LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA – Yes, we finally reached the Canary Islands, but it wasn’t easy. Yesterday was one of THOSE days.
As I keep saying over and over, we leave for trips beginning in Europe two days early so that our luggage will reach us and to overcome unforeseen mishaps. Yesterday we had one of those: A national strike in Spain.
Our trip began as scheduled on Tuesday with a nice flight from Ft. Myers, Fla., to Newark with our bags checked all the way to Las Palmas. We transferred to the overseas flight to Madrid and it went smoothly as well. We arrived a half hour early, at about 9 a.m. and transferred from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4 for our 1:30 p.m. flight to the Canary Islands.
It did seem strangely quiet in the terminal, so we had to wander around a bit before getting our boarding passes. We were just about to enter the security line when Chet looked at the passes and said, “Whoa, this flight is departing at 20:35, that is 8:35…ten hours from now! That has to be wrong.” So we turn around and go back to the lady who issued the boarding passes to us and she assured us that was correct. That because of the national strike today many flights were cancelled, including our earlier one, and we had been moved to the late flight.
Of course, by now we realized that the terminal was empty because of the strike and, also by now, flag-waving, chanting picketers were parading through the terminal blowing shrill whistles that set my teeth on edge. (No sympathy from me….)
So it is 9:30 and our flight is at 8:30ish…an 11-hour wait. What to do? Wait, of course. We discussed options…including trying to find an airline club room in another terminal that would accept our Delta Sky Club card. Going into Madrid (impossible because taxi drivers were also on strike). Or trying our luck in the VIP Club in this terminal.
We went ahead through security and discovered inside the cavernous space that it was nearly empty and that most of the food venues and bars (maybe a bloody mary would help?) were closed. Most of the shops were open but after an overnight flight during which I did not sleep I was NOT in the mood. McDonald’s WAS open and a few other snack bars. Our prospects were bleak.
After sitting for about an hour and a half in very hard chairs with hard arms (so no sleeping) and no internet (you had to buy it and it was very pricey) we decided to walk around and try to find the best place to get some lunch. We stopped to chat with two people manning the only information desk and mentioned that we had tried to charm (and pay) our way into the Iberia VIP lounge with no luck and I lamented that there was not a lounge available with soft chairs that we could pay a day rate for…and they said, there is!
They gave us directions and off we went to locate this mythical …almost mystical, as far as I was concerned…place that might offer us some succor. Nope, couldn’t find it. Walked at least a mile and looked in every nook we could find. Finally, I saw this funny information kiosk…I punched the button and a face appeared on the screen (hey, someone IS working!) and I asked did this lounge actually exist. He said he did and gave me more directions. And we actually did find it, but it was very out of the way.
Called the Salas VIP Barajas, it was exactly what we were looking for…a lounge that charged 25 euro apiece for day access. It had comfy chairs, several internet terminals, sandwiches, snacks, beer and wine, newspapers, magazines and TV. Because we used an American Express card, the price dropped to 18 euro each. It wasn’t very big – about 50 seats including a couple of sofas – and, of course, was busy with others stranded like us. But, as far as I am concerned, it saved the day. We settled in there for about eight hours. He napped, I watched a movie on my Ipad. He read and I edited all my contacts on my MacAir. And the food and beverages we consumed covered the cost of entry.
So many flights had been cancelled that we feared all day that ours would be, too, and so we were relieved when our 3-hour flight lifted off. We were worried that the strike might compromise our luggage routing, but our bags made it, too. Hurrah! We were in our hotel at midnight (1 a.m. Madrid time). Whew, whatta day.
So, if you are abroad and get stuck for several hours in a strange airport, go to the airport information desk and ask – right away, before others get there – where you might be able to hang out in a comfy chair. Ask if there are any day rate lounges available. It might make your stay a whole lot more palatable.
P.S. Tonight we met lots of other people joining the ship. They had flown to Newark, on to Madrid and on to Las Palmas with no mishaps. No strike today. But you never know. (And they missed a day of touring in Las Palmas, more on that in my next post.)