Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Worst Airline Ever Has Merged

Today someone sent me this. It's from another blog, but it's a good read. It coincides with my experience of Italian air travel.

If you read my previous story about the nightmares of travel, you will remember that I called "Air One" the airline I'd never fly on again.

Well, never is not as long as it used to be. I think I also commented on the lack of choices when traveling outside the USA. In Italy, Air One and Alitalia are about the only choices for air travel. It also came to my attention that Air One and Alitalia are in the process of merging. Apparently, they both suck equally well and are hoping to combine forces in order to create a giant vacuum capable of traveling through time.

We were to leave on Saturday via Lamezia Terme. Our flight was to depart at 6 PM and arrive in Rome at 7 PM. Our flight from Rome was to depart at 9 PM and arrive in London at 11 PM.

Lamezia to Rome was on Air One (better known as the airline I wish I didn't have to fly on). The flight to Rome was 2 hours delayed. When we arrived in Rome they were already calling our names on the airport intercom telling us to report to gate C21. We were doing the thrilling run through the airport when we hit a line leading to Passport Control and had to stop.

Italians don't know how to stand in line. I don't know why. It must be a mafia thing. It's more of a shoving match to see who's body odor can win out. On a side note, when we were leaving Lamezia, there were two attendants handing out boarding passes. One of the attendants was helping with a line of people flying on Berlin Air to Stuttgart (Germany). The other attendant was handing out boarding passports for the flight to Rome (Italy -- the line I was in). The Rome line was chaotic. We were all wrestling and bustling and yelling and generally waving our arms in the air trying to out sweat the guy next to us. The Stuttgart line was in a nice little column. They were quiet and they were orderly and their line went by very efficiently. It was like night and day.

So, you can imagine the huge quagmire of bustling people leading up to passport control in the Rome terminal. It's completely disheartening. But, as they say, when in Rome. It still took us 10+ minutes to get through the line and by the time we were on the other side they had quit calling our names.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:15 PM and we made it to the gate at 9:16 PM. The lady at the counter said, "That flight it already gone" and continued typing. She told us to go downstairs and talk to an Alitalia customer service representative (which should probably listed as an oxymoron).

We went downstairs and there was no one there. We knocked on a few doors. No one came. Finally we found a janitor. He pointed us back through passport control. He indicated that there was another Alitalia support desk just on the other side. I'm not sure if all Italians lie or just the airport employees. I'd like to think it's an Italian airport thing.

We went back through passport control. The line (or lack thereof) was shorter, but was moving much slower. There was an insanely drunk guy in front of me. At one point he started wobbling wildly and I had to back up out of the way. I decided I'd break protocol in the wild Italian mob mentality and let this guy have room to weave. I saw some police to my right watching him and I was waiting for them to take him away, but they never did.

He finally made it to the front of the line (after dropping his Bourbon laced Pepsi on the floor in front of me). The passport agent motioned him forward and he got up to the agent and couldn't find his passport. He looked through his pockets. He put his bags down and knelt down to start going through those. He fell over to the right once. I didn't know if he was going to get back up, but he did. The police finally came and got him and took him away. I don't know where they took him. It was entertaining enough to take my mind off the Alitalia fiasco.

We made it to the next service desk. They told us we had to go to Terminal A (were were in C), and behind some bookstore (which I don't remember the name of at the moment) there is an EAS office. I can't remember what EAS stands for. It was something like European Avaiation Service or Evasive Answers and Swindling.

To reach the EAS office, you have to go down this little hall that says, "Authorized Personnel Only". Those are my favorite kinds of halls. The EAS office is filled with good looking Italian stewardesses in short skirts designed to distract you from your goal. They are very efficient.

Finally a fast talking guy comes in and says, "ah, we can rebook you tomorrow from Rome to Washington and then to Dallas. We'll get you a hotel for tonight."

"Is there a chance we can get our luggage?" I asked.

"No," he says, as the stewardess in the shortest skirt smiles at me, "the bags have been held in storage and we'll put them on the flight to Washington tomorrow. Meet me back up here at 8:15 AM and I'll get your tickets."

Then one of the pretty stewardesses says, "You need to go back downstairs to Lost & Found to pick up your hotel information. We do the flights up here, but the hotel reservations are handled downstairs." She called another skirt over to help us find our way.

Downstairs to lost and found meant going back through security. I hate going through airport security. But she was pretty so I followed the skirt back to airport security. To her benefit, it seems that she argued with the security guy to just let us through, but he wasn't having any of it. Of course, it was all in Italian and I was distracted so I can't be sure.

The hotel was nice. So, it's really not all bad. We were going to have to stay at a hotel in London anyway. This hotel stay was on Alitalia and it was a nice hotel so I wasn't complaining (too much).

Next day, we go back to EAS at 8:15. There are more skirts. Bending over books to check schedules in their high heels. It was all very distracting. I was intent upon trying to get a business class upgrade from Rome to Washington. I forgot all about it.

Finally, the fast talking guy comes back in. "Here's your tickets and your bags are taken care of."

"Thanks!" I smiled as I cast one last look back at the latest skirt to walk in and check her schedule.

We had to take a bus from Terminal A to Terminal 5 (the International Terminal). The woman at the United ticket counter had no idea where our bags were, but at least she gave us boarding passes. Until I read Mr. Totten's story, I had no idea how lucky we were.

I finally made it home (5 hours later than I was supposed to). My luggage arrived today (2 days late, but at least it arrived).

My wife picked me up wearing a short skirt and heels. I love my wife :).