Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ecuador January 3, 2010

January 3, 2010
Quito - Miami

We were out of bed by 05:00h to organize our suitcases for our flight to Miami. We went downstairs to see what was available for breakfast and to our surprise a full spread was laid out. It was quite delicious too - juice, fresh fruit, cheese and ham, hot café au lait. Juan arrived promptly at 06:20h to pick us up and we headed to the airport under a sunny Quito sky.
Upon check in we were advised that space was available on an earlier flight so we gladly accepted that offer. We had to quickly pay our departure tax and proceed right to the gate. Every piece of carry-on luggage was being searched and full body pat downs were taking place but it was soon accomplished and we boarded a very full aeroplane. There was no room in the overhead containers for my carry-on so Miriam slid it under the seat in front of her. It restricted her leg room a little, but she said it wasn’t too bad.
The pilot advised that our estimated flying time to Miami was four hours and five minutes, but we had to fly around a volcano. There was considerable turbulence and we had to change altitude several times to try to get to smoother air.
We arrived in Miami at 11:40h and joined the long lines to go through US Immigration. It really takes forever as every passenger ahead of us was photographed and fingerprinted, but when our turn came we passed through with virtually no scrutiny.
Baggage was already coming down the carousel when we arrived there. We waited and waited, but ours didn’t arrive. Finally the carousel stopped and any unclaimed luggage was placed adjacent to it. I checked thoroughly three times and Miriam joined me and checked again. No bags!
I don’t even want to recount all the details of the Kafkaesque scenario that ensued. We ultimately found out that although we had been placed on an earlier flight our bags were on standby. American Airlines in Quito never provided that information, otherwise we would have stayed with our original flight and travelled with our luggage.
We couldn’t get a sympathetic ear or any civil level of cooperation from either the airport staff or American Airlines in trying to file a lost baggage claim. Suffice to say, everyone we encountered majored cum laude in the related disciplines of Indifference, Hostility and Truculence. We finally cleared the airport at 17:40h to go to the Airport Howard Johnson Hotel, quite drained by the experience. We chose Howard Johnson, by the way, since this was the only hotel we could get to respond to the courtesy phone.
Interestingly, after we arrived home we were contacted twice by American Airlines asking us to file our claim for lost luggage. It was hard to convince them that we had our luggage with us when we left the airport. They wanted to know our claim number despite the fact that we had no claim to make. They wanted our baggage tag numbers to perform final searches. On and on it went.
You know, I have NEVER travelled through Miami without one problem or another and have NEVER departed on time when connecting there. I swear that after this experience, if the only practical way to travel is through Miami or on American Airlines, I will change my destination and pick another trip.
Our frustration this day was not finished. After relaxing for a while and freshening up in our room we went down to the only place to eat. It was a sports bar with loud televisions all over the place, and since we barely know a hockey puck from a basket ball, and care even less, it was not particularly appealing to us. Furthermore, there was a vociferous, foul-mouthed drunk at the bar. We asked if they could throw him out and to their credit they did.
We knew things would not go well in the restaurant when the waiter didn’t know what the soup of the day was, and we had to be told by patrons at the next table. Almost a half hour later two bowls of lukewarm chicken soup arrived with a stack of cellophane-wrapped crackers. That was all that Miriam ordered but I chose calamari. Forty five minutes later it arrived, deep fried and resembling nothing so much as onion rings. In fact there was so much batter it was impossible to taste the calamari, it might as well have been onion rings or anything else you can quadruple coat with batter. The cocktail sauce accompanying the calamari tasted like ketchup with a little black pepper added.
We were happy to return to our room, read for a while and go to sleep.

Accommodation: Howard Johnson Airport Inn. Rate: Approximately $135.00 plus taxes (I can’t find the receipt) Rating: Two stars.

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