Feb 072014

See, there’s a reason I didn’t give much more info in the title of this entry.

Initially, I had a placeholder booked, hoping that closer to the date of return, I could improve on my routing. The initial (admittedly terrible) plan was:

Praia, Cape Verde (RAI) to Lisbon, Portugal (LIS) in TAP Business
Lisbon, Portugal to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA) in TAP Business
Geneva, Switzerland to Montreal, Canada (YUL) in Air Canada Business
Montreal, Canada to Toronto, Canada (YYZ) in Air Canada Business
Toronto, Canada to Newark, New Jersey (EWR) in United Express First
Newark, New Jersey to Washington, National (DCA) in United Express First

Yeah, I’m serious. I was mentally preparing myself to fly that just in case it came down to it. Fortunately, about a week before, award space opened up, and I switched to:

Praia, Cape Verde (RAI) to Lisbon, Portugal (LIS) in TAP Business
Lisbon, Portugal to Brussels, Belgium (BRU) in TAP Business
Brussels, Belgium to Washington, Dulles (IAD) in United First

Yes, I was using miles for United First, but it got me home nearly 8 hours earlier. Plus, my connection in Lisbon would only be an hour, and about 1:20 in Brussels, so much better connection times. Life was looking up!

Little did I know, my favourite furry friend was about to pay me a visit.


But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Got to Praia Airport approximately two hours before my flight, because TAP wouldn’t let me check in online and I wanted to try and get a decent seat for the 4 hour middle of the night redeye in economy seats. Blech. There were two check-in lines, one for business and one for economy. However, with no business passengers, all the economy people were filling up both lines. I walked to the front, told the check-in agent business class, and she said she’d help me next. Yeah, that went over really well with the others in line…they were on the verge of rioting. No way was the white guy going to pull the “I deserve service before you card.” Fortunately, the agent had my back, as did the rather rotund Lebanese gentleman who arrived for the business class line a minute later. Soon I was checked in, and ready to head to the lounge.

Only, there is no lounge. Just an immigration queue that was nearly 20 minutes long, and somewhere around 30C plus with no breeze in the room. And only two agents working, both of who were preoccupied with mothers with small children who lacked proof that daddy was ok with them taking the children out of the country. 20 minutes became 30 minutes, became 40 minutes, and finally we were through.

Security was next, which took 5 minutes. Well, it WOULD have taken five minutes if one of those small children hadn’t decided they would go for a stroll…right through the metal detectors…and mom ran after them. The entire terminal was emptied….nah, just kidding. Only TSA would pull that. These guys just shrugged and kept on processing people. Mom finally appeared over five minutes later, and they just waved her through. Uh, you know you never checked her…right? Ah, Africa…how I’ll miss you.

So now, we’d wait. The plane had left Lisbon 20 minutes late, meaning best case my connection would be down to 40 minutes.

Thus, I went to the lounge to wait.  Ooops, no lounge, just one large room filled with TAP and TACV passengers.  Nearly 500 people on delayed flights who were getting anxious.  So, I did the only thing I could do, I visited the snack shop, aka “Nice Burger.”    I used google translate to say “can I pay US dollars for a beer”  yes, I could.  It was time for a beer.  10 minutes later, it was time for another.  When the crowds started getting rowdy, I opted for a third…only there were no more.  This explained why people were getting increasingly agitated, and there was lots more yelling and pushing going on.


Finally, our plane arrived, and if they could turn it around in 30 minutes, we’d only be 20 minutes late.  20 minutes came and went, and we still hadn’t boarded.  Then, they announced boarding would begin…but they didn’t announce if it was for the delayed TAP flight or the 3+ hour delayed TACV flight to Paris.  So naturally, all 500 people swarmed the agents at once.  Eventually, it was sorted.  BOTH flights were boarding, from two doors less than 5 feet apart.  The agents were having a hell of a time trying to sort out the passengers, but somehow…it happened.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got on board.


Door was closed in about 15 minutes.  Looked about 75% full in economy and less than half full in business.  I had an entire row to myself, which would at least make it a semi-comfortable flight.  That depended how long we waited….we finally closed the door and pushed back…30 minutes behind schedule.  I was now down to just 35 minutes to make my connection in Lisbon.

TAP flight 214
Praia, Cape Verde (RAI) to Lisbon, Portugal (LIS)
Depart 00:55, Arrive 6:00, Flight Time 4:05
Airbus A320, Registration CS-TNR, Manufactured 2009, Seat 1A

Breakfast was offered…either immediately after takeoff, or an hour before landing.  Given it was Euro Business (aka economy with the middle seat blocked) and no seat pitch, and only 4 hours, I opted to stay awake and try and get on US time.  The flight attendant insisted I needed a glass of Portuguese wine, for two reasons:  1)  to keep my mind off the possible missed connection, and 2) to try how good Portuguese wines were.  Who was I to question?


