I am the kind of person who tries to predict and avoid
potential problems way before they even can occur. Risk Management presents in
every single cell circulating in my blood – partly because of some sort of professional
deformation as well as a natural curiosity and lessons learned from others’ mistakes.
But sometimes things can go very unpredictably and you’re left on your own.
That is a triple miracle that I made it back to the US from
the conference, but in fact that is a set of three independent miracles.
First, getting to and from Spain. It was a lucky coincidence
of me buying both onward and return tickets on those rare lucky days right in
between a series of air traffic control strikes across European airports.
I made my flight back early on Saturday and some of those who
left for a weekend could not make it because of air control strikes in France and
Germany. Even if you’re not French or German, there is a big change of making layout/change
at one of their airports, as there are no direct flights to the USA from the medium
Spanish airports. Likewise, when flying in, I changed the LAX plane in Frankfurt,
for Malaga. After Spain itself joined the strikes from that weekend, it would be even
fewer chances to fly away, so I feel exceptionally lucky from departing early
and departing through the UK which joins the airport strikes slightly later giving me enough
time to leave Europe.
Going next. Early Monday morning I showed up at Heathrow
airport as normal and then got denied boarding for an “expired” barcode on my
COVID certificate. I used one for flying all the time including in the UK and it has never
been a problem. That could be a minor problem, at least I am vaccinated there
in the UK and the records should be available. I memorize all my passwords so can
easily log in to the app or the website…. Incorrect! Whoever did the app made
it with mandatory 2-factor authentication by sending a text to your number. But I
don’t have my old UK number, after moved back to the states. Now you see, how one minor
problem turns into a much bigger one.
Trying to escalate it with all levels of management did not
help at all, this type of person is just simply sitting their paid hours and do
not want to step the extra mile. “Computer says no” – is an accurate description
of dealing with them. So, I was denied boarding for a stupid reason, and the clock’s
In a critical situation, your mind works differently,
brainstorming any possible outcomes under stress. I remembered that did switching
that original number (I did not even remember the actual digits) to a pre-paid plan
and put it somewhere in storage along with some old phone. Or had to call someone
who could access it there, but it was 3AM there in California. Chances to: 1)
wake up the right person in order to ..2) understand your uncertain instructions and... 3)
manage to follow them up correctly - that multiplied together are so low! But I made all
that happen in a permitted window of 30 minutes - such a miracle! Unbelievable!
After receiving the code, I was able to pass through a line of
unwanted difficult questions and eventually generate my certificates in the mobile
app. And guess what? That check-in lady neither did not scan the updated barcode nor
entered it somewhere. At all! Just said “now ok” and that was it. So she
potentially could let me board with an "expired" "barcode" since everything she “checked”
was the date label above it. The impact of losing a flight and being stuck in an airport
limbo with heavy bags on you (not to say $1-2K to pay for a replacement flight)
is a huge penalty when things go wrong mainly because of inadequate and
non-transparent procedures and human robots who follow them. This system is definitely
broken. The humans behind it are also “broken” in a similar way.
That’s not all. By the time I passed the above line of traps
for showing robots-people the right label they wanted to see, they had put my
ticket into a STANBY status, which means I was not guaranteed a seat for BOTH legs
of my flight, not just trans-Atlantic segment. They boarded me to Phoenix
without giving me a following ticked, which I need to get there.
The first segment of my trip was delayed for 2 hours so I only had something less than 40 minutes to clear the customs and immigration, re-check the bags to a final
destination (praying it reaches the plane in time) and run myself long way to the departure gate.
Long story short, I was the fastest person to get off the plane and pass all the procedures, rechecking the bags,
running through additional security, etc. but reached the “gate closed” door, and boarding
assistance are just moving away. I had to run as fast as possible, waive my arm and shout "do not close" to pay their attention, then ask them to let me on the plane. Emotions burst and the timing was so precise - an extra 20 seconds would leave me staying overnight at Phoenix
and possibly paying for a final segment, but this type of luck followed me the
whole day so both I and my bags magically arrived at Orange County airport in
What a crazy day it was!