Landing in Luanda

I had a hell of a trip this time. We left Houston about an hour late after sitting (all ready to go) on the runway for 30-40 minutes. I was thinking maybe I would still be able to make my connection in London. Until they announced that they were turning our plane around. 😦

We got off the (full) plane and shuffled across the terminal to the new gate where they had another plane waiting for us. It was supposed to be ready for us to go right aboard. Something changed tho. Those of us with connections in London had to stand in line at the desk while the gate agents tried to find us new connections.

When I finally made it to the desk to talk to an agent, they told me that since my company had bought the tickets for my trip separately, they couldn’t do anything to help me. I would have to talk to the connecting airline once I got to London.

Has anyone else ever heard of this? You buy a ticket to go from one place to another. You make sure all connecting flights are on partner airlines, you get one ticket with one confirmation number so everything seems OK. Lesson learned, it’s NOT.

I didn’t buy these tickets personally. My company sets up my travel arrangements to and from work. I’ve never had any problems like this before. Usually, when a problem with the original flight causes you to miss your connection, that carrier is responsible to get you on the next available flight. Apparently, it doesn’t always work this way. 😦

I tried to call my company to let them know what was going on. I had an emergency number and the number for the rig I was going to and a couple of others. I called all of them and no one answered. I was able to leave a message on at least one of them.

I wasn’t really sure if anyone had received my message or if they were doing anything to arrange for my passage on from London, so when I got to London I turned my phone on hoping for a call from my company and proceeded to try to get the airlines to get me to my final destination somehow.

I went to TAP first, since United told me in Houston that they could/would not do anything for me (because of the separate ticket issue). TAP told me that they could/would not do anything for me since it was United that screwed up and ruined my connections so they were responsible for me. They did have flights available that they could get me on, but it would cost me 860 GBP to replace my tickets! They suggested I go back to United and try again.

