Posted by: Ali | October 2, 2009

Airport pickups are fun?

So my first group of volunteers is arriving this week; orientation week starts on Saturday.  So far I’ve picked up three of them from the airport, but last night takes the cake.

I was a bit unprepared, I’ll admit.  The taxi arrived to take me to the airport, and the driver, who we have been working with for years, asked me what flight the volunteer was on.  I said that I didn’t know, but I knew she was on LAN airlines and getting in at 11:25 pm.  It was probably a good idea to find out the actual flight number, so I told the taxi to wait, I run upstairs, and the number is written on the whiteboard in our office.  Flight LP5397.  I run downstairs again and tell the driver the number, who then looks up arrivals on her phone (I love technology!).  She can’t find the flight, so I worry that I may have written it down wrong.  I tell the driver to wait, run back inside, and go on my computer, finding the email of the volunteer.  Turns out I had written the flight number down correctly.  I go to the LAN website and do a “flight status” lookup, and the website can’t find the flight number.  Then I do a lookup by origin city – the girl has a layover in Mexico City.  There are two flights coming in from Mexico City – one that arrives at 12:30, and one that leaves Mexico at 11:25 and arrives at 5am (I hope it’s not the latter).  So I come downstairs and tell the driver that I am positive this is the flight number the girl told me, but we might be waiting a very long time.

It is getting time that I need to leave, so we drive.  I call Ana Maria and tell her that we have a potentially big problem as this volunteer is on a non-existent flight.  I briefly panic that she maybe arrived at like 9 or 6 and has been waiting for hours, but then I decide she would have called.  Ana Maria makes some calls and checks the internet, and she tells me that the flight arriving at 12:30 is 20 minutes early so if she’s on that one I won’t be waiting that long.  She also says that this sort of thing happens on occasion and I should go to the LAN office.  Maybe the flight wasn’t full enough so they cancelled it and transferred the passengers to a different plane, so I should ask them what the new plane is.

We get to the airport and I look at the big screen of arrivals.  Oddly enough, there is a listing for a flight that just arrived at 11:25 from Mexico City, on an airline called AeroMexico, not LAN.  Flight number AM18.  I decide she might be on this one so I hang out and wait for a while.  And a while longer.  The flight from Mexico slowly creeps up the board as it gets past midnight, still no volunteer.  Strangely, there is no flight listed on the board scheduled for 12:30, or any other flight from Mexico for that matter.  I take Ana Maria’s advice and seek out the LAN office, only it’s closed, because it’s after midnight.  So I go to a check-in booth and ask to do a lookup for a passenger.  She asks the flight number, which I give to her.  She takes one look at it and says “that’s an AeroMexico” flight, she wouldn’t be in our database.”  “Just do it, please,” I say, tired.  She types things into the computer, and confirms that the volunteer is not a LAN passenger.

I sigh.  There is a customer service booth near where the new arrivals come out, so I head back that way, intending to ask where the AeroMexico office is, but I decide to give it one last shot and stand around holding my sign.  Then this girl comes through the door and walks straight at me, looking very travel-weary.  I look at her blankly, then I realize.  This is her!  I point at her, she nods, and I do a little dance.  I tell her how happy I am to have found her!  She thinks I am crazy.  We go home and live happily ever after.  Turns out she filled out the customs card wrong and she had to redo it.


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