Thursday, April 18, 2024

To Milan and back


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After attending the Federation of International Volleyball Congress in Sardinia, Milan, I eagerly looked forward to the trip back to Rome and Gatwick where I had hoped to get some rest to at least reduce the effect of the five-hour difference between London and Barbados on my body before heading home.

While checking in for the flight from Milan, I told the passenger agent that I wanted to collect my bag in Rome since I was concerned that some of my Caribbean colleagues had problems with their luggage on coming to the congress. She responded that she was tagging my bag on to Gatwick as I would not have time to collect my bag in Rome.

Little did I know that I would not have time to connect with my flight.

The Alitalia flight left half an hour late and when I reached Rome I was glancing nervously at my watch since I realised that I had less than 15 minutes to deplane to get to the British Airways gate to take my next flight.

When I entered the arrival hall I felt somewhat relieved when I was greeted by a young man who snatched a nearby cart and started to catapult me through the airport while averting numerous accidents as he continued a conversation on his cellphone.

Five minutes later he interrupted his conversation to stop and point to a line of over 150 people to tell me that I had to go through passport control and that he would meet me at the other end.

I secreted my passport and incurred many deadly stares but no protests as I exploited the Ebola hysteria and my African heritage by strolling to the top of the line.  Unfortunately, after getting my passport stamped and meeting the guy, he told me that my flight had left.

I was then taken to the Alitalia desk. When it was recognised that I was taking a BA flight I was glibly told that I would have to go and deal with BA officials.

I then went upstairs to the BA desk to be told that following that last flight all of the BA officials had gone home and that the desk would reopen the next day.  With no clothes other than what I was wearing I sought some accommodations for the night which turned out to be at the nearby Hilton costing me 200 euros plus another 22 for one night of Internet.

I called my travel agent back in Barbados who advised me against taking a flight on another airline to get to Gatwick as she indicated that since I had missed the first leg, BA would cancel my ticket and that I would then have to buy a new ticket to leave Gatwick.

I received similar information the next morning when I returned to the BA desk and I was told that there were no seats to get to Gatwick thus I would have to take a flight to Heathrow and drive to Gatwick.

Of course, I needed to purchase a new one-way ticket at the little sum of 1 800 euros. After my credit card could not accommodate the total, I asked the lady if I could convert my US dollars to euros and pay for the ticket to be then told that under Italian law she could not accept more than 800 euros in cash from me.

With a five-hour difference and the window closing on the few seats left, I waited until Barbados woke up and mercifully I was able to get my travel agent to buy the ticket for me at the princely sum of BDS$4 572.80.

I reached a chilly Heathrow around nine in the night, where I paid £25 to take a coach to Gatwick, a trip lasting over 45 minutes on a poorly lit highway. With my ears and hands freezing I ran into the nearest hotel and paid £91 for the night where I hardly slept a wink since I could ill afford to miss the flight the next morning.

Irony of ironies, the flight from Gatwick left over an hour late the next morning because the second pilot was stranded while trying to get to the airport. I would not see my bag and my clothes until five days later.


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