Very nearly almost, now leaving South America

Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
1
47
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Trip End Feb 04, 2012


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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, September 11, 2011

My time in South America has come to an end and I'm all set to hit North America. I pre-arrange an early taxi to the airport making sure I give myself plenty of time for traffic jams and the usual delays. I am at the airport super early, having had a clear run in.  Check in, get my gate number, head through security.  Try to amuse myself at the airport with limited facilities and almost nothing open because it’s so early.  Find my gate, sit and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Its 30 mins after my plane was meant to leave, which I think is odd but just put it down to South America being South America.  I hope my plan will come soon other wise I’m going to miss my connection from Panama to LAX and from LAX I only have four hours until my connection to Vancouver.

The woman from the check in counter at the airline comes and finds me.  Asks to see my boarding pass and to go with her.  Odd, but OK.  It turns out after all my careful planning this morning to get here on time, what I don’t take into account for is for the airline totally tell me the wrong gate number…

I’m lead across the hall to gate 1 (I’ve been sitting at 1A) where I am informed that my flight left half an hour ago and I’ve missed it.  My brain freezes.  What?  I don’t understand, how can I have missed my flight?  I’ve been sitting at the gate since an hour before my flight.  Oh dear god I think, what the hell do I do now, I’m due in Vancouver at 9.30pm tonight.

This has never, ever happened to me, in six years of travelling.  I never go the wrong gate and I’ve never missed my flight before.  F*ck.  I’m starting to doubt myself.  Did I go to the wrong gate?  I remember checking the gate number on the screen again and I’d swear blind I was in the right place.  But obviously everyone else got on the flight.  I’m told to go with the check in woman and she 'will help me’ but I’ve no idea exactly what that means.  Help me find a teleportation unit?  Help me find a taxi back to the hostel?  Help me book a new set of flights at my expense???

Back track through security.  There is lots of discuss with the passport control, security etc, in Spanish, as to why I’m coming back thru security.  Back to the check in desk and waiting for what feels like forever as she taps away at the computer, all the time looking very concerned.  There is no way I’m going to be able to get to Vancouver tonight I’m informed.  It is impossible.  She looks again, but to no avail.  I’m flying with one airline to LAX and another from LAX to Vancouver.  Off to their second ticketing desk.  Another wait while the person is on the phone, then helps the person already waiting.

An hour and a half after my original flight departed I am standing with two new boarding passes for my first two flights and a confirmation of all three new flights in my hand.  I have no idea how or why but the airline has completely re-routed all three of my flights, including the one with the different airline.  The only catch is that they can’t get me to Vancouver today.  I’m on a mid day flight to Panama and a 7pm flight to LAX which’ll get me in around midnight.  To late for the last flight to Vancouver so I’m the first flight at 7am the following day.  I’m going to have to spend the night at LAX.  Fabulous.  On the other hand despite the fact I’ve missed my first flight, I’ve had all my flights re-arranged without having to spend a penny.   

Through security again.  I don’t have my original boarding pass with me, but when I go through the terminal again I am positive I was at the gate I was told to go to on my boarding pass.  I suspect perhaps the reason they took care of me is because they know they told me the wrong gate.  I’m not sure where I stand with perhaps I should have checked the gate on the boards (which I thought I did) but at least they re-arranged my flights.

Panama airport is fine.  They use USD and the airport is full of American chain stores.  There is one small souvenir/handicrafts store with souvenirs form Panama.  Apart from that you could be in any western airport in any city in the world.  LAX is worse however.  Off the plan and thru immigration.  The guy at immigration is trying to insist my picture is wrong because ‘the freckle on my chin is on the wrong side’.  I have no idea what he’s talking about.  I’ve never had this problem before.  After several mins he asked to see another form of photo ID.  Luckily I have my Australian driver’s licence with me and I’m let through. 

LAX is about the worst airport I’ve been through.  The pre-check in area at the terminal I’m leaving from is literally just that.  There are a bunch of check in desks, a bathroom a first aid room and that’s it.  There are no shops, no where to get water or food and no comfy seats.  I’m used to airports that try to get as much money as they can from you before you get on your flight with shops both before after and practically during check in but not here.

I find a bench near my check in counter, pay for some internet access and try to get a few hours sleep. 
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