A few glasses of wine, and many episodes of Homeland on my iPad later, we were already on the descent into Lisbon.  Landed…and taxied…to a remote gate.  UGH.  I had the gate numbers on my phone, and asked the flight attendant what my chances of making it were.  The look on her face wasn’t hopeful.


First bus loaded up, lets go!  Nope, they start loading the second bus…seriously, they wouldn’t let the first bus go until the second bus was ready!  UGH.  Fortunately, we’d make up 10 minutes in the air, and I had a total of 40 minutes to make my connection.  Finally, to the terminal, and sprinted to immigration.  Only 2 people in line in front of me, the agent was speedy, and I was soon at security.  Asked a group ahead of me nicely, and they let me go in front of them…and then I ran to the gate, getting there 25 minutes before departure.  WHEW, I made it.

Waited in line (there was no priority line) for maybe 5 minutes, and got my boarding pass scanned.  BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.  “I do not know what is wrong, step aside.”  Five minutes later (now 15 minutes before departure) she investigated….”oh you have changed your flights.  You are not on this flight.”  Um, EXCUSE ME?  A little more searching and “oh, TAP has rebooked you three hours ago when you left Cape Verde late so you would make it to Washington.  You are now on British Airways at 10:30 to London, and United at 16:30 to Washington arriving 20:00.  Um, EXCUSE ME….and you rebooked me in BUSINESS CLASS on top of it?  So let me get this straight, I got to the gate 25 minutes in advance, and you are giving me a 7+ hour delay.  No thanks, please put my original flights back.

“I’m sorry, there is no time.  We cannot reissue tickets at the gate.”  I refused to move.  “Call whoever you need to.  I am at the gate on time, you changed my flights against my will, and you can change them back.”  She called one help desk.  No help.  Called some other help desk.  No help.  Meanwhile, they were still boarding economy class passengers FROM MY CAPE VERDE FLIGHT.  “Oh, there is no courtesy rebooking in economy so they are still on this flight.”  So let me get this straight….no, forget it.  Portuguese logic is beyond me.  Call me an airport manager.  “I’m sorry, there is no manager.  Please step aside.  I will take you to the transit desk. after I close the door.”

Close the door…TWENTY MINUTES LATE….so they had 45 minutes to get me back on the flight, let 10 other people from my connection on…and refused to do anything for me except walk me to the transit desk.

I’m not gonna go into detail on the transit desk, other than to say the two people who attempted to help me were very nice, but completely not empowered. to help.  “You are in O class.  We can put you in O class on British Airways.”  Um, O on British Airways is economy.  “That is what you have.”  I went round and round with them for 30 minutes, before realizing it was futile.  I was going to get nowhere with these people.

I went back through immigration, figuring I might have better luck at landside ticketing.  I went to the United ticketing office, and the most awesome person ever helped me.  He put me on the nonstop to Newark in Business, called the gate and said if even one seat stays open please block the one next to me, AND allowed me to rebook on an illegal connection in Newark to try and save some time.  I really wish I’d gotten his name, because he was the first person genuinely willing to help me.  Yes, I’d still get home nearly 3 hours late and with a downgrade, but right now, that was the best I could hope for.

Decided to go to TAP ticketing, and ask how to get my 600 Euros compensation for their proposed 7 hour delay.  “We don’t pay that.  It’s an award ticket.  You can write to TAP corporate if you want, but TAP does not pay it.”  We were now 0-for-4 on helpful TAP workers.  I cut my losses, and went back through immigration and security to the TAP lounge…which fortunately was as nice as I remember.  Lots of espresso, some nomz, and a shower, and I was feeling mildly human again.  Ah.  Time to board.  I confirmed with the gate agent they only expected 14 of 16, and yes, the seat next to me was blocked.  Things were looking up!

United flight 65
Lisbon, Portugal (LIS) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 10:15, Arrive 13:35, Flight Time 8:20
Boeing 757-200, Registration N19136, Manufactured 1999, Seat 1A

Boarded, and within a minute the purser was over introducing herself.  I explained what had happened, that the agent confirmed the seat was blocked, and she profusely apologized for TAP.  She told me if there was anything at all she could do during flight to help, just let her know.  I have to say, everyone at United went the extra mile to try and fix things.

