Now, normally, it is my lovely wife who misses connecting flights - but this time, it was I. But at least I had the style and chutzpah to do it in China! You know... where it's all in Chinese.
... and yes, I had to look up how to spell "Chutzpah".
As we were sitting on the ground in Toronto, I was very aware of the time ticking away... I knew we had enough time to make our connecting flight IF our flight was on time. Oh, what a wonderful mess when we leave our lives up to something so fickle as airline scheduling.
I am pretty sure that airlines primary business is to make travel as wonderful and exciting as it can be (ie: flying through the air at 35,000 feet in nothing but a pressurized tin can at 800mph) and then counter balance that with the absolute horrors of TSA agents, scheduling delays, unconformable seats and (in some Canadian Airlines cases) the grouchiest flight attendants as possible who make you feel like you are inconveniencing THEM if you ask for some water to put out the fire on the airplane yourself.
On a side note, my children have told me that WestJet is their favorite airline in Canada because they are nice and fun.
Where was I? Oh, right, traveling is fun!
In this case, they said we would only be delayed by an hour... when you only have a 2 1/2 hour international connection... and when in fact that 1 hour delay turned into something more like... 2 hours.
As we were arriving in Beijing, I reminded the kids that we were late... and we would have to really run to make the connecting flight. Sounds reasonable... if it weren't for the fact that it was like 2am to their little internal clocks, we'd already been traveling for close to 24 hours and they are like 11 and 8... which is basically the same thing as traveling with a pack of wild Dingoes.
Of course the Beijing airport is HUGE... like... really HUGE if you've never been there, you can not fathom of big it is. Think of something really big... now make it bigger. Unless it's cake. Then eat it. But it's huge! And our airplane, probably because it was late, wasn't given a gate to park at... instead, we parked in the middle of Inner Mongolia... and if you've ever been to Inner Mongolia you know it's not close to the airport gates. Busses come and start shuttling people between Inner Mongolia and the airport terminal gates, which was a great gesture, but the round trip took about 3 months each way.
I'm pretty sure the buses were actually camels.
By the time we got into the airport and through customs/security we still managed to find the transfer desk and they told us to run to a different terminal in the Beijing Airport. Again, the airport is huge. Unless it was cake, in which case, you've probably finished eating it all and have no concept of how big this airport is. But we go and start running...
It was probably over a 1km walk from our Terminal to the other Terminal... hold on... let me check.
|7.1Kms to the 2nd Terminal|
Nope, sorry, I was wrong. It's a 5km walk, er run... IF you can go in a straight line, across the runways...
By the time we got to the other terminal, and found the check in counter (because of course none of our boarding passes were valid, nor could we use the automated kiosks) they told us they had just closed the gate.
By this time, I noticed a large crowd of Chinese following us. Normally, you get used to that kind of thing, but this time it was different. There were about 16 other, local Chinese, who were also on the plane with us who were trying to get on the same connecting flight. So the check in counter guy called the gate and said there was a big bunch of us trying to get on... they still said no and sent us to the ticketing agent to get tickets for the next flight.
In my North American "Me First" type attitude, me and the kids ran to the ticketing agent and started the process of explaining our flight was delayed so we missed the connection. The ticketing agent said the next flight wasn't until tomorrow and that they would put us up in a hotel for the night. That's OK. No problem. But part of me was wondering, what about the other 16 people behind me who can speak Chinese... are they going to be able to get a connecting flight or some other arrangements?
But no, all 16 of us were going to be on the next flight tomorrow. So we all went and hung out at the Transfer Lounge and waited for a bus to come and get us.
It was around this time, that the Chinese travelers we were now with took an interest in me, this obviously not Chinese guy, traveling with two Chinese children and speaking Chinese. They started coming around while we waited in the transfer lounge and were talking and chatting... and I loved how no one in the group was trying to push others out of the way to try to get the "last seat" on the next flight. Once we all hit the check in counter, we all because like one family. Everyone was talking, laughing, complaining together. It was fun!
But the time a bus came to take us to the hotel, everyone was making plans on where to go for diner together and what to do! We even picked up a 17th person who was NOT part of our group and she joined us. I *think* she was a friend of someone who lived in Beijing, and came to visit at the airport while we waited... anyway, she came to the hotel too. Good times!
|Van was FILLED with people and bags|
Sadly, we declined the diner offer as the kiddos were quite tired. But in the morning everyone was quite happy to see that the foreigner survived the night and we had a great morning together before getting our connecting flight.
I want cake.