Airport purgatory

Spoke too soon. Landed early in New York only to be delayed on the tarmac while we waited for another plane to move and then delayed again while they tried to get the airbridge to connect to the plane. Minutes passed and my dreams of being able to jump off the plane, race through Customs and miraculously find a flight from JFK to Toronto straight away were fading. (I’d seen on the screen on the plane that there was a departing flight to Toronto from JFK that other people on my flight would be catching. Alas it was not to be.)

Customs was a dream to get through. The officer was pleasant and friendly, which was a welcome relief at what would have been 2am London time. I hadn’t slept on the flight so was nice and tired by this stage.

Because of the delay in getting off the plane, the luggage had all come through by the time we got to the baggage carousel and it had all been stacked next to the carousel. I looked up and down the luggage line but my bag wasn’t there. I was still hoping I could get an earlier flight but I was also watching the clock as the last shuttle bus to LaGuardia was supposed to be at 11pm and it was now about 10:30. With no luggage in sight, I asked if any more was due out (the carousel was still turning despite being devoid of baggage). They said no and directed me to baggage services.

I have never had my luggage go missing on a flight. It was always one of those things that happened to other people or in movies. I mean, how could they possibly lose a bag in this day and age? But it turns out they can quite happily lose luggage and in fact it seems to be so regular, at least for American Airlines, that the staff don’t even bat an eyelid when it happens. It even seems routine!

So I joined a queue of people who had all been on my flight (including the guy who had sat next to me), everyone in various states of distress, to ask where, oh where, had our luggage gone and, more importantly, when would we get it back.

Apparently mine will show up in Toronto. Somehow. Some day. The girl who told me this spoke so quietly I had to ask her to repeat everything. Hopefully she put it going through to the right city, and the right bag (never before have I been gladder that I kept the baggage receipt). Slightly frustrating that I wouldn’t have it with me, especially as I have to go to a different airport and I won’t arrive in Toronto until 8:30am. Maybe my bag will beat me there.

I left baggage “services”, found the shuttle service (it was now quarter to ten) and luckily there was going to be a shuttle at 11:15 to LaGuardia. I raced upstairs to check if there was an earlier flight to Toronto but the AA representative said there wasn’t. Though I’m not quite sure she understood my question, so wishy-washy was her answer. So I went back downstairs and waited for the shuttle.

Which was late.

When it arrived, it was a nice, air conditioned (it’s been 35 degrees in New York today) and with comfy seats. More like a people mover than a bus, which was pleasant. Sharing the ride was a young Russian guy, who has to fly to Denver then Dallas (or is it the other way around?) and two women whose US Airways flight came in late so they missed their connecting Delta flight.

When I climbed aboard the driver asked where I wanted to go. “LaGuardia,” I said. “Well, LaGuardia’s closed so which bit do you want to go to? A hotel?”

Ugh.

Thankfully he then said there was a 24 hour food hall in the airport which stayed open and I could sit in there. We arrived at La Guardia a lot quicker than I expected (was meant to take an hour) and sure enough, everything was shut tight except this food court. At least it’s inside, undercover and well heated.

The Russian guy came with me and we joined about twenty other people in various positions (some lying flat by the big windows – like us – with others sitting on chairs, leaning on tables, or even sleeping across the tables). Some sleeping, some watching things on the laptops. I think I managed to get a little bit of sleep. I was very glad I bought a jumper with me to lie on and an inflatable pillow. It’s still uncomfortable lying on a metal grate.

It’s now quarter past three and check-in will commence in another hour and forty-five minutes. I really need to pee but the restrooms are locked.

The other downside of not having my baggage is that I can’t put the two bottles of Pimm’s in it. I think what I’ll have to do is take the important stuff out of my backpack and stuff the bottles in there, then check that. Who knows how safe that will be, with no locks to keep the zip closed?

I just have to think that in five hours I will be back in Toronto. OH MY GOD! FIVE HOURS!!!

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