Monday, July 02, 2012

The Terminal

We are back. Finally. It feels like we've been through a war and when we landed, the general sentiment amongst the entire travelling party was one where we would have liked to fall to the ground and kiss the hot, humid Singapore tarmac (metaphorically speaking anyway, since we deplane into an aerobridge).

I am still trying to recover from the trauma. The jetlag has been terrible, coupled by our intense need to spend the day we landed with our kids every second. I Facebooked that I was suffering from PTSD. Shell-shocked from the experience, that is worth a session at any insurance convention under the title "WHY BUYING TRAVEL INSURANCE IS A NECESSITY!"

The previous post about Purgatory chronicled the initial cancellation and the chaos after that. If only it had ended there.

It really did feel like purgatory because it felt like we were stuck in someone's sick idea of Groundhog Day. Again and again, we tried to leave and again and again we were thwarted.

How were we thwarted? Let us count the ways.

1. The airline that cancelled our flights told us to queue up and re-book our flights. The queue unfortunately snaked about 600m. A hotline number was issued. (Note: If in the USA for more than a week, please buy a data/SIM card that allows you to make free international and local calls. If not for that, we would be in debt for the rest of our lives just from the amount of time we spent talking to Singapore that day!) Eventually when we got through and tried to re-book the flights, we were told, they would get us to JFK (our domestic destination) but nothing beyond that, even though it was because of the cancelled flight that we missed our international connection.


2. Singapore Airlines was going to be fully booked till July 3 and had us on stand-by for every day till we got a flight out. It was for us to call and check. To be safe, we pestered American Airlines (the domestic flight that cancelled on us) to get us on a flight back. They assured us that we have a confirmed flight out 2 days later from JFK in New York. So we thought by hook or by crook, we were going to leave on 24 June. Never mind that my birthday (25 June) was lost in sliding time zones.

3. Reducing the risk, we decided to take a 5 hour drive from Boston to JFK in New York. That way, we reduced the risk of another flight cancellation and missing our connection again. Despite the New York traffic, we made it in good time to JFK, all safe and sound.

4. Even though we thought we had minimised the risk, we were not prepared to be told by American Airlines at JFK that we still could not fly because our travel itinerary had no ticket number attached. More to-ing and fro-ing and taichi-ing ensued before we managed to extract the ticket number from an incompetent member of reservations at American Airlines (over the phone again!) to hand over to ticketing. But by then, the gate had closed and we were told they could only put us on the following day's flight out. At that point, I was in tears and Packrat swore so loudly the duty manager threatened quite ominously that he might get arrested if he didn't shut up.

5. Thankfully the earlier batting of eye-lashes and puppy dog eyes (me not Packrat) worked as we raced across 4 terminals back to the Singapore Airlines counter where we had been told earlier that we were number 3 and 4 on the standby list. The words "you may check in now" were words I thought I would never hear again in my life, stuck in this hell that was the airport. There was then, the subsequent race to drop off our bags, taking off shoes, belts, keys, wallets, everything on the fly as we hurtled towards security and then towards the gate 20 minutes before take off.


Thankfully, the big SQ broad waited for us and we landed in Singapore 21 hours later, shell-shocked and a little bit disbelieving that we were finally back in Singapore. Truly, we felt a little bit like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

Lessons learnt from this ordeal.
1. Always buy a phone chip with international and local calls free.
2. Always fly SIA. At the end of the day, they were the ones who were the most helpful.
3. Try not to fly domestic if possible. Trains and automobiles much preferred to planes. If planes are necessary, not AA!
4. Always listen to the husband. Packrat's initial instinct was to drive from Boston to JFK right from the outset. I was the one who dissuaded him. I stand corrected.
5. Rent a car with satellite radio. Makes for fun driving.

But at least, we are home and now all is good again. 

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