Remember those Choose You Own Adventure books where you could make one of two choices and depending on the choice the book would take you on a different journey? I believe the same holds true for every choice made while traveling and maintain that having a positive outlook will usually result in the best experience or outcome. I just went through one of my most difficult travel days to date and each step of the way I kept reminding myself to stay positive and be friendly when dealing with people.
My adventure started in Dubai, UAE, when I arrived at the airport from Sana’a, Yemen, and couldn’t find my connecting flight on the departure screens. I asked one of the information desk clerks and he told me my flight would be departing from gate C7. Satisfied with that, I went to one of the restaurants in Hall B for a pint of Guinness and a comfortable spot to set-up my laptop and do some work. As it approached my boarding time, I headed to Gate C7 for my flight. I once again looked to the many screens in the departures hall and still didn’t see my flight listed. There are booths at the Dubai airport that have scanners which will read your boarding pass and provide gate information, so I scanned my boarding pass and it said “Gate C7 – Departure 21:20.” Given my flight was scheduled to depart at 16:30 and I only had a 50 minute connection in Doha, I was suddenly very concerned. I rushed down to Gate C7 to see if there were any Qatar Airways staff at the gate, hoping my flight was still on time, but of course there were not. I then rushed to an information desk and asked if there was a Qatar Airways office in the Dubai airport, hoping they’d be able to get me on flights that would still get me to Bahrain, but the nice Filipino girl working the desk just shook her head no. I asked her what she thought I should do and she basically told me that I could call the Qatar Airways office, but that it would probably be useless, and that I should just find a place to wait and hope to sort it out at the gate later. At this point, I was feeling a helpless so I decided to:
Choice A: Get angry with the information girl, cause a big scene, and hope that somehow she could magically make the flight appear; or
Choice B: Ask for directions to the nearest pub.
Of course, I saw the futility in getting angry and causing a scene (even though so many people do) so I gave the information desk girl a big smile, shook my head, and asked where I could find McGettigan’s, an Irish style pub I knew was in Hall C. Once in McGettigan’s I ordered a Hoegaarden and set to work checking the Qatar Airways schedule for alternate flights from Doha to Bahrain to figure out what time I’d finally arrive in Bahrain. Assuming my flight wouldn’t arrive in Doha until around 10pm, I realized the next possible flight from Doha to Bahrain would not be until 06:25 the next morning. My hotel in Bahrain had already been booked and I realized that I had just lost that $100 and would likely be sleeping in the Doha airport that night. Feeling as though I’d just been punched in the stomach I:
Choice A: Sulked into my pint, cursed the world, and abused the bar staff; or
Choice B: Struck up a conversation with the military boys getting on the piss on the bar stools next to me.
Seeing no point in being angry with a situation I could not control, I started chatting with the guys beside me, 2 Irish blokes and an American fellow coming off of long work rotation in Iraq. They were putting down the booze like they hadn’t seen a drink for months (probably because they hadn’t) and were offering to pick up my rounds. I paid my own way but we had a couple hours of good bar conversation about the Middle East, Religion, Politics, Ireland, and my hometown of Calgary. Before I knew it, my flight was ready to be boarded and the delay was not a delay at all but rather a good afternoon at the pub. I raced down to Gate C7 to once again find the information desks empty. Confused as to what was going on, I finally spotted a Qatar Airways staff member who directed me to Gate C9 for another flight to Doha which was departing. Shocked there was another departing flight I:
Choice A: Started grilling the Qatar Airways staff as to why I had not received an e-mail or text message notifying me of the delay, why the screens at Gate C7 had not directed me to Gate C9 earlier, and why there was no staff member present to tell those of us on the delayed flight to try the flight departing from C9; or
Choice B: Raced to Gate C9 in hopes of getting on an earlier flight and possibly making another connection to Bahrain.
I decided to make my flight than trying to fix Qatar Airway’s passenger notification system through ground staff (who would have nothing to do with the system), and raced to Gate C9, where the staff quickly understood my situation and tried to help. Although it was last call for the departing flight, they recognized I had no baggage and started making arrangements to get me on the immediate departure to Doha. The supervisor also radioed in to see if they could get me a boarding pass to the last flight of the evening to Bahrain. He told me that I could probably make the flight and that as soon as I landed in Doha I should get to Gate 22 to try and catch the departing flight to Bahrain. He then gave me a boarding pass for the 06:25 flight the next morning. I asked if he could instead give me the boarding pass for the tight connecting flight and once again he radioed in, and then told me that the connecting time was too short so he couldn’t give me the boarding pass, but confirmed that if I was fast I should make the connecting flight. I thanked them for their help and got on the flight, where they had seated me in the front row (with extra leg room), on a beautiful brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Very happy with the fact I finally had the opportunity to fly on a Dreamliner, I started checking my watch every other minute trying to determine if I’d make the early connecting flight to Bahrain.
