Posts Tagged With: international airports

Home Alone, Made In Chelsea and Those Three Little Words…

After listening to someone behind us in the queue who will undoubtedly be involved with the next series of Made in Chelsea (“I’m going to see grannie in Sussex and then go for dinner at Alesandro’s.” “It’s a bit cold in Alesandro’s.”), we were sent to the “Premier Check-In” to help get the queue down. It was much nicer – carpets, no cattle market barriers to keep us in the herd of the queue…and some grumpy Italians with too many bags.

Then it happened. VISA NOT REQUIRED. Those three little words nearly made my heart skip a beat! The happy smiley check in lady didn’t know what it meant for me to be getting on a plane first attempt from Heathrow Terminal 4 as she wrote that on my boarding pass!! No moody travel agent phone calls, no rush to find a new ticket, no repeat journey to Heathrow the next day! So far, so good.

In fact, the whole process was a breeze in comparison with my first attempt back in August via Saudi Arabia. Sadly though, Aeroflot planes don’t quite match Emirates. I’d been spoilt. The first flight to Moscow was 4 hours, which I thought would be the “cut off point” – the point at which it’s not quite long enough to get a TV, but just long enough to want one. There was no TV, so we occupied ourselves with  The Inbetweeners Rude Road Trip and An Idiot Abroad clips on my iPod. I say we…let me introduce you to Ashley…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…my boyfriend who’s joining me over the next 5 weeks. I can’t draw him without him looking like an old lady, but I assure you, he doesn’t really. I’m sure you’ll become acquainted as the next five weeks go on. He’s pleased to meet you.

Anyway, back to the Aeroflot journey….we arrived at Moscow and had an hour and a half to make it to our gate. So unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to get out and see any of the city, but fortunately this meant we didn’t need a visa! YES! Visa not required!

What can I say about an hour and a half in Moscow’s airport?…Lots of adverts for alcohol, lots of Christmas trees dotted about in random places and a rabbit warren of the same duty free shops. Oh yeah, and I want a Russian doll. Maybe next time, when I go to Russia, when I need a visa.

And so we boarded the next flight – the big one – nine hours, a Boeing 767, complete with 2 meals and surely, individual TVs….nope. 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. No TVs. Just communal ones dotted down the centres of the aisles.

“Well, we probably won’t get a choice, but at least we’ll get a film,” I said to Ashley, trying to offer some consolation – we were pretty excited about our own little TV units.

“Yeah but it’ll probably be in Russian.”

“Oh yeah, good point.”

The film was Home Alone, in English, which wasn’t too bad if not a bit retro. I lost count of the amount of times we pulled out a headphone to point out a flaw to each other though…lot of flaws in that film. I’d never realised before. The one I can remember now is why does it hurt him when he puts the aftershave on? He’s 8 years old!!

The lack of filmage meant that after dinner we had no real option but to sleep. Which is probably a good thing. And that’s where we are now, after a few hours sleep, the window blind being opened by the seats in front of us gradually woke us up. And so we wait for breakfast – filmless, in the dark and still a bit sleepy. Think it’s Spider Solitaire time….ahh, it’s just like being back in Asia.

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Categories: East Asia, Hong Kong | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

“Can I ask you a question? I’m too dark to be a mixed race guy, right?”

Erm…. How do you reply to that?! After a very successful airport experience on take two, I was very relieved when I sat down on the plane. Of course, I wanted a window seat but booking it only the day before meant they’d all gone, so I settled for a happy little middle seat. Until one of the stewardesses came and asked the man next to me if he wanted to swap so someone could be closer to their family. He didn’t want to because he didn’t want a window seat,  but I said I’d be happy to and jumped at the chance!

Not the best idea I’ve ever had. Yes there was some good views, but my God was there some weird questions. The title of this post being one of them. At first I thought the two people next to me were traveling together. They were both blokes, about the same age, just seemed to make sense. Unlike the one of them who was “too dark to be a mixed race guy”. Who was unfortunately the one next to me. He didn’t make sense.

As the flight went on, I began to notice him doing some repetitive muscle flexing and that the guy I thought was his friend wasn’t talking to him very much. “Maybe he’s autistic”, I thought. Then the questions started and the comments started and that’s when I began to think there was something odd about this bloke. “Maybe he’s got learning difficulties”, was the thought that now crossed my mind, “Maybe the other guy isn’t his friend, but his carer. Nice of him to take him to Dubai. That’s some good caring, right there.”

When he went to the toilet, I had to find out what was going on.

“Are you guys travelling together?” I asked his friend/carer.

