The worst travel day ever and a passenger revolt.

Quito Travel Blog

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It was a pretty good salad once I removed the chicken and the salmon.

We knew today would be a tiring travel day, but when we got into our airport-bound cab at 6am, we surely had no idea it would be 19 hours before we would see our next hotel room. It was a ROUGH day spent getting from Argentina to Ecuador.

Things started out fine enough. The front desk gays, I mean guys, at the Axel Hotel in Buenos Aires prepared an early morning breakfast of fruit and muffins for us, and we got to the airport in time to hang out in the lounge (and eat a little more food). The first leg of our flight to Quito was to Lima, Peru -- about 4.5 hours. I really enjoyed this flight. Our business class seats could be folded ALL the way down, or configured in a number of excellent lounging positions, plus they gave us super puffy down comforters.
Somewhere over South America, before the weather went to hell.
I got a little work done, but mostly we both just watched movies and TV. It was like being on vacation :^)

We had about 1.5 hours in Lima, so we had a sort of lunch in the lounge before boarding our next flight, which would take us to Quito. This was a smaller plane with smaller seats, but they served us better food (yes, we ate again) and it was a pretty short flight at 2.25 hours.

So everything had gone pretty well up until the time we were supposed to land in Quito. As we descended into Quito the weather really took a turn for the worse. Rain pounded the windows, we could see lightning out the window, and the plane shook from the turbulence. One minute we were descending and the next minute the engines went to full power and we were ascending again … a missed approach.
Passengers crowd the front cabin trying to figure out what's going on.
The plane circled around, still shaking and bouncing, and once again we could feel ourselves descending for a second try. Then… full power and another ascent. We had missed a second time! I am not generally a nervous flyer, but this was NOT good at all. It was scary.   

Then the captain made an announcement that we would have to divert to Guayaquil. The visibility in Quito was 3 km (Less than 2 miles), and the ceiling was 250 feet…  plus the tower was reporting wind shear on the field. Atrocious conditions…I can’t believe he even made two attempts to land there!

Guayaquil was less than an hour away, and the weather was fine there. After landing we taxied to a gate and waited. And waited some more. And more. Some people came up front, worried about connections and the ongoing route which was to have gone to Medillio, Colombia.
Team Quito argues against Colombia.
The captain made an announcement, “We will have information in 10 minutes!”  Then 15 minutes later, another announcement, “We will have information in 10 minutes, really!” This kept happening and the passengers were becoming pretty frustrated.  

It was then announced that we would not be able to get off the plane here after all, that instead we would fly to Colombia! Colombia!? This is not where we wanted to go! We were told that the plane would then return to Quito after going to Colombia, a convoluted scheme that required the Quito-bound passengers to fly an extra 6 hours or so. This caused a number of Quito passengers to storm to the front cabin (we were in the front and had the best seats in the house) to argue about this decision.
We are cheerleaders -- and bench warmers -- for Team Quito.
Steve and I called these people “Team Quito.” We were also on this team, but since we didn’t speak Spanish and barely understood what was going on, we played the part of team bench warmers.

One particularly loud and insistent man (we called him “Captain Quito” and speculated that perhaps he was a litigation attorney in his life outside the airplane) explained the situation to us. We were all being told by the airline that the weather was too bad for landing in Quito, hence justifying their  decision to bypass it. This makes some sense, however, other passengers had called their friends waiting for them at Quito and the report was that things had cleared up and the airport had re-opened. Then why bring us all to Colombia when we could go back to Quito? This was the argument, and it raged on and on.
Finally we arrive in Quito, 6.5 hours late.

Instead of taking off, we sat and waited for another decision to come in. What followed was a series of decisions by the “people in Lima,” none of which involved flying to Quito, and none of which resulted in in action. We just sat there while Team Quito continued to argue its point. By this time I think the smokers on the plane were ready for blood. One woman kept coming up front clutching her pack of cigarettes, hoping THIS time they would let her stand outside and have a smoke. The answer was always NO. She was a wreck.

Finally after over 3 hours of this, we were told by the man wearing a yellow vest and carrying a walkie-talkie that we should all get out and claim our luggage. He also said emphatically that  the airline had no responsibilities to get us to Quito or to pay for a hotel because this was weather-related incident! I called our travel agent Paul (who was waiting for us in Quito), who said he could fix our Galapagos routing for a Guayaquil departure.
It's a nice room, too bad we will spend only 7 hours in it.
We got off the plane just as some of the passengers were starting to pound on the overhead storage compartments and chant something I couldn’t understand. Yikes!

What followed was complete chaos. We went through immigration, collected our luggage, then proceeded to investigate hotel options, when suddenly the word spread amongst Team Quito that they had plane for us and we needed to get on it to go to Quito… RIGHT NOW!

As non-Spanish speakers, we got all the information secondhand, so we just kind of followed the group. Steve brought the luggage back to the carousel (fingers crossed and hoping it would get back on the plane), while I stood in the long line for security. When the woman from the plane lit up right behind me in line I glared at her and waved my hand. “¡Cinco horas!” she explained, and continued to make this argument with the security guard who told her to extinguish her cigarette.

We eventually got back on the SAME plane with the SAME crew and finally at 8:30 pm -- 5.5 hours after we were supposed to have landed in Quito-- we took off! What a crazy and mismanaged affair this all was! The flight crew looked so tired and I felt bad for them. Through it all, they had retained their professionalism and composure.

Paul was waiting for us when we landed (6-1/2 hours late), and he brought us to the Radisson. The only complaint I have about the room is that we won’t be able to spend more time in it. We have to leave again in seven hours for another flight to the Galapagos.



aswold says:
I'm exhausted just from reading this!
Posted on: Jan 29, 2009
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It was a pretty good salad once I …
It was a pretty good salad once I…
Somewhere over South America, befo…
Somewhere over South America, bef…
Passengers crowd the front cabin t…
Passengers crowd the front cabin …
Team Quito argues against Colombia.
Team Quito argues against Colombia.
We are cheerleaders -- and bench w…
We are cheerleaders -- and bench …
Finally we arrive in Quito, 6.5 ho…
Finally we arrive in Quito, 6.5 h…
Its a nice room, too bad we will …
It's a nice room, too bad we will…
photo by: Bluetraveler