Because people asked.
So there I was, happily esconced at a friends place in Vancouver, enjoying the cool, sunny weather of a British Columbia fall, when I got the news that Mexicana went from the suspending a few flights (Vancouver-Houston had been un-affected up to this point) to a complete shut-down, due to, as their website blurb pointed out, a failure in reaching agreements with certain sectors (nudge nudge wink wink; read unions).
I returned my rental vehicle to the Vancouver airport on September 2, as scheduled and looked for the lonely Mexicana counter, tucked in forlornly among the myriad Cathay Pacific and China Air counters, where I found about 4 people standing around, all Mexicans, waiting on someone to help them. When asked, the Vancouver airport information desk person stated that she had received word that no one would be in from Mexicana that day but, the Mexican in me said, let’s go have a coffee and think about this and someone will probably show up. And they did.
Two non-uniformed employees of Mexicana, who make up the backbone of the airlines operations in Vancouver I was told later, helped the 4 Mexicans get flights home via Air Canada and American Airlines, who were the only companies helping Mexicana out. When it came to my turn, I was informed that there was an option via Air Canada but that would mean flying to Toronto and then on to Mexico somewhere. Toronto! Flying across the continent was not appealing to me at all and I mentioned that I was in no rush (it was still sunny in Vancouver after all) and so I got a voucher for American Airlines to fly Vancouver-Dallas/Ft Worth-Mexico City on September 4, 2 days later. I was to be at the airport at 8:30, 3 hours before the flight. OK. I went back to my friends place to enjoythe sun.
On September 4, I arrived at 9:00 AM at the American Airlines counter to find it closed. What? Asking again at the information desk, the nice lady told me that the flight had already left at 10:00. Now I was confused. Had it left early or what? There was no time on the travel voucher given to me and so I trundled off with my very overstuffed, overweight luggage to the Mexicana counter which, this time, was closed. After considering my dilemma, I asked the nice folks at China Air where the Mexicana people were and was told that no, they were not coming in today but did I know that they had an office right behind the counters, just over there? No, I did not. In I went, luggage in tow and found the man who had helped me on September 2.
“Que le paso?” he exclaimed upon seeing me again.
I explained and he said no, no, no, he had told me that the FLIGHT was at 8:30 AM and to be 3 hours before that. Obviously I had misunderstood him and MISSED MY FLIGHT.
Was there another option, I asked. No, we are quickly running out of alternatives and even Air Canada has pulled the plug on us. You will have to go to American Airlines and see if they can accommodate you on another flight using that voucher.
Off I go to American Airlines to see what they can do. After standing in line for a while (they were checking in their afternoon flight now) the counter lady tells me “Well, that voucher is good for 24 hours only and today is completely booked and it looks like tomorrow is as well”.
Mussing my hair up discreetly, I tell her that I am really getting exhausted from sleeping at the airport and could she please pretty please check again, I would really appreciate it. Lo and behold, a spot comes up and she tells me to come back tomorrow at 10:45 AM to check in for their 2:05 PM flight to Dallas and then on to DF. After making her repeat the time I needed to be there about seventeen times I get on my knees and thank her. Not really, but I was extremely grateful and told her so.
On September 5, my dear friend once again drove me to the airport,luggage and all and this time I was first in line at the American Airlines counter at 10:00 AM sharp. At 11:00 AM, there were many folks behind me, all coming from the Alaska cruise (which departs from Vancouver) and all with some sort of respiratory infection they caught on the ship. Another reason to stay away from cruiseships, I thought.
The counter person, to whom I explained my sad (sort of) situation (again) took pity on me and did not charge the $100 USD overweight baggage charge, saying only that he would tag it as ‘heavy’ and that I had been through enough grief. The truth is that I had not really been at all stressed; what with no where to go, no where to be and a very comfortable bed at my friends place and did I mention that it had been sunny up to that point? Nevertheless, I appreciated the gesture greatly since it left some room on the credit card which I immediately put to good use in the fancy-pants restaurant and my long-suffering friend and I had a great breakfast.
