I’m still in Kuwait. After what was probably the most stressful and frustrating travel experience of my life, I’m now booked to fly home Wednesday.
So here’s what happened:
The sergeant who has been escorting me around picked me up at 6 a.m. I was ready and waiting outside. I threw my stuff in the back and got in, along with another sergeant who supposedly knew how to get to the airport and the female specialist who was partnered with the escorting sergeant.
It’s supposedly a half hour to 45 minute drive to the airport, so I should have been there by 6:45 a.m. for the 8:55 a.m. flight. Well, first we miss a turn. We go up two exits (they didn’t realize we’d missed the turn until after we went by the following exit), turn around and go back. Then we head to the military side of the airport.
“That sign says airport straight ahead,” I said, “why are we turning right?”
“It’s a back way in,” the sergeant who supposedly knows the way said.
We turn onto a road that leads to a US military checkpoint. The checkpoint personnel don’t respond right away, so the sergeant who knows the way reaches across the escorting sergeant (driving) and honks the horn. The checkpoint people then force us to wait 20 or 30 minutes (literally) and have a supervisor come out to reprimand us for blowing the horn.
When we finally get through we take the “back way” into the airport. (The checkpoint personnel never looked at my paperwork, the only non-US military in the vehicle. It was a power display.)
We pull up to the terminal, grab my bags and go in.
“Which way to British Airways?” I ask a group of men standing at the door.
People point to a hallway, but there is obviously no British Airways that way, so I ask someone at a counter.
“They’re not here. You’re in the wrong airport. There is another terminal at the other side of the airport.”
That’s when I said screw this, I’m directing traffic now. Go back to the highway, I said, where we saw the sign for the airport and follow that in. It takes us right in to the airport (surprise!), where there are cars stopped in every lane.
It’s now been an hour and 50 minutes. I’m freaking out, but I’ve still got an hour until the flight leaves. (I always freak out when there are flights involved.)
So I jump out of the car and grab all my bags and run in, leaving my escort behind. I get in the security line and go to where it says British Airways should be. But they aren’t there.
I ask around and finally find one guy with a BA pin.
“The flight is closed,” he said. “You’re too late.”
“I’ve got an hour until my flight,” I said.
“No, it’s closed. If you want to leave your baggage in Kuwait I can get you on, but not with your baggage.”
“Will I get it eventually?”
“No, we won’t watch it for you. You need to leave it.”
I considered it. If it weren’t for the helmet and bulletproof vest, I would have.
“I can’t,” I said. “When can I get rescheduled?”
“You can’t. You missed your flight. You need to buy a new ticket.”
My mouth went dry.
“OK, I’ll leave my bag.”
“It’s too late for that, you had one minute,” he said. “You’ll need to buy a new ticket.”
I was able to call my point of contact at the Camp Arifjan from a phone in one of the two Starbucks. The sergeant who had been escorting me and the sergeant who didn’t know the way met me there at 10:10 a.m. and gave me a ride back to the base. I couldn’t call British Airways US because it was 3 a.m. back home, so I called BA UK.
“No, you can’t have a new ticket,” the woman at customer service told me, “you missed your flight.”
“I missed it because I was detained at a military checkpoint,” I said, “and I was still there an hour early.”
“You were too late,” she said.
“I want to talk to your supervisor,” I said.
“She’ll tell you the same thing.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “I want to talk to your supervisor.”
Her supervisor did say the same thing. But then I said it was ridiculous they would ask me to just abandon my luggage.
“It would have made it eventually,” she said.
“That’s not what I was told,” I said. “The man told me I was just going to have to leave it if I wanted to get on the plane, and that I would be leaving it for good.”
“Well he shouldn’t have. Of course you would get it eventually.”
“I would have left it if I had known that!” I said.
That mistake saved me $1,000, or whatever last minute oneway airfare from Kuwait to Boston costs. The supervisor booked me on the same flight on Wednesday, leaving at 8:55 a.m. and arriving at 6:35 p.m.
I’ll be leaving Camp at 5 a.m. Wednesday, and somebody better know the way.