Eventful Travel

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A friend e-mailed me Thursday expressing his wish that our trip from Birmingham to Morocco at the first of the week had been “uneventful.” In my reply to him I had to admit that it in fact had been quite the contrary, a situation that seems to be occurring more frequently in our travel over the past few years. I am uncertain as to whether we experience more difficulties since with advancing age we seem more challenged by events that now appear to provide formidable obstacles, or if changes in society and the travel industry, coupled with an attitude that seems to suggest less interest in providing good service combine to create scenarios that are often frustrating and annoying, producing what seem to be interminable delays.

The first premonition that Monday might prove to be less than a perfect travel day early Sunday evening when an e-mail arrived from Delta informing us that our flight from Paris to Casablanca, scheduled with their partner Air France on Tuesday afternoon, had been cancelled. The pilots” labor union chose last week to express their latest grievance via a strike and certain flights, predictably including ours, were targeted for “annulation.”

Denise immediately went into travel agent mode and managed to arrange reserved seats for us on Royal Air Maroc from Charles de Gaulle airport, leaving about 90 minutes later than our original planned departure. She had to stay on the phone only about an hour or so to make the changes in our itinerary. The Delta agent assured Denise we were “good to go” and sent an e-mail verifying our reservations. We thought we were home free, especially after we were moved up to an earlier flight to Atlanta from Birmingham, ensuring that we would have no problems in making our first connection.

Our optimism was unfounded! The overnight flight left on time at about 11:30 p.m. On the eight and one half hour trip to Paris we even managed to get some sleep. I suppose if one is suitably fatigued, that is always possible. We knew we had to check in at the Royal Air Maroc counter once we landed, but locating it in the incredibly chaotic organizational scheme at Charles de Gaulle proved to be quite a challenge. We persisted and found the correct check-in counter with a line of people so long it appeared to be the line for a ride at Disney World; lots of other Air France flights had been canceled as well.

It only took us 45 minutes or so to discover that we had everything we needed but the one thing we most needed. Evidently a ticket number that had been promised by the Delta agent had never materialized. That was extremely disappointing given that our travel day was sitting at about 20 hours by that time. Fifteen minutes of phone calls by the customer service representative of RAM came to naught and we were sent all the way back to the Air France counter.

By this time Denise had taken over the negotiations since she preferred I not get arrested. We were surprised to learn that Air France actually had a non-cancelled flight to Casablanca about eight p.m. and we eagerly accepted whatever was offered. We left almost on time, and because France is one time zone ahead of Morocco, we anticipated the three and one-half hour flight would put us into Casablanca about ten p.m.

We got there about that time but our bags stayed in Paris! Filling out forms and making sure the baggage would theoretically arrive the next day took another hour or so. We decided to splurge for a Grand Taxi to the hotel in Casablanca since the train would have required another one hour wait. By the time we checked in, the time we had been”traveling” had stretched to about 26 hours.

Things would surely be better on Wednesday morning we thought, but when a phone call told us the bags would not be in Casablanca until Thursday we decided to go on to Fes and worry about baggage later. We have pretty much all the essentials at our apartment and felt we would eventually be reunited with our bags. Our demeanor improved dramatically by mid-afternoon when we arrived in Fes and began to see some of our friends. However, to none of them did I suggest the trip had been uneventful; indeed it had been way too eventful.

Fred

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