Once on the plane, aisle seat, emergency exit with lots of leg room (!) I texted home to say I was finally on my way.
In Dallas, a two hour layover allowed me to sample Cousins Barbeque before getting back on the plane to DF. I missed the free WiFi that Vancouver International Airport offers it’s visitors however; call it socialism, you Republican freaks of nature, but it is very comforting to be able to communicate with loved ones from the airport and is just a NICE gesture. In Dallas/Ft Worth, no free WiFi thank you very much.
Finally, after bumping along for 2 hours or so in the midst of a cloud bank that never went away, the plane touched down in Mexico City. Mexicana of course had no one at their counters since it was after midnite and so I checked into the hotel across the way, the Camino Real with the intention of heading over first thing in the morning to see about getting to Merida.
At 7:30 I was talking to a Mexicana rep who told me that there was nothing they could do for me and to go to Aeromexico, who were offering a special rate for passengers affected by the Mexicana debacle. The Aeromexico counter person informed me that no, there was nothing going to Merida that had any space on it. What about Cancun, I asked hopefully, crossing my fingers. Yes, there was a flight at 8:30 AM and I could go on that. Do it, I said.
Rushed back to the hotel, combed my hair, got the luggage, and checked out. Terminal 2 was quite a hike the receptionist informed me – would I like to take the shuttle? It was standing outside, ready to go. OK.
Arriving at Terminal 2, a spectacular new building, I rushed to the gate. The wheelchair person (all the ticket checkers at the entrance to the secured areas are in wheelchairs it seems) asks me “Are you planning to take that suitcase on board?” Shit! With time running out, I race back to the check in counter where I find a long lineup for Aeromexico flights. I will never make this, I think to myself and text home saying that I may be coming home soon but then again, maybe not. Suddenly, an announcement comes over the PA system indicating that passengers on the Cancun flight are to report to a special window set up just for them as the flight is about to begin boarding. Rushing over, I am helped quickly enough, only I need to get in this other line-up to pay for the grossly overweight luggage I plan to take with me. Once this is done, I am issued a boarding pass and run back to my wheelchair friends who look me over and wave me through.
As I arrive at the gate, the boarding announcement is made and once I am actually on the plane, I phone home to say that yes, I will be getting there – almost – soon. Almost because I will be arriving in Cancun, not Merida. Aisle seat, emergency exit, lots of leg room. Coincidence? Who knows.
In Cancun, I am assaulted by the humidity and heat as I drag myself and my luggage outside to consider my next move. There is the ADO bus to Merida which is comfy but which means I need to move my heavy junk to the shuttle to downtown and then negotiate the lines downtown to get my Merida ticket. OR, I could take the ADO shuttle from the airport itself which goes straight to Altabrisa mall in Merida. I decide on the latter. I will be taking the Sprinter, I am informed upon paying my 450 pesos or so, in cash: thankfully I have saved a $500 peso bill for whatever reason.
Now I understood that the Sprinter meant the actual Sprinter, a small bus made by Renault, Peugeot or one of those French companies that is actually called a Sprinter. Alas, no such animal awaited me; rather it was a Nissan Urvan van, which seats 2 comfortably and 9 really uncomfortably. On this trip there were 11 of us, not counting the driver. “But you will stop in Valladolid”, the fellow at the airport says “for a bathroom stop”. I look forward to having a Donia Tere taco and a decent coffee at the Italian Coffee location on the way, as I accommodate my knees up around my ears and settle in.
The driver, unfortunately has no such plans and two hours later zips by the Isla de Servicios on the way to Merida. I wistfully look back at Donia Tere and hunker down for another hour and a half of this fun ride.
Finally, I arrive at the Altabrisa ADO mini-station where the driver pops the trunk and leaves us. We are to unload the luggage ourselves which we do, rather stiffly, in the wet heat of a sunny Merida afternoon.
We are home.