I did that. I was lucky to get a very good agent this time (thanks again Usama). He did his best to help me and really came through. He was able to route me through Johannesburg to arrive in Luanda by noon the next day. Even got my luggage straightened out to make sure my bag would be on the flight with South African Airlines.
Lucky me, I thought I was all set and would have a couple of hours to rest and relax in the airport lounge. I figured I would try to call my company again and if there was no answer I would send emails.
I checked my phone and there were a couple of voice mails, but for some reason when I tried to listen to them they disappeared. I have a very new phone and I’m not really used to it yet so maybe I did something wrong. 😦
I tried to check for records of calls in and calls out but it looks like this phone doesn’t save that information like my last phone did. Since I didn’t have the phone number for the person I was going to try to reach on my phone, I tried to get online with my computer to check my email.
I FINALLY found an unused electrical outlet in the lounge where I could use my computer without running out of juice (it’s old and sucks down the battery pretty quickly). As soon as I opened up my email, I found a couple of messages from my company.
First thing that popped out at me was that they had already arranged another flight for me. I guess they DID get my messages from Houston after all. Next message from them was to call them asap. So, I called.
The result of the conversation was that I needed to cancel the flight through Johannesburg that I had FINALLY managed to get United to arrange for me and take an Air France flight through Paris! I don’t know how much money that ticket cost but I know it wasn’t cheap!
The reason for spending all that money for another ticket rather than allow me to take the free flight through Johannesburg that was already arranged (and paid for)? That I would arrive in Luanda at 1200 noon and the Air France flight would have me arriving at 0500 am!
OK, I get it. They would like me to arrive at work as early as possible. The issue for me is that I had already been awake since I got up to get ready to leave home. So, since 0600 Tuesday morning August 12th. It was already around noon on August 13th, so I had already been up for 36 hours (adding 6 hours for GMT).
The original flight they had booked me would have allowed me to get at least a few hours of sleep at the hotel. The Air France flight would have me awake for a total of 54 hours by the time I arrived in Luanda and then I would have to spend another few hours in the airport and helicopter trying to keep my eyes open while getting from the airport in Luanda to the rig on the helicopter.
I don’t know about you, but I am not one of those people who can sleep anywhere. I really envy those people sometimes. I can only sleep if I can lie down comfortably (or, if I am just SO damn tired it’s impossible to stay awake anymore).
So, I was NOT looking forward to canceling the South African flight. I did do it tho. I went back to the South African Air desk to try and have them find my luggage before they put it on their plane (and would have to delay their flight taking my luggage off when they found out I was not actually on the plane- ‘security issue’ so they say).
Of course, they could not actually FIND my luggage and told me I would have to go back to the United desk to save my luggage. At that point, I didn’t have the time to even try to get to the United desk, much less try to get my luggage issue resolved. I would have to hurry to get from terminal 1 over to terminal 4 where the Air France flight was departing from.
Other than the usual time wasted going through ‘security’ once again (I had been no place other than inside secure areas of airports since 1200 on the 12th), things went pretty smoothly. If they didn’t, I would have missed that flight too.
I did make it. Stuck in the middle seat (probably due to last minute purchase of tickets) all the way to Paris. At least it was only a short (1.5 hours) flight.
I arrived in Paris and tried to use my United lounge pass and no such luck! United is a ‘Star Alliance’ member and Air France is not, so I couldn’t even find a comfortable place to chill out for the layover in Paris.
The next flight from Paris to Luanda was also stuffed full but I was lucky to at least have an aisle seat for the 8 hour flight. Thank goodness for small favors.
I was SO tired by this point, I think I actually fell asleep for a few minutes at a time during this flight. I know because every time I did, my seatmate had to wake me up to go to the bathroom, or else the flight attendants would knock me in the elbow passing by with the drink cart.
We arrived in Angola before dawn. There was a mad scramble to get in line for immigration. There must have been over 300 people in line and only about 5 immigration agents to process us all. I was lucky again and pulled aside by one of the officials to start another line, so I got to show my papers fairly quickly.
Since I didn’t have a visa and had to get one on arrival, the immigration agent just looked at my yellow fever certificate and sent my passport and official paperwork off with another agent while I was to wait off to the side.
It didn’t really take them very long to come back with it. Only about 30 minutes. After they gave me my passport back with the visa stuck in there, I was free to pick up my luggage and go.
I was one of the last people from my flight to arrive at the baggage claim and the carousel had already stopped turning. Just as I suspected, my luggage did NOT make it to Luanda.
Once again, my luggage was lost in transit. At least it was not a surprise this time. I also knew it had arrived safely in London, both United and Air France confirmed that before I left London.
I went to the lost and found office and proceeded to fill out the paperwork for my bag. Thank goodness, I TRIED to pack lightly this time. Last time I found out they have very low weight limits on baggage for the helicopters out to the rig.
I really didn’t have much to worry about in there except for my prescription safety glasses and comfortable steel toed boots (if those things could EVER really be considered at all comfortable). I just had a few other things like work shirts, underwear, socks, flip-flops, tooth-paste, etc.
Thank goodness I was able to send a box of stuff over to this ship from my last one! At least I have a few pair of underwear and a couple of days worth of toothpaste. I HOPE they will deliver my bag on the next Air France flight to arrive in Luanda. They should, they know to be on the look out for it. I just hope it gets here on the next chopper after that (which might not be til Tuesday).
Yes, I did go straight out from the international airport to the domestic airport to catch the helicopter to the rig. I was put on the 1800-0600 (night) watch so was able to get about 3 hours of sleep before going on watch. Yeah, right, 3 hours after all that.
Here’s to the wonderful world of travel to Africa! 😉

8 thoughts on “Landing in Luanda

  1. Oh my Heavens, Jill!!! This is travel at it’s worst! I hope you finally get some time to sleep, and here’s hoping for a really comfortable bed! 🙂


    • Thanks Caroline! I’ve had a few hours of sleep now and feeling much better!! Now to make it through fire and boat drills today and all should be well for another week.
      Bed is not that comfortable, but feels pretty good anyway after working 1800-0600.


    • Thanks Penny! I’m just glad to finally get to the ship and get a few hours of sleep!! I’ve been here 2 days now and had at least one day to catch up so feeling MUCH better now! I hope things will go smoothly from now on.
      I am still waiting on my luggage. Hopeful that it will show up by Tuesday.


  2. Pingback: Long Time Lost (Luggage) | Capt Jills Journeys

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