Lessons from a flight nightmare

Last updated 10:00 13/03/2014

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Here's a tale of a business trip I had to Valencia and back around the time of the last Rugby World Cup.

I remember the dates well because my wife gave birth to our first child the morning after the All Blacks won the final. 

Firstly, all the flights to Spain were fine. I never used to have much to say about our national carrier but I appreciate it all the more after travelling on some of the world's less salubrious airlines.

Iberia Air, Spain's national airline, got me into Spain and back out again - but that's about all they did. The service on one of those pencils of death between provincial airports in New Zealand would be the height of luxury in comparison. 

They must move a lot of people around Spain because the same distance flight over there would be in a plane twice the size and occur four times as often. This handy fact would become important later in my trip, however. 

After arriving in Valencia, having eaten nought but a stale piece of bread and cold coffee, I needed to find an ATM machine. Three stories, five hundred square feet of terminal and one hour of looking later I eventually found the only one operating - hidden behind a police box on the departures floor of the international section. 

Just who in the world do they think will want to use this machine? People looking to obtain cash as a souvenir of their trip to Spain perhaps? 

It was the return trip was the real nightmare, however. 

I had given myself plenty of time between connections to make sure everything went smoothly and I wasn't rushed. I even had nine hours to spare in London where I thought I might visit my mate. Little did I know that those nine hours would come in very handy. 

After waiting patiently at gate 23 for Iberia Air flight 2341 to London to board at 11:20am I was told - at the front of the queue - that the flight I should have been on (Flight 2431) had already boarded from gate 32 and departed at 11:10am. 

In an effort to save my ass I made two more trips through security to air out my socks and shoes for the kindly security staff, before managing to get one of those standby tickets for the "next available seat" to London. 

I was getting worried. The next flight was full and left without me again. Even if I caught the next one I might still miss my connection to NZ at the busiest time in years. 

After waiting at the gate for the next flight it was moved to a different gate. Then after a short period it was moved back again. Hilarious. 

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Soon those special travellers came out of the woodwork. The ones who feel anyone associated with their minor inconvenience should be the target of torrents of verbal abuse. They're also of course the people who tend to get picked out for "random" security checks. After having a chuckle at that, the gate staff finally turned up and I positioned myself front and centre.

"Please sir my wife's nine months pregnant and I really need to catch this flight. Please say you have a seat for me," I said. 

Despite the fact that he'd probably heard that one many times before (and the look on his face suggested he had) he found me a seat and I was on my way. 

I was now safe. Just another 38 hours of cramped space, smelly passengers, bad food, bad movies, incomprehensible announcements and one mad dash through two terminals at Heathrow and I would be back in the arms of my loved ones. 

The biggest lesson learnt? Pack extra socks when you take a 52 hour journey around the world without showering. My apologies to all those on that flight to NZ who may still remember the smell.

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