Then, Ms. 1D decided to get nasty.  “I want to sit next to my husband.  Can you please move to row 2?”  I said I was sorry, she’d need to discuss with the flight attendant.  She rolled her eyes and did that.  The flight attendant explained to her I’d PURCHASED BOTH SEATS, and unfortunately there were no other sets of two seats together, so unfortunately it wouldn’t work out.  She stomped past me, glared at me, and said “THANKS JERK.”  Wow…honey, 1A and 1C were open an hour ago.  If you and hubby wanted to sit together so badly, you shoulda chosen those two…I bet he intentionally didn’t want to sit next to your nasty self.

We’re off!

Warm nuts and wine….two servings of nuts because I asked nicely 😉


Appetizer was salmon on a stick.  Seriously.  With lots of garlic bread…oops, I just noticed she let my wine glass get temporarily empty…tsk tsk 😉


Salad, despite having a weird citrus dressing, was definitely better than usual.


The mystery meat…I honestly don’t remember what it was, or if it was edible.


Cheese.  The hard cheese (which I think was something near swiss or jarlsburg) was pretty tasty, and I asked for a little extra.  First time I can ever remember doing that on United.  Or, maybe I was drowning my bad day in cheese.  Hard to tell  😉


…and breaking with my “hot fudge and a few cherries” usual, I went for the caramel.


Then, I collapsed.  Out cold for 5+ hours.  Woke up and felt a million times better, and unusual for me, actually ate the pre-landing snack…because shockingly, it was actually pretty tasty.  I mean, it was a chicken wrap smothered in cheese, how CAN you go wrong!


New York, New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, YO!


Parked at Terminal B, ugh, and with only 1:10 to make my connection, this would be interesting.  Through Global Entry in no time at all, no line for customs, and was out in a snap.  Rode the Air Train over to Terminal C, and “your boarding pass does not say Pre Check.  You can’t use it.”  Whaaaa?  That’s never happened on United.  Going to guess because it was rebooked same day (and apparently, never reticketed…but that’s another story) it didn’t get my TSA number.  Ugh.  20 minutes to clear regular first class security, but still made it to the gate with 35 minutes to spare.  HOORAY!

United Express (operated by Republic Airlines) flight 3878
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Washington, National (DCA)
Depart 16:41, Arrive 15:57, Flight Time 1:16
Dehavilland Dash-8 Q400, Registration N323NG, Manufactured 2010, Seat 7A

It was a Dash-8 in economy.  Enough said.  Guy next to me was nice, slightly chatty, and bought him a wine with old Continental Currency coupons, lol, when I tried to use them the flight attendant just laughed and said “keep those…they’ll be worth a lot some day…NOT!”  Glad to see my string of luck with amazing United personnel continue.  For some reason, even though the door closed almost 15 minutes early in Newark, we sat at the gate with a “cargo door problem” for 30 minutes, so our expected 20 minute early arrival turned into 20 minutes late.  Oh well!  I was HOME.

Until I saw the usual Sunday afternoon DCA taxi queue.  UGH.


So, 3+ weeks later, where am I?

Went round and round with United Customer Service trying to get the difference between business class and first class miles back.  No, they wouldn’t budge.  “TAP screwed up, you need to get compensation from them.”  Fine, I’ll pursue compensation for the delay from them, but I want the difference in price back.”  We don’t do that.  I tried at least 10 times, always the same answer.  Finally, the last agent relented. “We don’t do that, but if 15,000 miles back will make you stop calling fine.  I’ll give you a customer service credit.”  Gee, thanks for refunding the service I didn’t get.  How generous of you.

TAP?  They won’t answer e-mails or calls about the EU compensation.  I’m going to keep pursuing, and if I don’t hear back soon it’s time for a registered letter to them in the US…and if not….someone will be dragged into court.  Curious to see if small claims court will enforce an E.U. regulation.  I figure since it was a flight to the U.S., they do business in the U.S. it might be enforceable.  Otherwise, I’ll get to try the Portuguese legal system….that will be fun!

Fortunately, I’ve been home ever since.  Bit too traumatized from that day to see an airplane for a bit.  But, I have a $10 ticket to Hawaii still to use, so I’m off in a couple of days!

  6 Responses to “Praia, Cape Verde to Washington, DC”

  1. The customer service credit was issued in miles or dollars?

  2. Admit it…you miss the crazy of Africa already?

  3. Your experience with TAP in Portugal reminds me exactly of an experience I had with American in Rio a number of years ago. I got to see my connection depart, as well–because I was, “checking in late for an international flight.”

    Huh? Never mind that American had issued my originating flight ticket on another airline from another city in Brazil–and that’s why I made it to Rio late.

    Maybe transiting doesn’t work well in Portugese-speaking countries, LOL?

    Keep up the great reports. Reading your blog is always fun!


  4. Wonderful report? Did TAP ever pay up?

  5. I felt really bad for you after reading this post.. Hope you will win your battle against TAP.

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