Welcome back! I hope you are looking forward to reading out our Irish adventure. Cozy up with your favorite beverage, because this is a bit of a long post to set the scene.
The plan: Tricia, my friend from college, would come to my house the day before our flight to eliminate any last minute traffic issues and so we could review everything one last time. She arrived mid-afternoon Saturday and we both decided we needed to review what we had packed to see if there were any items we could eliminate or minimize. The bargain fair we purchased on Iceland Air didn’t include checked baggage and even paid bags had a strict weight limit.
Sunday, our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:55 pm so we had all morning to manage last minute items. We made it to the airport and through security with ease. I was writing in my journal at the airline gate by 3:15 and made sure to note the weather conditions: 85 degrees and sunny in Florida, 35 degrees and snowing in Dublin!
The flight began boarding and we anxiously waited for our turn. One carry-on bag and one personal item were included in the ticket, but they had to be tiny. We had both, and I regret the choice I made for my personal item. So many websites had emphasized the plastic bag ban and the need for bringing your own shopping bags so I had purchased a set of roomy, sturdy bags to bring with us. I decided to use one of these for my personal item, carrying my iPad, my camera, my journal, an oversized scarf that I could use as a blanket, and the itinerary book I had put together to keep track of all our plans, tickets, maps, etc. The bag worked fine until I went to put it under the seat and there was no way to keep the items from spilling out.
What happened: 5:55 came and went but we didn’t move. The plane was getting warmer and we were dressed in layers for landing in Ireland. Tricia was getting antsy and I was trying to remain calm. The gentleman in the aisle seat, Anders started talking to us and was able to help distract us from the delay. We didn’t leave Orlando until close to 11:00 pm, more than 4 hours late. Aside from providing water, the flight crew was terrible about providing information on what the problem was. When they did provide updates, it was always to say we would be ready to leave in 10 minutes only to have that time elapse with no changes. Ten more minutes became a joke the rest of the trip.
We were supposed to land in Reykjavik at 6:10 am local time and get a connection to Dublin at 7:40 am. We didn’t arrive in Reykjavik until after 9:00 am. There was no one at the gate to help with missed connections or even direct us to customer service. We encountered one employee who vaguely pointed and told us to go upstairs.
We have now been up for nearly 24 hours, we’re tired, hungry, and feeling anxious. We finally found the service desk and were handed tickets for a flight on British Airways, departing at 1:15 pm to Heathrow followed by another connection to Dublin. We were told we would have to go claim our checked bags and take them to British Airways. We passed through Customs, (first stamp in the passport) found our bags and went to the British Airways desk, where they proceeded to tell us we were going to be charged again. There were a half dozen of us assigned to this flight from Iceland Air and all resisted this charge so British Airways sent us back to Iceland Air to sort it out.
Our gaggle of over-tired travelers rolled all of our bags to the Iceland Air desk and some of the more vocal passengers made it clear that this payment issue needed to be dealt with. To be fair, a representative did walk back with us after only minimal dispute and provided a corporate card to cover the new luggage fees.
Now we had to go back through security to find the food area to use the 2,000 króna vouchers Iceland Air had provided for lunch. Security was my breaking point. The lines were a mess, people were going through the machines and being sent back so the luggage was passing through screening well before people.
Tricia and I got separated and after I got through the scanner, I couldn’t find my bags. I started panicking at the thought of losing my iPad, camera, phone, and money. I admit it wasn’t pretty. I was nearly hyperventilating, trying not to start sobbing, and looking around frantically for my things. I spotted my carry-on bag and shoes, then a few minutes later I saw my shopping bag had been pulled off the conveyor belt and was in a pile behind one of the screeners. I pointed at the bag and a screener brought it to me. I carried it to the end of a table and sank to the floor weeping as I put my shoes on.
About this time Tricia found me and didn’t know what was wrong. I know it freaked her out and I realized I should have warned her about this aspect of me when I’m overtired. I managed to get myself under control, get my shoes tied, and collect my belongings.
You might think 2,000 króna sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. It covered the cost of a sandwich and a drink. A piece of cake cost an additional 800 króna, but we needed chocolate so it was money well spent. We took our food and recognized another couple from our flight so we asked if we could join them. We introduced ourselves and when the lady told us her name and she was from Galway I marveled at the coincidence. I told her we were staying at an AirBnB in Galway with a hostess by the same name and asked if she was the owner. She wasn’t, but she knew the place we were staying by name and told us about some restaurants nearby.
We spent the next couple of hours chatting with them until it was time to make our way to the gate. We passed through Customs again, adding a second Iceland stamp to the passport. The flight to Heathrow was uneventful, thank goodness. When we landed, we struggled to find the location for our next connection until Tricia got online and found out we needed to get to Terminal 5. Through security again where I received a full body pat down that should have been preceded by an expensive dinner! At least we managed to get a UK stamp in our passports.
We made it Terminal 5 only to find a giant flight board changing so fast we couldn’t make heads or tails of it. There was a lady at an information desk underneath the board and I asked if she could help. In a matter of seconds she had found our flight number and gave us the gate information. I’m still in awe that she was able to do it so quickly.
At the gate, we didn’t see anyone else from our flight and began to worry we’d made a mistake. Soon they started making boarding announcements and everything matched our tickets so we sighed in relief. When we got to the front of the line we found we were being bussed from the terminal to the aft of the plane and climb stairs up to the aft gangway because the jetway wasn’t working.
Fortunately, this flight wasn’t full and I had an entire row to myself. Tricia had been assigned a seat somewhere toward the front of the plane. Across the aisle from me were the couple we’d talked with in Reykjavik. We couldn’t help but look at each other and roll our eyes when a child began screaming nearby.
We were within sight of Ireland and the pilot came on the intercom to tell us that the Dublin airport was closing for a short time due to maintenance work and we were going to be about 15 minutes delayed. I looked across the aisle at my new friends and we laughed. I felt bad for them because they still had a 3 hour drive ahead once we landed.
I’m not sure how he did it, but the pilot managed to get us into Dublin before they started the maintenance work. The Customs agent in Dublin was very friendly and actually has family not far from me in Florida. Small world.
As I tell this story with its delays and stress, the memories of the good and even the bad are stoking my longing to return to Ireland.
To be continued….