Upon arrival in Doha, I still had 40 minutes before the scheduled departure of the flight to Bahrain. That’s when I realized that all of the planes appeared to be parked on the tarmac, meaning a long bus to the departures terminal. The bus ride to the Doha airport felt longer than the flight from Dubai and when I finally arrived at the terminal, it was only 20 minutes before departure, when last call is usually completed and the aircraft doors are closed. I raced to the gate and made it just in time, relieved that I was going to make my flight to Bahrain and would be able to sleep in my booked hotel. I explained my situation to the girl at the gate and she didn’t seem to understand. She kept pointing to my boarding pass and saying that I was on the 06:25 flight, not the one currently boarding, to which I tried to explain what I had been told by the Qatar Airways staff in Dubai. She told me I’d have to go to the transfer desk to try and get on the flight but at the same time they were announcing it was final call. At this point, I was starting to lose my positive attitude and told her there’d be no time, to which she replied that there was nothing she could do. Starting to get frustrated, I held the hope that there may be a chance and ran to the transfer desk. There was a large line-up there and I knew I had no time to wait so I quickly raced back to the gate and tried to explain my situation to the gate supervisor. She listened to what I had to say and then told me that the departing flight was full. To this day, I don’t believe her that the flight was full, but there was nothing I could do. Devastated about missing my connection and having to stay in the airport over night, I returned to the transfer desk and:
Choice A: Pushed through the line, waved my finger at the staff while swearing at them and cursing the airline, telling them how much more important I am than other customers, and demanding compensation for my lost time; or
Choice B: Waited my turn in the queue, addressed the transfer desk pleasantly, and politely asking if there were any earlier flights than my 06:25 departure or if they could at least put me in a hotel for the evening.
Choosing the friendly approach, the fellow at the transfer desk was very receptive and went and spoke to his Supervisor about trying to do something for me. Meanwhile, I watched another passenger choose option A, where he loudly cussed at a beautiful East African girl demanding compensation for his time and an immediate flight back to Iraq or wherever it was he was supposed to be flying. At this moment, I felt deep sympathy for the Qatar Airways staff as their jobs must involve putting up with assholes all day, every day. I flashed the Qatar Airways girl a big smile and shook my head, trying to non-verbally support her in having to deal with this self absorbed Iraqi idiot. Meanwhile, the Qatar Airways staff member I was dealing with returned with the news that they would get me a hotel and that the earliest flight they could get me on would be the flight the next morning for which I already had the boarding pass. Appreciating that they did the best they could do, I headed down to catch a transfer to the arrivals terminal so I could go to my hotel room. Meanwhile, the Iraqi idiot (whose time was apparently so valuable that the airline had to compensate him for it) was still standing at the transfer desk arguing with staff.
The Qatar Airways staff at the arrivals terminal quickly gave me a hotel voucher, which provided me with 100 QD for meals, free entry visa, and a 3 minute international call, and told me that it was actually a great night to be staying in Doha as the next day was Qatar’s National Day. Unfortunately, this also meant that traffic into Doha from the airport was terrible and I only had 5 hours before I had to be back at the airport. Very tired, cranky, and frustrated with the situation, I:
Choice A: Got angry with my driver, demanding why they put me in a hotel near city center when my time in the city was so short and telling him to hurry up and somehow get us around traffic; or
Choice B: Observed the crazy Qatari’s slowly move through the gridlock in their cars covered with Qatari flags, colourful paintjobs, while people sat on the roofs, hung out the windows, and danced in the streets when traffic was stopped.
Laughing at the ridiculousness of my entire day, I finally arrived at my hotel, the Retaj Al Rayyan Hotel, which was much nicer than expected. Although I only had 4 hours, I was immediately looking forward to having a shower and trying to get at least a few hours of sleep. The room was very nice, nicer than the Holiday Inn I had booked in Bahrain, and I slept deeply for the 3 short hours I had. At 03:30, my phone rang for my morning wake-up call and a very sweet woman’s voice said “Good morning Mr. [Baldpacker], your airport shuttle will be ready shortly”. I’ve had a lot of wake-up calls before, and usually they are just as annoying as a buzzing alarm clock or cold bucket of water over the head, but given how poorly my travels had gone, I looked at it as a wonderful start to my day.
Exhausted, I arrived back at the airport, boarded my plane, and slept from take-off to touch-down. When planning my trip to Bahrain, I’d read that they offered e-visas and that it was much faster on arrival to get one. On the e-visa website, they said the visas would be ready in a maximum of 72 hours, and so I ordered it 5 days in advance, expecting it to be ready for my arrival. Of course, the visa was not ready and even though I checked the status every opportunity I could, I knew arriving in Bahrain that I’d likely need to pay again for the visa. As I stood in the long line-up for the visa on arrival, I noted that the e-visa line was already through and this just made me even grumpier!
As I waited in line, I was debating with myself whether to argue with immigration over the fact I’d already paid for an e-visa, or if I should just pay the visa fee a second time and try to get to my hotel sooner. Exhausted, I decided to just eat the cost of the second visa and pay again. Right as I became the first person in the line-up, I felt my cell phone buzz in my pocket, signaling I’d just received an e-mail. The Bahrain airport apparently has free wifi and it had connected without me knowing. I pulled out my phone and saw that the e-mail which had arrived was the approval of my e-visa. It took 115 hours (much longer than the 72 hours promised on the website), but my e-visa had finally arrived. I left the front of the line, likely to the bemusement of other passengers who had been waiting for over half an hour in the same line with me, and proceeded to the e-visa line. There, my passport was quickly stamped, and I was admitted to my 75th country visited.
The whole journey was terribly exhausting, frustrating, and discouraging, but I realized how important it is to keep a positive attitude while traveling. Throughout my journey I saw numerous people getting agitated, angry, and upset, without any hope of changing the outcome of their situation. Looking back, because of the delays and difficulties I faced, I managed to: have a great time “trading war stories” with the military boys at the Irish bar in Dubai airport; fly in a beautiful new 787 Dreamliner; experience Doha for their National Day; stay in a 5-star Doha Hotel free of charge; and save the cost of having to buy a second visa in Bahrain. In the end, I may have lost out on a few hours of sleep, but any additional expense was well worth the experiences gained.
Moral of the story is that no matter how difficult things get, smile, laugh, and keep on flyin’!
I’d love to hear comments on your own flight (mis)adventures below: