January 16, 2009

Tatiana's Troubled Return to the Americas
Bursa, Turkey

I just got off a lengthy Skype call with Tatiana—her egress back to the States with Aidric was certainly a troubled one.

Apparently the morning of the 14th was a particularly foggy one in London—down to 300m of visibility. Flights were already being turned away, but the British Airways crew decided to go ahead and load the plane on time anyways, with the notion of telling London that they were fueled and ready to go (in hopes of speeding the process up when the fog lifted).

After sitting on the runway in Istanbul for two hours the flight finally took off, but in the four hours it took to reach Heathrow the mid-day fog had actually thickened—visibility had dropped to 200m.

Going nowhere: a jet on the tarmac at foggy Heathrow

With landings restricted, they proceeded to fly circles around the airport for another two hours. Other flights were doing the same, with many having to make hurried landings at alternative airports because of lack of fuel.

Finally they touched down, finding Heathrow to be in a state of near-crisis (well, more than normal anyways). Thankfully having Aidric in tow afforded Tatiana some degree of luxury, as she was sent over to first-class customer service instead of standing in line with all the others from dozens and dozens of delayed or canceled flights.

The first-class British Airways rep gave her the option of sleeping over in London or grabbing a later flight that would place her in Miami around midnight. Rather exhausted from a four-hour flight that had already turned into eight, she quickly opted to collect her bags and grab hotel room.

They gave her two 10£ vouchers (one for her, another for Aidric), and though I was rather skeptical that she could do much with $29 in a London airport, she told me that she grabbed a huge bounty of personal/baby supplies from a Boots.

Additionally, they gave her dinner and breakfast vouchers for the hotel, transport to the Premier Travel Inn and a call to her (our) regular long-term hotel in Florida.

With the Internet access at the London hotel running a lofty 5£/hour, she held off on contacting me (figuring that I'd call the Miami hotel when I didn't get word of their arrival—which I did).

Back at the airport the next day, she said that everyone was helping her and encountered nothing but nice people. There was no mention of the international consent letter by ticketing agents, and though security said there was a problem with the amount of baby food she wanted to bring aboard, they were more than happy to not only check the excess for her, but even escort the pair to the gate (carrying her bag all the way there).

The overseas trip was pleasant enough except for the large black woman spilling into her seat. Everyone on the flight was congratulating her on how well-behaved Aidric was. One woman said that "your one-year-old gives you a lot less shit than my 23-year-old does!"

Arriving about an hour later than expected, the mood was shattered by a pretty god-awful secondary inspection by the TSA/DHS CBP. She and Aidric were dragged through the hoops in a room filled with the likes of a forty-year-old prostitute who broke parole and was getting deported. Both she and the baby were hungry and tired, with Tatiana feeling completely humiliated as the agents actually called Spirit Airlines to verify that she indeed had purchased an onward flight to Lima (departing in March).

To make matters worse, when she finally went to pick up her pair of checked bags, they weren't to be found. The only thing that made it to Miami was the food bag checked by the security folks.

Others were also missing bags, and agents finally told them that they were still in London.

She was told there won't likely be any compensation for her (hopefully) temporary bag loss—containing pretty much everything needed to take care of Aidric and almost all her clothing and personal care products—because Miami was her final destination.

She arrived in Miami at 7 p.m. and left the airport at 9:30, crying.

What a mess.

THOUSANDS of holidaymakers were left stranded yesterday when more than 100 flights were scrapped at airports as thick fog set in.

As many as 45 flights in and out of Heathrow were cancelled and 60 flights were axed at London City airport. A further 16 were grounded at Gatwick and dozens more faced severe delays across the capital.

Thousands of people were left stranded at airports with the prospect of a shorter holiday because of the setback, or fears of missing important meetings.

Poor visibility led to air traffic control company Nats restricting the flow rate of aircraft into and out of all three airports.

Comments:

The United States

Erik

March 9th, 2009

So in summary, I recognize only two true issues. First, British Airways was unable to handle checked baggage during irregular operations. This is no surprise as at Heathrow they've proven unable to do this even during normal operations. See the Terminal 5 opening debacle.

Second, she suffered the demoralizing inspection by CBP at MIA. Not TSA, though they're not innocent either - they have zero accountability. The horror stories I hear from people with 10 year visas and on some occasions US citizens as well is deplorable. Tatiana's situation was wrong and she should have been left alone but realize that it could have been much worse too.

The United States

Jen

March 9th, 2009

It's over with, but poor girl. It's hard enough flying by yourself with a toddler when everything goes well. Hope it goes better when she comes back to you.

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