First some background: I came to Monterrey, Mexico in March of this year and had a horrible airport experience. Because of bad weather out of Tijuana our airplane was delayed. Since I had to make a connection with another plane in Guadalajara, that flight was missed as well. So after about five hours of waiting for the weather to clear in Tijuana we finally get on a plane at about 6am in the morning. The problem is that since I missed my Guadalajara flight they had to fly me to Mexico city instead, or else wait some 14 hours for a flight out of Tijuana. After we arrived in Mexico city, my roommate and I, we had to wait another four hours to fly to Guadalajara – my original destination point twelve hours later. After finally arriving in Guadalajara, and an hour or so wait, it was another hour of flying to finally get to Monterrey, all and all, about a 15 hour difference from my planned arrival time.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, after receiving our luggage we discovered that my roommates luggage had ripped and the return airline tickets had fallen out. Since we were returning on a different airline, Aero California instead of Aviasca, we needed those airline tickets or we wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Yes, that is right, even if you have proof of purchase, are on their computer, and they have you on record, without your physical airline boarding tickets you cannot get on an Aero California plane. After a couple of hours of calling various airports and with the help of a very helpful Aviasca employee named Adolfo, we were not able to find the tickets. So we had no choice but to repurchase our return tickets, and Aviasca, after the 15 hour delay and losing our tickets, said nothing but `disculpa`, no discount, no refund, not even some damn free cocktails on our next flight, nada.
Fast forward to this Saturday and I arrived at the same Tijuana airport at about 12:50pm, expecting to board my plane at 2:50pm. However, about thirty minutes into the line I realized there were going to be problems again. A lady carrying a baby in line in front of me starts crying, demanding that she be let on the plane. I thought she was late, but after talking to the group in front of me in line, I realized the problem: Aviasca airline (yes, the same airline I had problems with in March, I know, I know) had oversold the seats on the plane. Apparently, this is a policy of theirs to sell more tickets than there are seats in the hope that some passengers will miss their flight and they will come away a winner. All fine, but what happens when nobody misses their flight? Well, that is what we were all finding out. Even though we had arrived at the airport two, some even three hours before our flight, there were about eight of us who were notified of not having enough seats on the plane. The airlines rebuttal when confronted with this injustice was, every other airline does the same thing. Sure enough, they were right. If you walked down the aisle of airline lines, you would see occasional outbursts of one or two passengers not taking the news well. One older lady was so disturbed and created such a scene that the police had to come and escort her out.
After an hour or so of going back and forth Aviasca airlines informed us of what they were to do. Three people in front of me had Cancun as their final destination; they were put on a different plane going about an hour outside of Cancun, and then would be put on a bus that takes them into the city. The three people behind me had as their final destination Oaxaca, and I was the only one with the final destination of Monterrey. What time would our next flight leave? Mine would leave at 1:30am, theirs at 12:45am! Yes, that is right, almost a full 12 hours later! The good news is that instead of going to Mexico City then Monterrey, this time they flew me into Guadalajara, about an hour’s flight away from Monterrey.
During the wait, the four of us passed our time talking about family, Mexico politics, US politics, football, the San Diego Chargers, airport marketing strategies, along with an in depth view of day to day airport life. I also met a security guard who spoke perfect English, and who had a story of his own. Apparently he is from the United States, grew up in Chula Vista, but after an encounter with the law, was sent back to Mexico while his paper work is reprocessed. He told me how he only needs $2,500 in lawyer fees to finish his paper work and go back. He has been in Tijuana for almost a year now and had this security job for 3 months of that year. He said he gets paid $130/week, and how difficult it is to save up $2,500 with such little pay. He also mentioned how if he is caught back in the United States without the proper paper work, in violation of his deportation, that he would go to prison for 10 years and lose all hope of ever returning back to the United States legally. We talked about his family, his life experiences, and his regrets. He also mentioned that he had a daughter back in the States and a very helpful and understanding new girlfriend in Tijuana. He is on the path of completing his $2,500 needed to return, and if allowed back in the United States will come with a very different mindset, one that appreciates more the opportunities the United States gives one (a feeling I have heard more than once from my own family).
Throughout this time I also witnessed another older lady who had arrived at the line expecting to get on the same airline only to be told that she would have to wait and, more importantly, that she had purchased the wrong ticket. She wanted a ticket from Tijuana to Mexico City, but the Aviasca sales person sold her an airline from Mexico City to Tijuana, the opposite of what she wanted. But since Aviasca doesn’t give refunds, she was told that she had to repurchase another airline ticket, not a small thing for families making Mexico wages. This caused her to burst into tears, as it was clear to everybody there that she could not afford another airline ticket and that it was more the fault of Aviasca than hers. The airline would not budge though, and while she stood there crying, all they would say was ‘disculpa’, ‘no podemos aser nada’. The lady left, in tears, hands down, and feeling like this was going to be a bad Christmas.
After 12 hours at the airport, my flight to Guadalajara finally shows up. After checking in my main luggage at the Aviasca ticket counter, I kept with me a carry on case that held the video camera a friend had let me borrow. But upon entering the plane, I was informed that I would have to check in that luggage, as the airline was too full and couldn’t allow any carry on items. I was reluctant, but after being reassured by the airline attendant that I would get my carry on back safely, I conceded. About three hours later I arrive in Guadalajara only to wait two hours to board another plane on its way to Monterrey. An hour on that plane and I finally make it to my destination. Taking into account the time difference, I was on a plane or inside an airport for almost a full 24 hour period, all for a plane ride that shouldn’t have lasted more than six hours.
As bad as that was, I still felt a sigh of relief at the thought that it was all over – only it wasn’t. I arrive at the baggage claim only to find out that my carry on luggage was nowhere to be found. I found my main luggage, but the carry on item with my friend’s video camera, with my shavers, books, gifts, and everything else, was missing. I waited until the last luggage was gone and went to Aviasca lost luggage to complain. Luckily for me my friend from back in March, Adolfo, was there to assist me. After looking at me in the eyes, he recognized me right away (we spent a long time looking for the tickets and buying new tickets back in March), and I explained to him my problem with Aviasca this time. After phone numbers were exchanged, I went to my grandmas house empty handed. Hours went by, I called him, he called me, and still no luggage to be found. At this point, nearly six hours after I arrived, I decided to call my friend and inform him that his video camera was lost. Since I was still determined to video tape my grandmother, I offered him the option of picking out a new and better video camera from the Wal-Mart website and I would go to the nearest Wal-Mart on Tuesday and buy that video camera, video tape my grandma, and give him that video camera in replacement of his others – he agreed, and we left it at that.
As all hope was finally leaving, at about 7pm that night, I get a call from Adolfo that my carry on luggage has been found. I jump on a taxi, shoot back to the airport and confirm that indeed it was my luggage, and after a handshake and a `thank you` to Adolfo, I was back on a taxi back to my grandmas place, feeling overjoyed that my luggage had finally been found. A happy ending to a long and exhausting day.
I leave you now, a couple hours before my trip to Guadalajara is going to start, with a picture of my three friends from Oaxaca.
Happy New Year everyone!