Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Funsize Goes Intercontinental

LC and I recently spent a week in the US attending a family wedding. Naturally, Funsize came with us. (Long-time readers may choose to point out my hypocrisy at this point. Guilty as charged.)

We had a total of six flights, three each for the outbound and return journeys. Fortunately, FS came through all of these with a minimum of fuss. Indeed, she travelled rather better than many of the adults in our party - she slept through most of the journeys, and when she was awake she was mostly happy throughout. Certainly, there were no screaming fits on the plane, though there was one wobble when we were waiting in Charlotte on the way out.

That said, our journey was not entirely stress-free.

We had booked our tickets about six months ago, prior to FS arriving on the scene (but after we knew she was coming). At that time, the airlines had said they couldn't book her in without a name, but that we should get in touch after she arrived to update the records, which we duly did. We then paid for an infant ticket, which included a full luggage allowance - one checked bag, one piece of hand luggage, and the ability to check a stroller at the gate for each flight. This may become important later...

So, we arrived at Edinburgh airport at a ridiculously early time in the morning, having not been able to check in online because we were travelling with a small child. We waited in a painfully slow queue before finally getting some of our boarding cards - some others we would need to get printed in Heathrow because of... reasons. Oh well, at least we got our bags checked...

Security in Edinburgh was fine, although my bag was pulled for a double-check due to the bagpipes raising some eyebrows. That's an occupational hazard when taking pipes abroad, and something I had expected. It was easily resolved.

We got to Heathrow, and made for our transfer to Terminal 3 for the next flight. And here we ran into our next difficulty, because only half of our party had the required boarding cards - the rest we'd been told we needed to get printed. Eventually, after a fun venture into "computer says no", we managed to transfer from one Terminal to another. (Annoyingly, all this took place outside the secure areas.) Anyway, we got to Terminal 3 and went to security, and got to enjoy the next bureaucratic failure.

We went to the ticket desk and explained that only half of our party had been issued with the boarding cards for the next step in our journey, so could they print out the remainder please? This, naturally, was met with incredulity - how was it even possible that some of the cards hadn't been printed? And wasn't it utterly amazing that a small child would be travelling with her mother? Apparently, such a thing could scarcely be imagined.

Well... eventually, after having been shuttled from the person at the desk to her supervisor (who, as far as I could tell, was actually the same person standing at a different desk), we were given a boarding card for FS for the flight to Charlotte. Those of the rest of our party who didn't have them received two boarding cards, one each for the next two flights. (Apparently, FS didn't need one for the final flight as she wasn't using a seat. Bet you can't guess where that's going, can you?)

Meanwhile, another member of our party was randomly selected for enhanced screening, which meant there was a need to unpack his hand luggage for checking. But that's fine, I guess. And so Flight Two was done.

We had a few hours to kill in Charlotte, which was fine. I may mention more about that in a later post. At length, though, we were getting closer to our final flight. At this point, LC said I should go and check at the gate that FS really didn't need a Boarding Card.

So, I asked, and sure enough that was the case - LC's own Boarding Card should indicate that she was travelling with an infant...

Which it didn't. Yes, there was another cock-up in the system, such that FS actually didn't appear on the booking at all - she wasn't associated with LC's ticket (as at Heathrow), she wasn't associated with the lead passenger's ticket (as at Edinburgh). "Computer says no", again.

Well, we got that sorted out - they basically re-issued LC's boarding card to note that there was an infant with her, and that was the job done. Phew!

(I'll also note that at Charlotte I was told that I had to check in my bagpipe case. This was intensely annoying, given that the case was specifically designed to be the right size for hand luggage, and given that they don't do well with the change in pressure that being checked in implies. So I had to take them out of the nice, sturdy case and instead carry them in a fairly flimsy backpack that I then had to carry carefully for the last flight. I wasn't best pleased by that, especially after everything else.)

Anyway, that was the journey out. It was okay, I guess.

For the journey back, we of course knew that we'd face all the same problems...

At the first airport, we went to check in only to find that FS, once again, seemed to be missing from the booking. Only this time it wasn't just as simple as adding her to LC's boarding card - she had a full set of luggage with her, and with no clear record of a ticket we would need to pay to check in that additional case - an extra $80 charge (that we'd already paid for, of course). So there then began our next journey through "computer says no"... only to finally discover that FS did indeed have a ticket. It wasn't (as you would expect) associated with LC's ticket, nor was it associated with the lead passenger's. Instead, she had her own, entirely separate record in the system. Apparently, she's very independent-minded.

There then followed an inquest - did this record entitle her to a checked bag, or should we be paying $80 for that privilege? This time, the computer said yes, but of course you can never trust computers...

Anyway, that was that, and then we were off to security. Again, my bag got stopped, but was checked and found to be bagpipes, and we were able to proceed. And so we got to Philadelphia. So far, so good.

And, miraculously, the only issue in Philadelphia was that our tickets had us scattered about the plane, so we had to arrange a switch - LC and I ended up sitting together, with everyone else scattered.

In Heathrow, we found ourselves waiting about an age for the stroller to re-appear, only to discover that it had been delivered slightly closer to the plane than where we were waiting. Oh well.

We then found ourselves with a dilemma - do we go right to "Transfers" or straight on to "Baggage Reclaim", given that half of our party had already gone ahead, and given also that at our first airport we'd been told both that our bags were checked to our final destination and that we'd have to pick them up in Heathrow. Because of course we had.

Anyway, we went to Baggage Reclaim, and sure enough that was the wrong choice - we'd get our bags back in Edinburgh. Still, that was fine, we just needed to use the shuttle to Terminal 5 rather than walking. But given that the other route apparently had much longer queues, we probably got the better end of the deal there.

In Terminal 5 we then needed to get boarding cards for about half of our party printed. Once again, FS was recorded somewhere different - this time she was associated with the lead passenger, rather than with LC. Sigh. Anyway, we got the cards, and off we went to security.

On presenting my Boarding Card, the assistant took one look at it and declared that it wasn't the right thing. Which left me at a bit of a loss - that was the card I was given back at our first airport, it had the words "Boarding Card" printed on it, so, um... Fortunately, she was persuaded to at least try it in the scanner, and the computer said Yes! Amazingly, the Boarding Card I had been given, with the words "Boarding Card" printed on it, was indeed a Boarding Card.

I was truly stunned.

After all that, and having been awake for 24 hours, we finally got the final plane, got back to Edinburgh, and everything was fine.

Ha ha. No.

On the night before we travelled, there had been a crash between a bus and a tram at Edinburgh, and when we arrived back they were busy clearing the vehicles away. This meant massive delays in the traffic in and around the airport - it took us 90 minutes to get from our space to the car park exit, and that was a relatively short delay. There was then another 40 minutes or so, and we were finally home.


(In case you're wondering - I will post about the rest of the trip at some later point. But the journey was enough of an ordeal that I thought I'd best post about it separately. In case it wasn't clear: I really wasn't impressed.)

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