“Sorry. The flight to Prague is closed. There is nothing we can do. Please walk to the other side of the terminal and speak with someone about rebooking a new ticket.”
As the Czech Airlines attendant plainly stared and unapologetically said these words to me and ten other people, I realized my trip to Belgrade was not going to be easy…
I had already struggled to make the flight from Newark to Brussels: Continental had been experiencing technical difficulties and personnel changes and what could have taken half an hour took two hours instead. I even had to chase down a supervisor at the other end of the airport in Newark just to beg her to allow me on the flight. Sprinting like a mad woman, I made it just in time to hear the flight’s last call for boarding.
Now, I was stuck in Brussels…
After two hours of roaming aimlessly through the airport, I finally found the tiny Continental ticket counter where I patiently waited my turn for another 2 ½ hours. Everyone else had found a flight that day to Prague. I was the only one whose final destination (Belgrade) posed a problem. Czech Air only scheduled one flight per day to Belgrade from Prague, and that flight was long gone. Because I had used frequent flier miles to purchase my flight, no other airline would take me.
My only option was to leave the next day…
This would have been great—if the flight the next day to Belgrade hadn’t also been canceled. All flights were full thereafter. What now? I was stuck. Continental Airlines in Houston Headquarters said there was nothing to be done. They would return my miles to me and send me back to New Jersey. What? This couldn’t be possible!
My only saving grace was Danijela, the Continental representative, who went above and beyond to try to help find me a way to Belgrade. Not only did she help me find a hotel, but also she showed me around Belgium and eased my anxiety by promising me she would find a way to Belgrade. Danijela followed through on her promise and persistently called everyone she knew.
After several hours, Aeroflot, the Russian Airlines, agreed to take me as their passenger. I was re-routed to Moscow and finally arrived to Belgrade Friday morning, 62 hours after my departure from Newark. Needless to say my bags also had a fun trip—they arrived two hours after I did on a flight from Milan.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this: First, always fly with caution when flying with frequent flier miles. Second, leave more than one hour layover when connecting international flights. Third, and most importantly, always pack a change of clothes and a toothbrush – because you never know when you’ll see yourself acting like Tom Hank’s in “The Terminal.”
Posted By Gail Morgado
Posted Jul 27th, 2007