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International air travel: What a nightmare it is!: Ed O'Connor

Posted 8/7/18

It took five weeks and a total of 16,130 miles for our round trip from Cuenca, Ecuador, to Romania. Traveling would be great if Scotty could just “beam us up.”

As it is, going vast …

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International air travel: What a nightmare it is!: Ed O'Connor

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It took five weeks and a total of 16,130 miles for our round trip from Cuenca, Ecuador, to Romania. Traveling would be great if Scotty could just “beam us up.”

As it is, going vast distances from Point A to Point B must be accomplished by air travel — which is a supreme pain in the gluteus maximus or thereabouts. I can’t think of anything more irritating or annoying except having to listen to Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters.

For international travel, one must be at the airport three hours before scheduled take off. Why? That remains one of life’s great mysteries. None of the airlines opened their check-in counters until two hours before departure. One had to stand in line with luggage for more than an hour.

After check-in was accomplished, next are all the security checkpoints one must navigate so as to enjoy and embrace all the friendly, smiling faces of the uniformed security personnel. I wasn’t sure if I was in this line to board a plane or be sent to prison.

Put your personal belonging in the plastic tubs … off with the shoes … off with the belts … off with the jackets … off with the watches … everything out of the pockets — yes, including coins and phones … get that computer out of the bag — put it in a separate plastic bin … get rid of that water bottle … put out the dog and bring in the cat.

After those items were searched, X-rayed and scrutinized, one got to do the above in reverse. When one has reorganized, then it is on to the body scanner, where one has to lift his arms in a position of submission and/or surrender and walk through the portal.

Passing through the scanner, I activated the alarm. Oops — I noticed that I had failed to remove my 37-year-old, $5.99 wristwatch. I had to raise my arms like a criminal and be scanned by a handheld portable unit by another happy face — twice. He was dumbfounded that he could not locate the source of the offending article.

I looked at him and asked if he thought it could be the watch on my wrist. After a few guttural, unrecognizable words from him, he sent me on my way to the next affable person at passport check. Having survived the gauntlet so far, I was good to go. Now to the boarding gate area and more waiting.

Fortunately, here there were chairs — if an empty chair could be found. Prior to boarding time, everyone lined up early wanting to be the first ones on the plane. For what reason, I can’t fathom. The seats are assigned. Getting on first didn’t qualify for a seat of one’s choice. We remained in our chairs until the vast majority boarded — then we made our move. No standing in line.

Praise the Lord! We are now on the plane at Guayaquil International Airport heading for our first stop — Madrid, Spain. I wore slacks and a sport coat. Had there been a contest, I would have won the “best dressed” trophy. If you are old enough to remember how flying was in the past (and I do), passengers were well dressed and decently groomed. No more! I have seen better attired homeless. Now we have the cut-offs and flip-flop crowd. Plus, my favorites are the ones wearing clothing expressly to expose their “beautiful” tattoos.

Another fun thing I enjoy about flying are the babies/children. What a joy to be cooped up on a plane for 11 hours with bawling, screaming, yelling snot-gobblers, some running up and down the aisles. Don’t get me wrong — I love children. My favorite way is stir-fried.

We flew in an Airbus A330-200 with about 290 passengers. After 11 hours and 20 minutes sitting on the most uncomfortable, small seats I’ve ever endured, we touched down at Madrid International Airport.

And here we go again. Everyone wanted to be the first to deplane. It resembled a Chinese fire drill. We remained seated until almost all departed the craft. No rush for us — we had an 18-hour layover before our flight to Romania. There was the usual mad scramble at the luggage carousel. Are we having fun yet or what?

Because of the time zone changes it was 2:10 a.m. As before, time to go through customs and security. It was now after 3 a.m. It beats me how we or our luggage could have been compromised while we were flying, but as we are all aware — governments know best.

Because of the long layover, our travel agent had booked a room for us at a nearby hotel. We planned to sleep a bit, then tour Madrid for a day. Since Spain is a member of the European Union, the currency is the euro, of which we had none — and there wasn’t a currency exchange open at this hour. We needed cab service to our hotel but had no euros. Now what?

A taxi driver told us not to worry – we could use a credit card. Problem solved. I just hated to use my Capital One card for such a small amount. Five minutes later we were at our hotel. Cost of the ride — $31.

The front desk was open and I presented our reservation information. Yes, they had our reservation and we could check in … at 9 a.m. – in six hours. Six hours waiting in the lobby? Fortunately, there was an inn across the street. We went into this hotel. They had a room available immediately, hence we stayed there.

Upon arising we had breakfast and took another “inexpensive” cab to the city. Having limited time and wanting to get the flavor of the city, we took a tour bus around Madrid. It was hotter than the hinges of hell, so the air-conditioned bus was welcome.

I must say — I was not very impressed with Madrid. We did some walking around town — at least the beer was cold. Returning to the hotel via cab, we retrieved our bags, then back to the airport by taxi. Total spent on taxis that day — $110.

At the Madrid airport, it was the same routine of check-in and security checks as described before.

Next stop — Romania … to be continued.

Your globetrotting buddy … Eddy O

Ed O’Connor, a former resident of Middletown and Lower Swatara Township, is an expatriate living in Cuenca, Ecuador.