I recently flew back to Manchester, UK from Nice, France on Air France and KLM and had a few scary and/or bizarre things occurring to me. I have been flying since 1983 and have seen my fair share of crazy/funny things at both airports and on airplanes, but this was a first…
I started out peacefully waving my parents goodbye and lounging for lunch in the Lounge at Nice International Airport (NCE), waiting on my flight to begin boarding. It started out simple enough: got in the wrong boarding lane – as someone in front of me didn’t have the right ticket – (that’s okay), flight was a bit bumpy and food was decent (I can deal), and got to Amsterdam International Airport (AMS) a little late (still have time to next flight).
Then I had to find my way to KLM’s Lost & Found in AMS, as I had previously left my iPod with security at a previous connection journey and needed to recollect it. I had 1.5 hours before boarding/extra security. Asked around and finally found someone to direct me where I needed to go. Unfortunately, that was out at Arrivals and had to re-enter Customs again. Easy enough. So, I thought. I waited 40 minutes at Lost & Found for my iPod, but it came with £5 so I thought my luck was still with me. AMS has very trustworthy and efficient staff. They had it for 3 months and it was still there. I’ve lost electronic gadgets in airplanes, security, and airports before and never once got them back.
I reached customs, for entry into the airport, and managed to hustle my way to the end of one of the lines. I sure did choose the wrong line again. The customs agent stared at my passport, moving in all around in different directions, looking at it very closely, and flipping through each and every page twice. What in the world was this guy doing? He also during this search asked me several times where I was going, to which I replied ‘Manchester’ every time. I even showed him my boarding card to prove it at one point. (It also says I live there right on the passport itself.) He then switches to Dutch and shows my passport to the agent next to him. The other agent shrugged and went on with his work. I am still standing there confused as hell at this point, but know I can’t ask a thing. I felt like a child. My agent proceeds to call an officer to his booth and shows him my passport, pointing at parts of it and telling him something I do not understand.
The officer proceeds to call me over and brings me into a room, pointing me over to a chair against a wall. At this point I could not keep quiet any longer. I had a flight to catch and had a half hour left to catch my next flight (AMS is also not a small airport). I asked the officer what was the problem and he said: ‘This may be a fake (lifting up my passport). We need to check it out. It may be a while, please sit and relax. I will be back soon.’ At this point, I have seen enough movies and heard enough tales from my fellow travelers that I immediately told him before he left: ‘I have other documentation, if that would be of any help in proving that is a real and valid passport?’ He took every single one I had on me very willingly and said that they may help.
20 minutes later, the officer comes back and states that without this extra identification, I would have possibly been there until the next day (also due to flight schedules), as they take fake passports very seriously. Reminder: Always take extra identification while traveling now. Traveling’s not what it used to be. While he was escorting me out into the airport, I asked him why they thought my passport was a fake, as I have only had it for a year and a half and use it a lot. His reply was the fact that the corners where the pages meet are worn and the strings are starting to come loose around the hard cover. I looked at him with bewilderment. I really did not know what to say. I told him that he should see the condition of my last passport! He did not find my joke funny and lightly nudged me forward. I got it.
I walk out and then start speed walking to the nearest gate screen. I finally found the one that I needed and realised I had to clear across almost the whole airport to get to my gate. I had barely 10-15 minutes left. I can make it, if I go fast!
I sped clear across the airport with my two heavy hand bags weighing me down on each shoulder. Thankfully, that day I was wearing flats! When I got to the gate, I was sweating and feeling very hot, but I thought: I made it. They were completing security/boarding, so I knew I had time. Thought: Okay that wasn’t too bad.
Passed security with ease. I went to the desk to board and the picture they took while checking my passport didn’t match one from some other airport security picture I must have taken (you lose count sometimes in E.U. airports, depending where you’re going). I didn’t know what to say or do and looked at the flight agent leading him to say something constructive, as he seemed as confused as I did. Then, he saw my glasses and told me to try with them on. It worked! Huzzah! I just wanted to be on that plane, so I scurried down the stairs to the runway and plopped down on my seat. Thank God. And we were on time.
We began heading out on to the tarmac, with the usual security routine being conducted in front of you. And the plane stops. Not where I would normally see. Then the co-pilot comes on the speaker: ‘I am truly sorry, but we have a unique situation. I was adjusting my seat while heading out on to the tarmac and I seem to have broken it. We cannot fly the plane with a broken pilot’s seat, so we will now move the plane and maintenance is already heading out to meet us to try to fix my chair. It may take up to an hour. (everyone groans, except me) We will keep you further posted.’
Honestly, I didn’t care if I had to wait an hour on that plane to wait, as long as I didn’t have to go back into AMS. I still had hope this plane would take off and I would be home, in my bed soon.
The plane was packed like a sardine can, but I sat near a hilarious gentleman that continued to make my flight and the time pass by even quicker. We had a chat during the delay and I explained how this could all be worse, from previous tarmac delays I had experienced in the past. At one point he told me I am a very hopeful person. I appreciated that. You do have to stay positive, especially during travel, or you will just get upset and/or frustrated – and more things are likely to go wrong. Trust me. It could always be worse.
We got to the maintenance area and got someone in the cockpit within 10 minutes, not bad. Being in the aisle, I watched what was going on. Another 20 minutes later, the co-pilot comes back on the speaker, this time standing at the front of the aisle. Poor guy. He began telling us that he has never seen this happen before (I’m thinking the same, while laughing) and that maintenance could not fix the chair. He felt embarrassed and it showed. I felt bad for the guy. It happens, but it is pretty funny. ‘However, maintenance is going to replace the entire chair instead.’ I died. Nice. Even better! Let’s get this man a new chair!
I am such a child for these things, but I did enjoy watching the maintenance man as he ripped out that huge reclining chair from the cockpit and when he put in a new one. Never knew if I’d ever see this again.
But, guess what? We left only a hour behind! GO Team KLM!
And to you, readers: Safe travels, keep your hopes high when things don’t go right, and always keep smiling!