Totally bonkers and nutty and filled with stress.
That’s what’s it’s like to try and fly on Lloyd Aereo Boliviano.
First one cancellation, then the second. I went to the airport and they gave me a voucher for a hotel. The Red Roof Inn at MIA was perfectly pleasant. I walked next door and paid way too much for decent food at Bennigan’s. I enjoyed walking in the evening of Miami, though, after the chills of Missouri. So, okay, good hotel experience for a free night.
I was told that the next day we’d have a flight. Right, whatever. I went with it, though. I scheduled it with the contact in Miami, the kind family that let me stay at their house when the flights were cancelled, to store my luggage (8 pieces, not counting the cat) in their pickup throughout the day. That way I wouldn’t have to deal with that monstrousity of a headache while negotiating to make sure I had a flight. Plan fell through. Without delving into details, I soon found myself with all 8 pieces of luggage and a cat in the airport completely on my own. Oh, but was this fun!
I camped out with all of the luggage right in front of the LAB ticketing counter. It was 2:00pm. The counter would open at 7:00pm. At about 3:30pm I realized that I had to get to the bank in order to pull out the cash for my luggage and any emergencies overseas between Miami and Cochabamba, Bolivia. and yet? Luggage. I had all of the trunks and duffel bags stacked onto two airport luggage carts, with Captain Pausert’s Prison perched atop one of them. Keep in mind that my previous airport experience involved my passport/wallet/ID/cash/everything stolen while I was carrying it. I was not about to leave my luggage. I did part from it to run the 60 feet to an airport directory map in order to determine where the bank was.
The LAB counter, where I was camped, was in Concourse E Level 2. The Bank of America was in Concourse A Level 4. Maybe B. I think A. Whatever – it was far.
I pushed one cart ahead of me and pulled the other behind. They were disastrous to steer – I’d aim them in the necessary direction and then move forward about six feet. Then I’d pause, re-align, and push. Repeat. Repeat through elevators. Repeat through countless long hallways. Repeat up and down inclines. Repeat repeat repeat. I made it to the Bank of America and back to the LAB counter with my luggage carts only unstacking themselves messily once, and I burned about 9,000,000 calories. It took almost an hour and a half.
Skip ahead through the hours. I’m tired and pissy and I want to be in Bolivia. The LAB fellow comes out and starts arranging the line-organizing-poles. I was smiley and making chitchat. All was well. They started speaking very, very fast Spanish to let everyone know what the deal was. I essentially monopolized the Guy In Charge because he was willing to speak English. They had a list of names of the people that were going to be able to fly out that night. I was #2.
This was a Very Good Thing.
Except, of course, I would be flying on a different airline and thus only be able to take one piece of luggage. LAB would fly all of my other 8 luggage pieces via cargo the next week. Problem: when luggage flies cargo, the cargo goes through the very intense version of customs. Fortunes are swiftly charged. I’d pay more in customs than I’d paid to purchase the supplies and fly them via passenger plane! Unacceptable, and the LAB guy was openly lying about the customs issue and mocking my refusal. The alternative was that I accept the flight on AeroSur and put my luggage on standby. I knew, though, that once I signed and accepted the AeroSur ticket that LAB would no longer accept me as their responsibility. The guy even said so, at one point! So, hypothetically, I could end up stuck in Miami with all of my things, having been abandoned by the contact who’d promised my father he’d manage the airport headaches, and be without a ticket to Bolivia and without a voucher for hotels.
That would be a Very Bad Thing.
I spent the next hour + some arguing and fighting for a commitment that my luggage would be accepted and LAB would Make Everything Work. I recorded it all, and one of these days I’ll upload it for amusement and posterity. The process was maddening – I’d negotiate with LAB Jerkface who claimed he was the Highest LAB Official on the Eastern U.S. Coast that night, my father would call me for an update, he’d call the travel agent and find out that what LAB Jerkface was saying was nonsense, and then I’d negotiate again. Eventually everything was at a standstill. I agreed to let LAB store my luggage in their office while I grabbed a sandwich and went to the bathroom. One sandwich purchased and stored in my TimBuk2 and a HUGE espresso swiftly guzzled at Starbucks, and I was set. I camped out back at the LAB counter and photographed the LAB Jerkface for records-purposes.
I reinitiated chats with my fellow stranded passengers. A bond had quickly grown between us throughout the day. Most of them barely spoke English, and I’d not practiced Spanish since the college courses… it was limited. One lady, however, informed me that AeroSur was allowing extra luggage after all. A bit of questioning later, and I decided to go to AeroSur myself to find out what was up.
In the meantime, my father had called the boss of the fellow who’d abandoned me at MIA. The boss sent the guy back out. By that time, of course, I’d gotten past the worst of the experiences and really wasn’t excited about dealing with an additional variable, no matter how good the fellow’s intentions were. Regardless, he reappeared and helped me cart my things through the lines at AeroSur, which I did greatly appreciate.
For the first time in hours, I had hopes of making it out of the country intact.