Thursday, March 13, 2008

Briefly back in Osaka

I'm back in Osaka for one day before I fly to Vancouver.

The trip back was a typical airline fiasco. At the Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was told that I could not be issued a boarding pass for my connecting flight for some reason. As the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is huge, and I had a fairly short layover, I realized this might be a problem and protested. The Air France attendant told me that it would be impossible to issue a connecting boarding pass at this time. I was assured with the utmost confidence that everything would be fine, that I would be met by an airline employee with my boarding pass when I got off the plane in Amsterdam. Of course, this didn't happen. Instead, in Amsterdam I was told that I would have to go to a transfer center to get my new boarding pass. As our plane was 15 minutes late, and many other plans had also been delayed, there was huge line. I took a number from the box and discovered that there were over 50 people in front of me. I went to talk to an employee, who told me to go directly to the gate. As the gate was on the opposite side of the airport I asked for a lift but was told this was impossible.

At this point I ran to the gate, and made it with 5 minutes to spare before take off. There was a security check, however, and the lady at the check told me that I was too late and it would not be possible for me to board the plane as I didn't have a boarding pass. I explained the situation, of which she was apparently already aware, and was told again that it was impossible to board the plane. I pointed out that that was absurd as the plane was right there at the end of the gate, that I could probably hit it with my bag. Then we had a discussion about the nature of impossibility.

I've noticed that the French and the Italians use the expression "it's impossible" with a range of meanings such as "it's not going to happen," "it's unlikely," "it's inconvenient for me," "bah (with a dismissive wave of the hand)," and maybe occasionally, "it's actually impossible." I don't know how the Dutch use the phrase, but none of them seem to understand that in English the expression "'it's impossible" is understood rather literally. Whatever the case, it was no use arguing with an airline attendant about such matters. I went back to the transfer station and took my place in the massive line.

Besides me was a Japanese girl, named Shiho, who had missed the same flight as me and had somehow been traveling around Europe although she could speak no language besides Japanese. I took the opportunity to brush up on my Japanese. When she was called up she asked me to help translate a bit and she was promptly issued two boarding passes for the next flight to Osaka, by way of Seoul.

When I was called up a bit later by a different attendant, I was told I would have to spend the night in Amsterdam. Normally, I would have gone for it, but I have to make my flight to Canada. I pointed out that they had just issued Shiho a ticket by way of Seoul. The attendant told me that this was because she was going to attend the death of a family member. I knew for a fact, however, that she had just quit her job and had taken the opportunity to come see her sister in Germany and travel around a bit.

I told the attendant so and asked her if the airline told them to lie to the customers. She stormed off in a huff and returned fifteen minutes later with one boarding pass and a piece of paper on which was written the information for a flight leaving Seoul after a four hour stopover on some no-name airline, for which, of course, she could not issue me a boarding pass. Again, I pointed out that there was a better option, and again she threw a small fit and eventually returned with the boarding pass. (I wonder what they pay these employees to take their jobs so personally.)

The most absurd thing is that when I eventually took those two earlier flights, there were a fair number of empty seats on each of them.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Crazy story, and yet, I can see how it's typical too.

Back to Vancouver?? For good?