Their flight was set to depart from ‘Eleftherios Venizelos’ at 7:00 in the morning. They had even booked their seats on the plane electronically.
And they made sure to be at the airport two hours before departure as required by the airlines.
When it was their turn, they gave their passports to the inspecting officer and asked him to give them seats as far in front of the plane as possible.
The clerk, a polite young man, looked at them puzzled. It was impossible to imagine the cause of his puzzlement.
The traveler began to unload his suitcases from the cart and the clerk constantly looked at the computer in front of him. He nervously tapped the keys and began to grimace.
Suddenly he got up and hurried a few steps back, up and to the left, where there was an entrance to an office. After a few minutes he returned.
“You know,” he said to the passengers, “your Frankfurt-New York flight is for tomorrow.”
At first, perhaps due to the noise around them, they did not comprehend what they heard.
“I did not understand what you said,” the passenger replied. “What do you mean tomorrow?”
“You will travel shortly from Athens to Frankfurt,” he said, “but your trip from Frankfurt to New York is scheduled for tomorrow.”
The passenger still had difficulty understanding what the employee meant.
“What do you mean the flight to New York is tomorrow? As you can see on the ticket – it shows the Frankfurt-New York flight is for today. It will leave two hours after our arrival in Frankfurt.”
The clerk did not know what more to say, so he reiterated that, yes, the passengers would soon travel to Frankfurt but they will continue their journey to New York the following day.
The company's flight had been changed, he explained.
But how is it possible to make a change and not at least inform the passengers? So that they don’t wake up way before sunrise? So they have the chance to make alternative plans?
But what is the point of arguments and more explanations? Was it his fault? He was just the messenger.
“Can we talk to the airline?” the passengers asked him.
“You can,” he replied, “but it does not have an office in Athens – although it is one of the largest American airlines – and I do not have a number to give you. You have to find it for yourself.”
In the meantime, a fairly long queue had formed behind them and the clerk would have to serve those people.
So they took their passports, reloaded their suitcases onto the cart and stood aside, so as not to disturb the others, still unable to believe what had happened to them.
What happened, as they later learned, was that the airline canceled the flight at the last minute when it saw that it had few passengers. So, they were left out in the cold. It was a nightmare.
And yet, it was reality. They finally decided that the ‘solution’ proposed to them, to spend 24-hours at Frankfurt airport, was, of course, not a solution at all.
Efforts to contact the airline were fruitless. Their telephone lines were busy, apparently with calls from other passengers facing the same or similar problems.
The hours passed, but the indignation they felt about what had occurred to them did not pass. In the end, they sought the solution of buying other tickets with the – faint – hope that they could get their money back from the company, which treated them with such indifference and rudeness.
But a miracle took place: the company promised to refund their money, and even apologized for the inconvenience the passengers suffered and the loss of time from their work.
That's very nice, of course, but if they had bothered to just send an email informing their customers of the change of flight, all this could and would have been avoided.
So fasten your seatbelts this summer. Traveling will be an adventure for more than one reason.