I’m never flying in March again. My flight to Amsterdam at the start of the month turned into a scrambled (but very pleasant) trip on Eurostar. My slightly worrying plan to drive to Liverpool after removing 2 inches of snow from my car first thing Saturday morning in middle March turned out to be an absolute breeze and a great weekend – post match – with our friends Tony and Lorraine Brown noted Liverpool artists. And now it’s off to Tokyo also in March.
Well the day started well for my latest travel adventure. The alarm went off, I showered, remembered to put my Swiss Army knife in the hold bag not my jeans and my trusty Data Car turned up 5 minutes early. We made good progress through wet, grey London and arrived at Terminal 4 at Heathrow for my planned rapid check in and then leisurely breakfast in the Lounge. But wait – a little problem lies ahead.
My name is entered in the Etihad system as RAGGETT/MIKE but my name on my passport says RAGGETT/MICHAEL and for security reasons they have to match. Don’t know how it happened but they won’t check me in. I am presented with a call centre number which I dial, run through the options and am told my call is ending now. So I dial again and press different options and eventually speak to Marije who is in Belgrade and tells me I need to photograph my passport (thank God I have a phone with that capability – trying to grab it in a Photo-Me booth boggles the mind) and reply to an email she’ll send me. No email arrives. I try Heathrow WiFi. I switch that off and try 4G. Still no email. So I go through all the button pushing again and eventually and miraculously, reconnect with Marije. She gives me her email address and I despatch my passport’s photo – not a work of art taken while balancing it on a suitcase and using the camera on a new phone for the first time. By now the best part of an hour has passed and there are only two staff left at the check in desks who urge me to hurry. I explain that while I may appear to be on the phone, I’m actually hearing Balkan ‘hold’ music and can’t tell it to hurry. Marije’s voice returns after an age to tell me that it’s fixed in the system and will cost me $149.90 (how?). So I now have to dig out a credit card, read her the details three times – for security – and then go to the desk where a frustrated agent had really wanted to close five minutes ago. She puts a Tokyo label on my case after I ask her to remove the one for Abu Dhabi and then a suited gentleman colleague escorts me straight to the gate. My original refusenik check in agent says, “Oh you made the flight!” With a rather surprised tone. I am on the flight by the skin of my teeth but have to go to the transfer desk at Abu Dhabi to get a boarding card for the flight on to Tokyo.
So that’s an error I won’t make again – rely on a boarding pass on my phone – even their printed version above didn’t help. I had entered my details with the full Michael on the Etihad site in order to check in online yesterday so where the discrepancy arose I don’t know. I’ll be looking carefully at my other bookings to Singapore and back to the UK to make sure I don’t miss breakfast or have to fork out 150 bucks. The joys of travel!
Amends are made half way with a beer and food in the Al Reem Lounge at Abu Dhabi airport. Bring on the orient! After all I do have a valid boarding pass for this leg.
Some time on Tuesday/Wednesday, Abu Dhabi Airport