I left work at 3:15pm. Nik was leaving on an 11:55pm flight and I was leaving on an 11:30pm flight, so we both left work at the same time. I got a hug from Luke, one of my interns, and then a hug from Dave, my boss. Then another hug from Dave when I explained that I didn’t like hugs. Then a hug from Bonard. That was more hugs than I normally get in a month!
I got home and we ran around doing all the last minute things, putting toothbrushes in suitcases, etc. Then we were ready to go, but we still had a good hour or so before the shuttle was due to arrive, so we made poached eggs on toast for dinner. Then the shuttle turned up half an hour early, but that was fine because we were ready to go.
We got to the airport at about 7pm, despite major traffic woes in other parts of Auckland. The shuttle driver was saying that there would be a number of people missing flights that night due to traffic. There’d been a crash in Dairy Flat involving a bus full of children, and 7 people down south had been killed in another accident. The news (which was streaming in the shuttle) was all doom and gloom. But we made it to the airport without any trouble.
The check in for our flight didn’t open until 8:30pm, so we had an hour and a half to wait. We got the kids some sushi (Jayden is going through a serious growth support and eating constantly at the moment) and waited patiently.
Finally, we headed over, to find a huge long queue. It took us at least two hours of standing in that queue to check in our suitcases. Caitie was a serious drama llama. She complained about being bored, complained that her feet were tired, complained that her finger was sore, complained that she was tired… It was two hours of complaining, and it was not fun. There were tears at various stages. I think her anxiety was playing up big time, and she was freaking out.
Nik caught up with us while we were in the queue and wished us luck for our trip. Iva wasn’t with him at that stage, as they’d come in separate cars.
We didn’t have any trouble (other than the queue) checking in our suitcases, and then no drama going through security to get to the duty free shopping. We had plenty of time still, so we stopped and had a drink, then went to our gate. We were at gate 9, and Nik and Iva were at gate 10, so we wished them both luck.
We sat and waited to board. And waited some more. We were due to fly at 11:30pm and as the time got closer and closer without anyone boarding, we started to wonder what was happening. Then 11:30pm came and went without anyone being boarded. At 11:40pm an announcement came over the loud speakers that our flight had been cancelled due to ‘technical issues’. My first reaction was shock. I messaged the family ‘Holy shit, they just cancelled our flight!’ Caitie went into full meltdown. The build up had been so intense, and then all for nothing, and I think her biggest fear had been that something would happen that would mean we couldn’t go after all, and then it had happened. She cried, and I hugged her. Not much I could say, other than that we’d work it out somehow, and yes, we were still going to go to England. She was certain our whole trip would be used up by the time we got there, if we ever got there at all.
We had to listen to the following announcements carefully over everyone exclaiming and talking, and found out that our flight had been rescheduled to fly out at 3pm the following afternoon. Nik came over to commiserate, then had to rush off as his flight was boarding.
We talked through what the cancellation would mean for us. Most obviously, we’d miss our connecting flight from Manila to Heathrow. We didn’t have a car at the airport to get back home, and even if we did, it was midnight and Maddie, our housesitter, was asleep in our bed. We couldn’t go home and kick her out. Fuck.
There was utter chaos as everyone tried to get answers. They told us they would pay for transport home for those who wanted to go home (by way of reimbursement the next morning), otherwise they’d provide vouchers for hotels for those who didn’t want to go home. We opted for a hotel, as that would mean we wouldn’t have to disturb Maddie. Plus, Caitie had been nagging me about the fact that we weren’t going to be staying in a hotel on our trip, so we thought this would be a cool experience for her.
Steve waited in a queue for the hotel vouchers, while I tried to keep Caitie calm. Jayden was no problem. It was utter chaos though, with everyone confused and the airport staff not being much help. Eventually we got vouchers for Jet Park hotel, for two rooms, with breakfast included. They said we had to board ‘the yellow bus’, but to get there we had to go to departures, collect our suitcases from baggage claim, go through customs (including filling in arrival forms – it was totally ridiculous answering ‘0’ to the question ‘How many days have you been out of NZ?’) and then figure out where the hell the yellow bus went from. Others were just as confused as we were, and eventually someone figured out where the yellow bus departed from, but we were so fed up and tired by then. Steve opted to catch a taxi, and said we’d just seek reimbursement for it the next day along with everyone who’d gone home.
It was 2am by the time we got to the hotel. It was reasonably nice. Clean and tidy. We settled the kids in one room, and they pretty much fell straight into bed. Then Steve and I crashed as well, after setting an alarm for the next morning. We’d been told we had to be at the airport by 10am, and we wanted to have plenty of time for Jayden to eat breakfast.
The next morning we got up and showered and dressed in clean clothes before heading down for breakfast. The buffet included cooked food (bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, hash browns), pastries and muffins, cereals, toast and fruit. Jayden had two full lots of cooked breakfast, four serves of fruit and then went back for more cooked food. That is some serious growth spurt! We were charged $20 for the breakfast, because apparently there was a price limit on the ‘complimentary breakfast’ that no one had told us about. Hmm….
I rang the travel agent and explained that our flight had been cancelled and asked her about the connecting flight to Manila. She said she’d ring the airline and she’d also contact our travel insurer. She rang back and said she hadn’t managed to get through, but she could see that our flight was scheduled to leave Auckland at 2:30pm. We were surprised to hear it had been brought forward, and disappointed and annoyed that the airline hadn’t bothered contacting us to let us know. The hotel did complimentary shuttles to the airport, so we arranged to bring ours forward half an hour and got to the airport about 9:30am.
The flight we were supposed to be on wasn’t on the board that shows all the departing flights. There were no flights to Manila showing at all. Someone else on our flight kindly told us which queue to join. The queue was a mile long already. Yay.
By 2:30pm, when our flight was supposedly leaving, we were still in the queue, albeit closer to the counter. What a joke. Finally we got our baggage checked in again, and we got our boarding passes. They hadn’t given us the seats we’d pre-booked and prepaid for. What a waste of time and money that had been. No window seat between the four of us. At least the boys got aisle seats, but Caitie and I had both really wanted window seats, and… Well, no use whining over it, is there? Nothing we can do about it now. Hmph.
In order to get a refund for our taxi, we had to go to the Philippine Air office at the airport and provide a copy of our passports and receipt, and sign. The taxi had cost us $30, but the guy only had $20 notes, so he said ‘I’ll owe you $10’. Seriously? This whole thing was such a farce. We asked about our seats, and they said we’d definitely have the seats we booked for the flight from Milan to Heathrow. Speaking of, they said we’d probably have to stay overnight in Manila, but they’d sort all that out when we got to Manila.
It’s quite scary getting on a plane to go to a foreign country without knowing the details of how you’re going to get to your final destination, and hoping that someone somewhere will know what’s happening and sort it all out for you. With the ineptitude we’d seen so far, we were very nervous about everything being resolved.
We made it through customs without further drama, and boarded the plane. We finally took off at about 4pm.