Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stuck in transit

We drank high-class booze and ate truffle-infused deep fried balls of macaroni and cheese until 1 in the morning, then went back to the flat, picked up our luggage and headed to the airport.

Our flight didn't depart until 7, so arriving at the airport at 3 seemed a bit premature. Changi is a strange, almost unearthly place that early in the morning; you can look up to the enormous ceiling of the check-in hall, and see birds flitting between the rafters.

Or you can look at the check in desks, where a huddle of coral-jacketed airport staff had a last minute pep talk.

They kept going into these huddles, and then not doing much. United's reservation systems were completely borked for about three hours this morning; you couldn't be checked in, the website was utterly down, and it looked like somebody was going to start writing out boarding tickets by hand. We were told that if we'd checked in online already, they could issue us tickets. Well, perhaps they could have done, if my online check-in yesterday hadn't resulted in that self-contradicting THIS IS NOT A BOARDING PASS boarding pass.

So instead, we waited, and waited, and waited, and at about 6 the computers began to work again, and we could consign our luggage to the abyss that is United's cargo handling. I have little faith that we'll see it before we leave Montreal, but I'm just a cynic.

United's planes are of variable quality. The plane from Singapore to Tokyo, although being unfeasibly long (surely it's only 2 hours from Singapore, to Tokyo, not seven?), has a great selection of films to watch. I passed out, and spent the flight with my head lolling back and forwards, drooling onto my shirt. Still, I looked forward to the 12 hour flight to Chicago. (Can that sentence have ever been written before, or since?) I could watch a few films, catch up on all I'd missed. Except this second flight is on a 747, and the entertainment system is a big screen at one end of the cabin that You Can All Watch, Dammit, and I'm sufficiently spoiled by flying Cathay and every other airline that I expect my own screen to peer at in the darkness.

Never mind, I have a Kindle loaded with science fiction, and a laptop, and a Blackberry with a dead battery. I didn't have a vegetarian meal, because somehow, strangely, even though I have a United frequent flyer account and I've specified vegetarian food again and again, this was apparently news to the catering team.

They'd loaded a vegetarian meal for my wife, which in some ways was even stranger, but I shouldn't complain: I got a slice of apple that tasted of soil, a salad of lettuce leaves and minced carrot, with a solitary chunk of lemon to flavour it, and some lentils. At least United are cheap, I suppose. I don't want to fly with them ever again though; I keep asking myself why I didn't book with Delta instead (where I have a slightly higher flier status, ad so wouldn't get relegated to the Biggest Queue In The World to clear customs at Narita, while they direct the three or four members of the aristocracy to a separate line.


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