LAX = bored

Trip Start Jan 09, 2004
1
5
39
Trip End Jul 14, 2004


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Flag of United States  ,
Friday, January 9, 2004

I would really love a shower right now. This has been the longest flight of my life, and I still have three hours to go. If you include stopovers, I'm travelling for 28 hours straight. Yet I left at 8am this morning and will arrive at 8pm tonight! 14 hours I really could have done without. 10 of my 14 bonus hours were wasted in airports. Although in reality, apart from this last two hours in LA, the rest of the time was filled in queues. The same queues for the same things, sometimes even in the same airports. This greatly displeases me.

I arrived at Melbourne airport at 9:55am; thinking I would have three hours to wander around, maybe catch up with friends. It took me two and a half hours to get through to the boarding lounge. I rocked up at the United Airlines check in desk, which had a huge line already, well over 2 hours before departure time. On finally arriving at the front of the queue I was informed I might have to bring my flight to Paris forward, otherwise I wouldn't get through immigration in the US. What? Despite only stopping over in LA for a couple of hours I had to go through immigration, and to get through immigration you either have to have a visa or a visa waiver. To get a visa waiver you have to have a flight out of the US within three months booked - and Canada doesn't count. This is ridiculous, given I'm moving to Canada for six months, and not even leaving the airport in Los Angeles! The check-in lady agreed that it was stupid, and suggested I just fill in a waiver form and hope for the best in LA. Very reassuring. So that's what I did.

Then it was declared necessary that all my baggage be inspected. They didn't inspect everyone's bags, which made it all the more offensive. I've heard rumours that amongst other things, having a past visa for the Czech Republic makes you a target of this suspicious treatment. Perhaps Osama Bin Laden passed through Prague recently. So then I had to queue in another line with other potential terrorists, still lugging along my six months of baggage. The people in front of me where a wholesome-looking Aussie family - mum, dad, two kids. I wonder what they did wrong.

I took off the locks on my bag and the girl rummaged through my possessions, making a good mess of my careful packing (well, making it worse). She managed to break the zip on my favourite toiletries bag in the process (see photo), which really pissed me off. I swore if anything leaked out I'd sue United Airlines. If I were American I'd sue anyway, but obviously I'm not.

From Melbourne to Sydney we established that my vegetarian meal order had not gone through. The flight attendant told me to tell someone when I got off in Sydney (this was the first I knew of getting off in Sydney - it wasn't even on my itinerary). So on disembarking in Sydney I headed with a bunch of other disgruntled passengers to our next boarding gate to talk to someone. We had a whole three-hour stopover, so the gate was still servicing another flight, and the frustrated security guard, trying to manage the current flight's passengers as well as an influx of SYD-LAX one, told us all to go and hassle the United Airlines help desk, which was outside the red carpet lounge. So I headed down there to complain. "Bella", the lady at the desk, was actually really nice, saying there was nothing that could be done about it now, but I was welcome to go into the VIP lounge to fill up before the flight. So I did, and had a few free drinks too of course.

I was pretty stoked to get an emergency seat on my SYD-LAX stint, given there was going to be sleeping involved. Emergency isle seating has plenty of legroom, on the condition you're willing and able to help in an emergency. They tend to give these seats to overweight middle-aged men, for all the use they are, but if I ask specifically then it's usually fine.

The one on my right was an amiable duel citizen psychology professor, with whom I chatted throughout the flight. He confessed he had recently had a throat operation (so much for willing and able) and had been told not to eat acidic foods. Hence the airline has assigned him a vegetarian meal, which he wasn't enthused about. So we swapped! Through a few strokes up luck I managed to enjoy the VIP lounge in Sydney and then get my vegetarian meals on flight after all! Perhaps there is a God, and he's vegetarian too.

I could rant about the ridiculously inefficient security measures at Sydney and LA airports but I'm starting to get dizzy from tiredness, and as I said initially it was just more of the same. I don't know why I got a 'United checked' sticker on my bags in Melbourne if they were going to do it again anyway. But it's over! I'm through my last check-in before Calgary, and now I'm going to go find some toilets so I can wash my face.
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