Rome – Day 0 Getting there is NOT Half the Fun

This is the first of a series of posts I’m doing on a recent trip I took to Italy with my husband Jim, son Joe, daughter-in-law Steph, and grand-daughter, Freya.  We visited Rome, Florence and Varenna (a town on Lake Como).

You can skip this one if airline horror stories give you the willies.

Our trip to Rome had been planned for months. Plane, hotel and some attractions have been booked for a long time.  But as we all know, when dealing with airlines, things do not always go as planned. Sometimes even Plan B gets a few kinks.

Such was the case with getting to Rome. We were booked to leave Raleigh Durham airport at seven thirty, arriving nine-thirty in Boston for a ten-fifty flight. It worried me that that an hour and twenty minutes was cutting things pretty tight for an International flight. But when we checked in several hours in advance at the Delta terminal, the young lady assured us that the flight to Boston was on time and we’d be fine.

So we were there with plenty of time in advance. (I may be a wee bit compulsive, but I hate, hate, hate having to worry about making a flight on time.) We ducked into a bar and grill in the concourse for a bite to eat and a relaxing glass of wine. Before my entrée came, my cell phone beeped with a notice that our flight was delayed fifteen minutes. I was concerned but with some hustling we could still make it.

Five minutes later the phone beeped again. The flight was now a half hour delayed. I left my husband, the wine and the dinner to go and find a Delta agent. It wasn’t easy. Delta doesn’t have a customer service desk beyond security at the Raleigh airport so I needed to find a gate agent. The first two I saw were busy loading passengers onto planes. I walked past a number of other empty gates and finally found an agent who wasn’t busy loading a plane.

She was actually getting ready to leave for the day, but the woman was kind enough to listen to my problems. At that point, she was seeing a notice that the plane was now an hour overdue. No way we’d make that connection in Boston. There was only one other plane available to take us to Rome that evening and it was leaving from JFK in New York. She managed to book us onto a flight from RDU to New York and then onto the Alitalia plane to Rome. Ironically there was another man at the same gate speaking to another gate agent in exactly the same situation.  Not only did this wonderful woman manage to get us onto a flight that was close to full, but she called down to the baggage area and had our luggage re-routed as well.

Once I had the new set of boarding passes in hand, I thought we were set. I went back and finished the wine and bowl of soup I’d ordered, which my husband had guarded and an understanding waitress had taken back to keep warm.

We got on the flight to JFK with no trouble.  We ended up sitting on the runway for half an hour, which got me a bit nervous again, but we still an hour and a half’s leeway, so I wasn’t too concerned once we took off. Landed at JFK, and got on the shuttle bus to take us to Terminal 1, the International Terminal. And that’s where it got really weird, disturbing, and downright absurd.

The bus let us off at a spot marked Terminal 2, but we were told this was the access point for Terminal 1 as well. So off we got and followed the crowd into Terminal 2. Seeing no signs inside to direct us we asked an official-looking woman where to go. She directed us to head down the hall and go through a set of double doors at the end.  Which we did. At the double doors, another woman directed us to go down another long corridor, out the doors at the end and turn left. Again we followed instructions. And once outside the door we found ourselves outside the terminal, in the dark, on a street with no sidewalk and a big wooden wall on one side of us. Turning left, we could see another building down the street, presumably our destination, Terminal 1. At this point we figure our odds of getting on a plane to Rome that evening are getting close to zero.

We hustled down to the building and ended up at the Arrivals entrance to the International terminal. No signs helped direct us, so we hustled upstairs and found the Alitalia area. Seeing a hugely long check in line, my heart sank. But here’s where something good did happen. There were actually a dozen people on the plane from Raleigh scheduled for this flight and Alitalia had a man stationed at the desk keeping watch for us. Already a couple of people we recognized from the flight had made their way there and a few more came shortly.

The agent waiting for us told us the flight was a bit delayed and we would make it. They issued us new boarding cards and escorted us through security via VIP line. In fact the flight was delayed quite a bit and we waited almost an hour to board. The rest of the trip was unremarkable save for the landing. The pilot put that huge plane down so softly, we barely noticed we were on the ground. Passengers spontaneously applauded the best landing I’ve ever experienced.

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