Air Travel, Always an Adventure

I’m just back home from a trip to the United States. Since the Pandemic, everything in air travel has become super-complicated. There were vaccination certificates, and all kinds of other documents required, which varied depending on the country you were visiting.

All that was complicated enough, but now that travel has opened up, transportation strikes have taken over in Italy. They only last for a day or some part of a day, perhaps a morning or afternoon , and strikes are announced a few days in advance, but you never know what particular airline or flight time might be affected until the last minute.

I have bought airline tickets on-line since I retired from the Navy, about 20 years ago. Basically, you could pull up a site like Travelocity and find a flight on an airline and  a time that was convenient at a price you could afford. Press a button give them your credit card number and be done! That’s it!!! But now……….

I made a huge mistake…I saw a very reasonable price advertised by  CheapO Air…and I jumped on it. I didn’t see the dropdown menu that gives you the options ranging from Economy Light (basically hanging on to the tail of the aircraft) to Super-Duper First Class, ( covered coffins, which include the option of a bed-mate). Of course, I had chosen the Economy Light. When I realized that it didn’t even include the price of a carry-on bag, I tried to cancel my booking. I was told (by chat) that of course I could cancel but it would not be refunded.

This was within an hour of booking! Oh well! I hope my readership improves enough to make a dent in the bottom-line of ChearO Air.

The ticket itself, was on Swiss Air and I called them to see if I could finish the booking through their site, since I had no faith in CheapO Air. I started comparing the prices on Swiss Air and CheapO, and learned that Swiss Air doesn’t even have a category called Economy -Light and of course, your carry-on was included in the Basic Economy. All the fees charged by CheapO were $10-$15 higher than Swiss Air. Lesson learned.. Go to the airline sites.

My visit was a surprise for my daughter’s 50th birthday. Phyllis’ friend made reservations for us at a great restaurant. We had a table very near the door and although it was intermittently a bit chilly, Phyllis saw me as soon as she walked in.  It was a grand success!

But back to Air Travel..

I found Swiss Air service to be very good, so when I returned to Italy the other day, I expected the same service. But I was surprised. It was better than good, it was Great!  The woman at the check-in was a bit older than what you usually see at airline check-in counters, and I believe she was a trainee. She seemed a somewhat lost about some of the  procedures and had a few questions of her colleagues. But she was pleasant and after looking at my passport told me her name was Mary too. Although I put my credit card on the counter to pay for the checked bag, she just sent it through. I think it was a mistake on her part but I was happy.

After Mary  got all her ducks in a row and was ready to print the ticket, she told me that there would be someone in Zurich who would meet the plane and give me a ride to the gate at the other terminal where I would get the flight to Boston. Having come through Zurich on my way to Boston, I told Mary that there was a train that connected terminals. She told me not to worry, someone would see to me all the way. First I thought that maybe they offer this service to anyone 75 or older or perhaps I looked like death warmed over and I was about to collapse. I was kind of insulted. But after thinking it over, I decided to take the offer.

Upon deplaning, I was directed to the cockpit door, which the crew used to deplane. It was a bit shorter walk into to terminal. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do so I went to the counter and explained that someone was supposed to meet me with a ride. She asked if I needed Assistance. I said °I guess so° and I was told to sit and wait for someone to come. After a few minutes, two young women in Swiss Air uniforms with °Assistance° written above their left breasts, arrived. One had a clipboard and was calling out names.

There were three of us who needed °Assistance°. Only one of us (not me ) needed a wheelchair to get to the cart, which was about 30 feet away. The one who was visibly handicapped was a woman who lived in Quincy and was going to Florence. She was the youngest of us and seemed to perhaps have had an accident or very recent surgery. We chatted a bit but I didn’t get her name. The other passenger was an old Greek woman (older than I, I think) who didn’t speak a word of Swiss , French or English so we were all at a loss to communicate with her. Everyone, however, did understand the one word she kept repeating with an urgency akin to panic in her voice, °Chocolate° she said. She pronounced it °Shockolat° .

We were strapped into the cart. The Shockolat lady was up front and was assured that she would be able to get her chocolate, but she obviously didn’t understand and kept repeating it. It wasn’t a very long ride, but picture it! it was pretty amusing. We were put in an elevator (I think it was for cargo) and ridden down to street level where we waited for a van, which arrived in about 10 minutes, discharged some Assistantees and loaded us up for a short ride to an alternate Passport Control. There were about a half dozen other Assistantees lined up at the window. They were accompanied by a male Swiss Air Assistant who miraculously spoke Greek!! Finally the little Greek lady could communicate! She spoke extensively with the man, but still her speech was littered with °Shockolat°.

Passport Control was pretty smooth and quick except for one poor young woman (I don’t know why she needed assistance), who was all alone and told to step aside and wait. She looked like a 4th grader who was sent to a corner for punishment of some infraction of the rules. Maybe she forgot some needed document. She was still in her corner when we left. Back to the cart and a short ride to the elevator. Then first to the gate for the Athens flight. Thank God her gate was near the Duty Free shopping area. She made a bee line to get her °Shokolat°. What a relief!! Quincy and I were dropped at the Florence gate and I made a bee line to the bathroom.

On the plane, a male flight attendant, who looked to be about 14 years old, came to me and said that I should wait for everyone else to deplane and he would come and take my bag down the stairs to the waiting van. Actually, my carry-on was just a large purse, which I slung over my shoulder. I let him take it to the stairway for me, but I was able, despite my age, to make it down the stairway by myself.

I didn’t see Quincy until we got to Florence, where there was a van to take us the very short distance to the baggage pick-up. Quincy didn’t have a bag to pick up and she asked where she could get a bus. Florence is a small airport so she was able to walk. We said goodbye and the handsome, young driver accompanied me to the carousel to collect my bag. He scooped it off as it was going by, a task that I find increasingly difficult to perform. Then he asked me if I needed assistance out. I thanked him and said that I felt confident that I could walk the 20 feet, rolling my bag beside me.

Swiss Air Assistance…The only way to fly!!

7 replies on “Air Travel, Always an Adventure”

Excellent writing and these “happy accidents” have restored my confidence in travel abroad once more! Wondering what ace bandaging a knee will get me? ???? ????

Wonderful story, Mary. Glad you are still able to travel internationally at our age and that you were able to celebrate your daughter Phyllis’s 50th birthday. All my best to you and Dante. Warmest regards, Jeff

I think Swiss air thinks you are a VIP of some kind and you are, and they wanted to take good care of you . When you find out your VIPness let your friends know so we can try to get that benefit too! Fun story. Glad you are home without delays along the route.

Welcome back home Mary!
Glad to know that this time you have had a good, pleasant trip, finally.
What a great, loving surprice for Philly’s bithday and how much amazement and joy in her face when she saw you!
My best wishes to Phillys.
See you soon

You are most likely a #1 Swiss Air cheerleader now! Happy you enjoyed their hospitality. Lucky you with the Italian airport strike too. Glad they made your trip a little easier

I know my memory is going but I know I read this, but I don’t see any reply. I always reply?!? As usual I enjoyed your writing. Glad the trip back was so pleasant. BTW make the most of any extras U can get! Take care “LUV YA” Patty

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