I found myself in the dead of night on a plane headed to Mexico, but this time we were headed to the Pacific coast, specifically La Paz, close to the southern tip of Baja California Sur, which, thanks to a pocket dictionary (and not the interwebs) I found out imply means Baja California South, and is usually (on licence plates, businesses and such) abbreviated BCS. Next to me were two other founding members of the D&C. This was going to be a savant mix of road-trip and diving. From La Paz we would take the back roads (I assumed St Christopher would be rather busy) all the way to Cabo Pulmo and then to the Cabos, Los Cerritos (a surfing spot), Todos Santos (where the original Hotel California can still be found) and finally back to La Paz. Our layover in Mexico City was short, we would be in La Paz for breakfast. It did not work out that way.
We spent most of the day arguing over extremely poor telephone lines or with not so helpful people. You see, we missed our connecting flight. How this happened is unclear. We disembarked at around 0330, spotted our connecting gate number on a screen, found that gate (75 B) and grabbed some shut eye. The plane was at 0635 (or around that). At around 0500 we had some breakfast (the start of 13 days of uninterrupted, tasty Mexican food, but now we are all due for a break) and went back to our gate. BTW, that area of the terminal did not have a bard (I meant to write board, but a bard would be so much cooler) with all the departures, but we figured we were at the right gate anyways and trusted the original info. Rookie mistake. At 0600 nothing was happening but we figured meh, airports, these things happen. We weren’t called or anything (while other passengers were). Rookie mistake number 2, I guess we were all fuzzy from lack of sleep. By the time 0620 rolled around alarm bells were going off in my sleepy head and we went in search for answers. Turns out there had been a gate change (or several) and the plane had left. Without us. And no, the three of us agree, we were never called, trust me, I would pick up on my names being mangled over any PA system in the world. Also gate changes were never announced either…
That’s when the real fun started. I’ll speak about my own adventures because I was travelling on a regular ticket and not an Aeromexico gift like my other companions, they had a RELATIVELY easier time than I did. We found the Aeromexico counter inside the airport but were met with a pretty solid “that’s not our problem” kind of attitude. Basically, the party line was, this is a ticket-selling counter, not customer service, call them. They gave us a number, that did not work. They gave us another number, where a barely intelligible robotic voice (crappy IP phone) basically told us to go talk to the counter again. You see where this is going..
Eventually I found a gentleman behind the counter willing to book me from Mexico City to La Paz on the 1500 flight (the same that my compadres got transferred to) for 871 USD. I originally paid 570 Canadian for my whole trip, so, not overly keen, but was there a choice? Back to the phones. Even more disastrous than the first time, between what little we could make out from the robotic voices (we took turns)we were told that there was no more room that same day and it would cost around 670 or so. FUCK.
My wife, ever more intelligent than I am went on the internet, to expedia.ca (I’m plugging them big time and I don’t care who knows it) and found a ticket, that day, same flight as my friends for 270. I did not even hesitate: GO. We all thought we were out of the woods. But (not supposed to start a sentence with but, I know), not so much.
Have you ever heard of a “no show”? Me neither. As it happens, one of the founding members of the D&C is a travel industry veteran (BTW, if you are an airline and you are looking for a kick-ass marketing guy, ping me, I’ll put you in touch), and so he got wise quickly and told me “make sure they don’t consider you a no show”. Of course I had no clue WTF that was. I’m sure it is part of the very fine print when you buy an airplane ticket but get this, if you miss a flight (are a “no show”) part of a trip THAT HAS SUBSEQUENT SEGMENTS, LIKE SAY RETURNING HOME, all of the subsequent segments are cancelled. You paid? Sucks being you.
Let me be extremely clear about this. You buy a round trip ticket with four segments, for the sake of argument let’s say it is MTL-Mexico City, Mexico City-La Paz, then La Paz-Mexico City and finally Mexico City-MTL. Well, should you happen to miss your connecting flight to La Paz (for whatever reason), THE REST OF YOUR TRIP IS CANCELLED. You paid? Suck being you. Now I’m not batting on Aeromexico specifically in this instance, apparently it is common practice in the industry, but I was flying Aeromexico. So, even though you took the first leg of your journey, and are in Mexico City, 5 hours away from home, the airline judges you a no show (and thus an empty seat on the remaining legs) and voids your ticket so they can sell you space AGAIN. This was pretty much what a nice lady back at the Aeromexico counter explained to me. Of course my point of view was slightly different, as in, those seats were already paid for, and since I won’t drink your booze and eat your food and dirty your airplane, you might be actually turning more of a profit. More no doubt but not enough, not like being able to resell those seats (remember the whole overbooking thing? Same spirit). The lady was still helpful though, she pretty much elbowed a young guy out of the way who would have none of my rational and allowed me to retain my previously paid seats for a mere 200 USD more. At that point I was like WHATEVER, let’s just make it happen. They printed out some old-time paper airplane tickets and it looked like everything was good. 200 USD to change an entry in a database, not bad return on investment for them.
I had apprehensions until the last moment (including the expedia.ca bought ticket, but it nevertheless produced a boarding pass within 30 minutes of purchase, made on a phone while standing outside an airport, I’m plugging them and don’t care who knows it) but all went swimmingly. We were all sitting together on the same plane going to La Paz. The ride was a little bumpy (smaller plane, and changing air masses I figured) but we made it around 1700 or so. Walking out of the plane and unto the tarmac a brutal desert heat greeted you. It was like the fiercest hairdryer in the world just blowing straight at your face. It was awesome.
In high spirits and quite happy we headed into La Paz, I did my best with the apparently fluid rules of Mexican traffic (stop, or “alto”, signs seem like suggestions), but found the drivers courteous and very light on horn use, I tried not to drive like a gringo but I’m sure I did. No matter, the adventure was about to begin.