo, anyway?
“…and then you’ll need to pay an additional 12 euro for the extra 12 kilos-144 euro…”
Now wait, that makes no sense. He explains, “You can only carry on 20 kilos on this airline.”
Right, but I’m not carrying on, I’m checking. So apparently this airline has different rules from, well, everyone, and in order to rip off their customers, they have lowered the weight restriction for checked luggage, something had I known ahead of time, would have precluded my booking with this airline. My one hour fifteen minute flight is now bordering around the $500 mark. Right, no, I will not be doing that!
Ok, I need to cancel my flight and get my money back, so off to the office I go. I explain my predicament, at first angry and then I begin to break down as the full weight of the situation starts to sink in. I may be trapped. I don’t have this money. My option is to leave my luggage in the terminal. The pretty, inefficient woman behind the glass tells me there is nothing she can do, then sits down and begins counting the money drawer; no doubt overflowing now with the ill-gotten gain from other weary travelers. I stand there for about ten minutes waiting for her when I realize, she’s done. She has nothing more to say or do and she will not be coming back. Tears start to well in my eyes.
“Is there a manager I can speak with?”
Reluctantly she confirms there is and makes a quick call. Moments later, two other officials for the airline come over. I explain what’s happened, that I have only 50 euro total on me, meant to last the week and that I don’t know what to do. I am openly weeping now, partly to draw attention to myself to cause a scene but mostly because I am now genuinely frightened.
“Do you have a credit card?” they inquire.
No way, Jose. I pull out my 50 euro note, secreting my credit cards and 20 euro note away. They say I will have to pay something for my indiscretion and agree to all me to pay for 4 kilos-48 euro so that I will have 2 carry me through the week. D*mn, why didn’t I pull out the 20 euro note instead? I agree, reluctantly. But…they want me to get rid of some weight. We have all heard the stories of people weeping as they throw away their material goods at the airport but I always thought it an apocryphal tale. Today, I was that woman. Bags open, trying to shift things and throwing away my own things; nothing of great import, lotions, sunscreen, vitamins. But they were mine. I actually went back and dug my vitamins out of the trash. It is not that I needed those things. It is not that I even would have had trouble parting with them. I left many things behind on the ship, jokingly telling my fellow crew members to go “shopping”. It was that I felt violated. I had to throw away my things in front of an audience of gawking, apathetic spectators while openly weeping because by this point, it was not put on, I was legitimately bereft. It was just such a horrible feeling to be on the receiving end of other people’s unfeeling distain because I couldn’t afford to do otherwise, and because I couldn’t stand the thought of allowing myself to be so ripped off. But violated I was. I saved 100 euro but paid a heavy price. I know we cannot always afford to help everyone in need, but maybe we can take the time to acknowledge them.
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