Galapagos Trip: Planning and Day 1 (Newark and Miami)

This is the first in the series of Sara’s trip to the Galapagos.

I booked a flight with my old college roommate, Cathy, to the Galapagos Islands to visit a friend we knew in college. We used to compare the prices of flights. Since Cathy is a Miami native and because it seemed wise to break up the flight into smaller trips, we chose to fly from Newark airport down to Miami. 

Our itinerary was that the flight to Miami would be with United while the flight to the Galapagos (first arriving in Quito, Ecuador) would be with LAN. LAN is an Ecuadorian airline and a OneWorld member that is affiliated with American Airlines (see Dave’s article on other OneWorld members).

I arrived at 10:30 am on August 5th to Newark airport for my 12:45 pm flight. Despite that I was over two hours early, this meant nothing. TSA had shut down the security checkpoints of terminal C because of two security breaches that day. There were at least a thousand people congregated on the ground floor of terminal C alone!

We waited patiently in line until TSA agents had us merge with other lines (some of which were comprised of people that had just walked in off of the street!). Needless to say, this put us even farther back in line.

When we finally got upstairs, we were shocked to find yet another line awaiting us. Beyond the full barriers within the security ropes was a long line extending down a nearby hallway! We were annoyed, since we had already waited about two and a half hours at that point. However, we weren’t worried about our flight. Though it was now just past our 12:45 flight time, we had been told by the TSA agents that all of the flights had been delayed. Allegedly, flights that had been scheduled to leave at 9 AM were only just now leaving. We were assured that we would indeed make our flight.

Eventually, we got through security. Cathy and I went to the flight screens to see what time our flight would be rescheduled to. We saw three different Miami flights, none of which matched our flight number. Cathy went to stand on the customer service line while I went to check at our gate for any possible information. I looked at the destination screen at our gate to find it blank. I asked the woman what time the flight would leave. Apparently having answered this question a lot today, she yelled at me, saying “There is no flight!  It left already!”

I was at a loss for words. I had apparently missed my flight because TSA had made it impossible to reach the security checkpoint.  What was even worse was that TSA had not communicated the situation to our flight! We kept encountering people of authority in the airport having no knowledge of what had transpired!

After about a half hour on the phone with United customer service, Cathy lucked out by getting a representative that genuinely wanted to help. He couldn’t find a single opening on a United flight to Miami out of Newark, La Guardia nor JFK for the next two days! Thankfully he got us tickets on an American Airlines flight leaving in three hours.

According to the answers that other passengers’ got from other representatives, the airline was technically not responsible for getting us a new flight. Though I was grateful for the effort that our rep had put into helping us, I was admittedly very, very angry. 

Then I began wondering, why I should be grateful that they helped us.  We paid for our tickets, they owe us at least this much. Despite showing up with more time than necessary, we had been held up by TSA. Based on how many people had been stranded downstairs for hours, Cathy and I guesstimated that our plane could not possibly have left with more than 10 passengers.

I temporarily swallowed my anger though. Aggravated as I was, I didn’t want to piss off any people at the airline, Lest it might jeopardize my spot on this new flight. I resolved to handle it once I got back home. 

We took a bus over to terminal A and got through security.  We managed to get to our second flight with relative ease.

Our new flight was at 5 pm. We began taxiing around on the tarmac before the pilot announced that there was a storm coming soon to Florida. He predicted that this would result in a one hour delay. The man next to me sighed loudly in response. I told him of our ordeal and that I was at least grateful to get to sit down. He got very quiet after that. About 15 minutes later, the pilot announced that he saw a small window of time during which we could avoid the storm and that he’d go for it. The flight went smoothly after that. I spent my time alternating between reading a book and trying to carry on a conversation with a nice old Brazilian man next to me, despite that I spoke no Portuguese. 

We made decent time, arriving around 8:30. Unfortunately, Cathy’s mom, who was going to pick us up from the airport, assumed that we would take longer. We got a hold of her while she was grocery shopping. She finally arrived around 9:30 pm. By the time we got to the house, got our bags inside and answered everyone’s questions, it was about 11 pm. Needless to say, when the opportunity presented itself, I passed out. Overall mood for day 1: Argh

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