“No! He’s something else isn’t he? Well done you, you’re getting all the questions!”

“So he’s traveling alone?! That is worrying.”

When he returned, I had to find out more, “So are you staying in Dubai or transiting somewhere else?”

“Yeah, I’m getting a plane from Dubai to Somalia. See my family and that. Got no family in London. Gets very lonely, you know? I love London. London is my home you know? I love London.”

“You live in London on your own?” I asked.

“Yeah, 11 years. I moved here when I was 11.”

“Ah right.”

Somalia?! I don’t know a lot about Africa, never mind Somalia, but what I do know about Somalia is that there’s famine there. And pirates. “Maybe he’s a pirate,” was my next thought.

Towards the end of the flight, he asked me if I smoke weed and I decided then that maybe he was stoned. I told the air hostess as I left the plane and she said they’d all noticed him too. I wasn’t surprised.

If you’re reading this and thinking I’m being a bit harsh, then here’s some examples of what he said:

  • On opening a butter carton, “What’s this?”
  • On cheese, “Is this cheese? What do I do with it?”
  • To the stewardess whilst grabbing the bag she was holding: “What’s this?” Stewardess, “That’s full of rubbish, sir.”
  • “So are we going straight to Dubai or are we gonna stop at other countries to pick people up on the way?”
  • “What country are we in now?” constantly, throughout the flight.
  • On taking off, “Are we gonna go higher?”
  • “Is this your first time in Dubai?” x7
  • Taking a sip having taken a drink from the stewardess’ tray, “What the hell?!”. He then put it back on the tray.
  • On flyinginto Dubai, “I love Dubai man. I never want to leave.”

Think I had a valid point in thinking he was odd now? Thought so.

After escaping him and getting off the plane, I was in Dubai airport for 6 hours. That wasn’t too bad, there was a lot to do and see as far as airports go. I took some amazing pictures of Dubai as I took off to Singapore. The aerial view is fantastic. Definitely somewhere I’d be interested in going – and that’s just from visiting the airport!

I sat next to some normal French people on that flight, which was a nice relief after my Somalian pirate on the last flight.

I arrived in Singapore at about 9 last night. Got all my luggage, checked through immigration, then followed the signs towards “Train to the city”, which I assumed would be the MRT. Turned out the MRT ticket machine doesn’t take cards for payments of S$2.90, so I headed back up the stairs to find an ATM. Then across to the shop to get an idea of how much things cost and figure out how much I’d need to get out. Then back to the ATM. Then back down to the MRT. With 3 S$50 notes. Which the machine also doesn’t accept. Luckily, the information lady could give me some change for a 50, so I got myself a ticket and headed off.

My hostel is average. Considering it is only costing 5 pounds (no pound sign on this keyboard!) per night, it’s pretty good. I got a good nights sleep, a shower and some toast and set off for the day.

I won’t expose much of Singapore just yet – I’ll save it for when I’ve been here a bit longer and have more to say – but so far I’m very impressed with it all…apart from the rain!

Categories: Singapore, South East Asia, United Arab Emirates | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Well I wasn’t expecting this!

So here I am, typing away in my bedroom, sat on my bare matress getting ready to leave at 12 for take two. On the 2nd of August.

HUH??!!

I know right, I should be sat in a Saudi Arabian airport paying 100000000 Saudi Riyal per minute to type this! Well, things didn’t quite go to plan. If you read the last post, you’ll know that I was pooping my pants a little about my Saudi transit. Thankfully, all the kerfuffle was this side of the check-in desk and I’m all booked to fly EMIRATES (yeah, uh huh, screw you Saudi Arabia Airlines!) through DUBAI (yeah, uh huh, screw you Riyadh!) to Singapore arriving a mere 5 hours after my expected arrival time of the past 6 months.

I’ll start from the beginning….

We arrive at the airport, I head over to the check-in desk, we queue for ages because quite a few people have more bags than there are people in the queue. One woman literally had 4 trolleys worth of huge suitcases. I’m glad I didn’t get on that plane it wouldn’t have made it very high off the ground. Anyway, we’re queueing, making friends with the woman behind me in the queue (who was, I would like to add, bigging up Emirates!)…..eventually, we get to the front of the queue. Man asks to see my passport and ticket. He says:

“Are you aware this is a 21 hour stop?”

I say:

“No, what, really, what, what’s an hour?”

I’m kidding:

“Yes, I’m actually rather good at incredibly simple maths.”

