Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Curse of the Free Upgrade

I finally arrived in Ghana at about 2 am this morning, 3 days after I was originally scheduled to arrive. I was supposed to leave on Tuesday, but with the heightened security measures, the weather in England, and some confusion about the departure time, I missed the flight and was put on standby for the next day.

The next day's flight was delayed, but when we eventually left and I was surprised to discover that I my seat was in first class. I should have known something was up: on the way to Boston from Heathrow I had a free upgrade it to "World Traveler Elite", where I got to sit for an extra 4 hours waiting for de-icing. This time the upgrade was to true, seats-lie-flat-champagne-served-from-a-glass-bottle-dinner-options-include-pan-seared-mahi-mahi first class. Very comfy... only this time, we never even made it to our destination.

We were diverted to Glasgow in Scotland, a charming city with an overnight low of -21.5 Celsius, just short of the overnight low in Antarctica of -22 Celsius. Dressed for the tropics, I didn't do much exploring... We spent the night at a Ramada Inn and tried to leave for Heathrow again on Friday morning. I was supposed to be in Ghana on Wednesday, so by now I was understandably cold and tired, and didn't think that I should decline the empty "World Traveler Elite" seat I was offered. Mistake! We were delayed waiting for de-icing again, and by the time I arrived in London and collected my bags, I only had 20 minutes before the flight to Accra was scheduled to leave.

I talked to 3 different agents before I finally found someone willing to print me a boarding pass with so little time. (The others tried to convince me that another night in a frigid hotel would fun, or that Abidjan is close enough to Accra). This agent gave me a 2% chance of making the flight, and I had to beg her to please, please just let me try to make it before she finally printed a boarding pass.

Boarding pass in hand, I was off, elbowing my way through the frequent flier express line security line (I thought I might have to pause to make fisticuffs with an 80 year old who elbowed back), throwing coats, belts and shoes at the X-ray machine, then sprinting through Heathrow terminal 5 with pants drooping and all 3 bags flailing (no time to check luggage, just carried it all right through).

I slid to a stop (no time to put shoes back on) in front of the board to check the gate and..... my flight was delayed. The delay ended up being about 5 hours. (I had a sweet exit row-like seat with no seat in front of it, which explains the delay). If I hadn't begged the women to let me on the flight I never would have known about the delay and would right now be sitting... who knows where, still trying to get back to Ghana.

I don't know how I managed to get so many good seats, but next time I will stick to coach and an on-time arrival. And after seeing this photo, I don't blame the airline company for anything (except perhaps making me miss the flight on Tuesday, but it never arrived at Heathrow, either).

No comments:

Post a Comment