Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A day in the life of . . . courtesy of American Airlines - Part II (just when you thought it was safe to get back on the aircraft)

Day 2

1:00pm. We board a coach which is, allegedly, headed for the airport. No such luck. Instead we end up in our second hotel! Apparently the Grand Hotel is full for the night so we are moved to Guayaquil’s equivalent of cellblock H. We're talking about a hotel that doesn’t even appear on Google. And so, having to climb over a bed to get in, I am ensconced in a sparse, tiled floor room. There is still no sign of American Airlines but we hear a rumor that the famous flight 917 will now take off at 11:00pm. This means arriving in Lima at the salubrious hour of 12:44am tomorrow morning, 26 hours later than scheduled.

A brief pause while I eat chicken and rice for lunch.

The afternoon passes torturously slowly as I realize that cellblock H is located 5 minutes from the airport with nothing else of interest anywhere nearby. I come to this conclusion thanks to several jets flying by my window at maximum noise levels. Still no sign of American Airlines. Dinner is Groundhog Day. Chicken and rice, rice and chicken, salad and chicken, salad and rice, and for the adventurous, chicken salad.

9:00pm. After waiting half an hour to be picked up, we finally arrive at the airport and are whisked through Passport Control. Still no sign of American Airlines. I have now been in and out of Ecuador with no evidence whatsoever. I’m confident that this will be a big help as I plot my 2007 Day of the Jackal story. One thing has come out of this unwanted stay - I now know how to be invisible in Central America.

An announcer comes to say the flight to Lima will be an airplane coming in from Miami. Makes sense, I mean why would we expect American Airlines to put on anything special? They’ve simply shifted us all onto an existing flight. And guess what? This means a further delay of 1-1/4 hours. We will now theoretically leave 15 minutes after midnight, arrive in Lima at 2:00am and reach my hotel around 3am (what are the chances of me ever seeing my bag again?). American Airlines eventually sends an even older Airbus 3000, manned by the same crew, though it actually got us to Lima. We arrive just one hour later than the latest, latest estimate. Of course, it took ages to board everyone back into the same seats they had last sat in 24 hours before. The captain shows his disdain for the situation by not opening his mouth once during the entire boarding procedure and flight. No apologies and no roses from American Airlines.

4:00am. We make it to Lima. A huge sigh of relief from all concerned when we finally touch down. And wonder of wonders - my bag arrives too! At last paradise beckons at the Miraflores Park Hotel, who were kind enough to upgrade me to the Presidential Suite on the 10th floor, complete with private outdoor pool, sauna and internal whirlpool. If only I was going to have more than 3 hours in the hotel.

7:00am. It was up and at ‘em. A day of speeches at Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, Saatchi & Saatchi and the Swisshotel to the business community before turning around and heading back for New York at 11:58pm on Continental!