Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I would like to take a moment to share about travel here in Peru. For those who travel a lot (or have ever traveled) in the States this should be amusing.
The first thing to understand is that Peru is dominated by one airline, LAN Peru. LAN Peru is probably the nicest airline I have ever traveled with. Just everything about them is very professional and top notch. However, due to their basic monopoly of air travel in Peru they can lack in the customer satisfaction department from time to time.
On this particular day I arrived at the airport about 25 minutes before my plane was scheduled to depart. In the past I have arrived with even less time to spare. When not checking baggage and such a small airport I never heard of this being a problem before.
I walk through the main door into the deserted lobby and the lone LAN employee smiles and waves me over. I go to check-in and obtain my boarding pass. He replies that I may not board because the flight has been closed. I look to my left, though the empty lobby, past the security guard, metal detector, through the departure lounge, and finally the open exterior “wall” to see the plane still sitting there, not 200 feet away on the tarmac, with an open door. Not another traveler in the airport.
As we are conversing in Spanish I assume there had been a misunderstanding. I say no my ticket is for that flight, pointing at the plane. He replies indicating again that the flight is closed. I ask if my seat had been given away due to my late arrival. “No”, he says, the flight is closed. Now enunciating very clearly, in case I did not understand the first three times he said it. He explained that one must be to the airport 2 hours early in order to secure their seat. This is in an airport a little bigger than the average convenience store.
Next I ask if there is time to board. He says there is time to board. Good, I ask please give me my boarding pass and I will be on the plane in 3 minutes. You cannot, he replies in Spanish, again over enunciating as he explained the flight was closed.
By this point the guy manning the security check point and the gift shop attendant were fairly amused by the situation.
I recapped with the LAN employee that there is an empty seat on the plane for me, I had paid for it, there is time to enter the plane but I could not board. He says that is correct because the flight is “cerr-a-do” again clearly and slowly saying one syllable at a time and reiterating that I must be to the airport 2 hours early.
Okay, mister LAN do I need to pay a little bit more money? I ask understanding that I am in a country that may operate a bit different then the USA. No, he says the flight is “cerr-a-do”.
At that point I gave up. I knew that this being the 12:30pm flight it was the last out of Puerto Maldonado for the day and the airport staff was waiting for me to give up so they could go home for the day.
I then asked if he could put me on the first flight out in the morning. This is when I learned that just because this is where the planes are does not mean it is where you buy tickets. That has to be done somewhere else.
So he gave me directions to the LAN office in town. I went out of the airport hopped on a motorcycle taxi and made my way to the LAN office. Upon arrival I sat down with a nice lady who began the process of getting me on the next flight. After about 20 minutes of working on this she explained to me that it was lunch time, 1:00pm, and I would have to come back in 3 hours when the office reopens.Very well, I did not have anything else to do. I went and checked back into the hotel and returned promptly at 4:05pm understanding that things move a bit slower in the jungle. Finally, at about 4:20pm they opened back up from lunch. After 30 more minutes working with the lady I was on my way with new tickets in hand.