No, seriously, I played innocent:

“Yeah, I’m staying in the airport, it’s a long time, I know. Ha.” Attempting to laugh it off.

He calls his client over, we have the same conversation. She says “You’ll need a visa for being there more than 18 hours,” I tell her I know and that I’ll be staying in the airport and I know it’s a long time in an airport but I’m prepared for that and she says, “Ok, if you’re staying in the airport, it’ll be fine.”

I get called to the check-in desk, no time to say goodbye to my new found friend (who would have been in the airport for 3 hours – someone to talk to!). The man there was not as nice, very grumpy, very grizzly, very I’m-talking-about-you-on-the-phone-and-I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-what-I’m-saying…y. He said I wasn’t allowed to fly without a visa and that I’d need to see what the “airline ticket service” desk could do. Basically he passed the buck. Coward.

So we trot over to the “airline ticket service” desk. I’m feeling pretty angry at this point. Not surprisingly, I think it’s fair to say. The people there were lovely, still refused me but they were much nicer about it than grumpy grizzle guts at check-in. They said there was nothing they could do for me other than advise me to call my travel agent who sold me the ticket. At this point, I’d like to make it clear that I purchased the ticket as one product, therefore, as far as I’m concerned, meaning that the travel agent had deemed it possible for me to make this journey. The “airline ticket service” folk told me that it was an illegal connection and I shouldn’t have been sold the ticket without appropriate visa advice from my travel agent, which I was not given. Fuming, I left the “airline ticket services” desk and burst into tears. Again, not surprisingly, I think it’s fair to say.

Me and my boyfriend went and sat down and hunted for a telephone number for the travel agent. I then made a very angry 15 minute phone call to Shervin or whatever he said his name was. He started arguing with me! Surely if you’re representing your company, regardless of someone being rather annoyed with you at the other end, you keep as calm as possible, you can’t argue back!! Apparently “the system” is to blame for the whole thing because “the system” is responsible for making this a possible flight combination. Ridiculous.

My favourite line from the phone call was:

Shervmin: “How do you expect “the system” to tell you if you need a visa?”

Being quite taken aback by this and not feeling the need to reply with a rant about how computers and “systems” were controlling the entire airport I was sat in and were controlling the plane I should have been heading for I opted for:

“How do I expect a computer to tell me something?! Because we’re living in 2011, my friend!”

What an idiot Charmin was. No use. “non-refundable” and “non-changable” and “system” were clearly embedded into his little mind, and the fact that his company could make a mistake was beyond belief. “The system” avoids mistakes for them, of course!

After finding out from the Malaysian Airlines lady that the only ticket they could offer me via Kuala Lumpur to Singapore was over a grand, we headed over to arrivals to use the overpriced and underpowered internet. And that’s when we found my new flight. Luckily.

One thing our friend Shervmir had suggested (I say one thing, really the only thing, he was absolutely useless) was to ask the airline for a partial refund. So once we were all sorted I suddenly remembered his little bit of advice and we trotted over to ask at “airline ticket services”. The same nice woman was there, and she remembered me. She said she’d need to ask her manager – who was the first woman who had said it’d be ok. She ok-ed me flying and said they could fax something over!!!!

What a joke! That really was the cherry the icing, on top of the cherry, on top of a huge, dirty cake of bad luck.

What I learnt from yesterday:

  • Be prepared for the rest of the trip re: visas, onward travel info etc
  • Boss knows best – don’t listen to the people at grassroots level, if you want something ask for the big boss, worth a shot
  • Saudi Arabia sounds pretty dull, or so according to my new found and never to be found again friend behind me in the queue
  • DON’T USE TRAVELPACK
  • “The system” can be blamed for anything
Categories: Hometown, South East Asia | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

This time next week…

…I’ll be on a plane to Singapore from Saudi Arabia…hopefully.

This week I’ve been double checking the visa situations in the countries I’m planning to visit. You don’t need to apply for a transit visa for Saudi Arabia – oh, that is if you’re there for less than 18 hours.

I’m there for 21.

Great.

Ok then, so it looks like I’m gonna need a transit visa.

Right, scroll down the page….you cannot apply if: you’re a lady travelling without a male relative.

Oh right, ok, brilliant.

So am I going to be detained?

 

 

 

Arrested?

 

 

 

Imprisoned?

 

 

 

Thrown to the wolves that are so common at all international airports these days?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m hoping none of the above. I have no choice but to risk those three teeny weeny hours not causing me any problems. And then, this time next week, I’ll be on a plane to Singapore from Saudi Arabia…hopefully.

Categories: Hometown, South East Asia | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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