(Chaos, confusion, uncertainty at Lisbon airport when we suppose to be in Cape Verde, we have a problem when adding impatient passengers into the equation)
The Cape Verde flight passengers started to assemble closer and rumours & assumptions started to fly – some passengers especially those with small children became restless. Someone shouted “It’s Not Fair!!!” and a bunch of passengers joined in.
The TAP staff suddenly appeared – this time with a bunch of vouchers & paper slips. It was the hotel vouchers for the passengers for the night BUT not all of them will be staying in a hotel for the night. Personally given the priority for Cape Verde flight passengers with small children, we were mentally prepared to stay in the airport for the night. In fact, we did not even bother to listen when the first few names were announced and the vouchers were handed over.
Then she announced our names and a few more passengers and after the third quarter of the passengers’ names were announced, she said that the remaining passengers are not eligible for hotel vouchers (maybe due to their ticket arrangements) and thus have to stay in the airport or exit and stay outside the airport.
With hotel vouchers at hand, the next question was on our luggage which we last saw being boarded into the plane that was turned back. Feeling sweaty and smelly (why not after such a long flight), we were anxious to get a clean change of clothes. With the prospect of spending the night in a hotel rather than in the uncomfortable airport, we were eager to get our luggage.
However there was only bad news – the TAP Air staff informed that the luggage will remain in the plane and will be sent to the next flight. They do not want any missing luggage later.
Too tired to argue, we followed the TAP staff as she led us towards the immigration and got a special lane opened to quickly process the stranded passengers. A couple of twists and turns in the airport and we exited to a car park where two buses were waiting for us. There plenty of seats in the bus so there were not rushing in to pick our seats. Further, without our luggage in tow, we did not have any extra burden to carry around.
The trip from the airport to the hotel that the airline had arranged was just about 30 minutes drive but it seemed far at night. Further, the traffic was heavy. Hotel Aldeia dos Capuchos Golf & SPA was a 4-star hotel but when we arrived, it seems closed for the day. The receptionist was nowhere to be seen and appeared after some time. The hotel staff seemed to be taken in a surprise of the large group appearing in the middle of the night from nowhere.
There was a long queue at the check-in counter but we managed to get one large room for each of us. It was good that we don’t have the share rooms. There was no news of our next flight but a cold shower was the first thing we had in mind once we entered our rooms.
(First, of many rounds during breakfast – we were so hungry we could have eaten a horse. Good thing the restaurant stocked up enough food & drinks)
Good thing the hotel provided with complimentary internet so we managed to inform the change of plan to our contacts in Cape Verde. I “tweeted” TAP Air Portugal on the details of our next flight – I guess many others also did the same. The first reply was that they did not have any update and asked me to check again with them later.
But then within 10 minutes – credit to the TAP Air Portugal Customer Support – I got a tweet back with offers for 2 flights for me to pick. One was an earlier flight at 8.05 pm, another was a later flight at 8.50 pm – replacement flight for the earlier turned back flight. Considering that our luggage was still stuck with the airline, we decided to maintain the replacement flight.
The next morning, it was time for breakfast – the hotel had provided vouchers for breakfast in one of the dining rooms but it came with a condition – we need to pay for the water & other drinks. There was uproar from the more vocal passengers (we were just happy that at least breakfast was provided and did not mind paying for the drinks).
The breakfast was heavy so it did not make sense for the hotel to impose charges on the cheaper drinks. Good thing a representative from the airline had arrived and after a quick discussion with the hotel manager, the airline agreed to take care of the cost for drinks as well.
After breakfast, we checked out and waited for the airline bus to take us back to the airport. It was a lazy afternoon whilst we waited at the lounge at the front of the hotel. It took another 30 minutes before we arrived at the airport. This time, there was no airline staff waiting for us so we had to look for the TAP Air Portugal check-in counter and explained the whole story.
It took some time to sort out the details and get our boarding passes tp Cape Verde. There was time to kill so we roamed around the duty-free areas.
(This time the flight was not eventful but we were dead tired the same)
The replacement flight to Cape Verde was on a bigger A330 and surprisingly it had entertainment screen for each passenger. However, the stewardess did not provide any headphones which kind of did not make any sense.
This time I did not sleep the whole journey to Cape Verde for obvious reasons although the chance of another turn back is very, very slim. By the time we landed in Praia airport, it was really late and we were worried about the pickup from the hotel that had been arranged. We did not want the driver to go away if we got delayed at the immigration in Cape Verde.
So true to our worry, we noticed that the immigration at Cape Verde had only opened 2 counters and the processing of the visas was very slow. One counter – the line did not even move – I guess it is a hotel staff or tour guide, he had like 20 passports with him and asked the immigration officer to process it. It took some time for this to be cleared and when it was out turn to stand in front of the officer to get our visas, it was not quick either.
The officer had plenty of questions to ask and since he was not well versed with English, the communication was not smooth (he asked us in Portuguese first). He then flipped our papers, counter checking with another officer and repeating the same questions to us.
Imagine this process was repeated to all 7 of us in the line – those who get cleared, we quickly rushed to the baggage pick up area – we were not sure if our luggage was transferred from the earlier flight to Cape Verde to the replacement flight.
(The sign that says it all – we have arrived in Cape Verde)
I got my luggage intact and so did the other 5 guys in the team. One guy was not so lucky – his luggage was still stuck in Lisbon and he only expected to get it in the flight to Cape Verde the next day. Forms filled up and the nice lady at the Admin was kind enough to make calls to Lisbon to confirm the missing luggage.
By the way, lesson learned for the next trip – always take a snapshot of your check-in luggage – you may need to show it to the airline staff in case it went missing. Good thing my colleague had a photo of it ready on his phone so the identification of the missing luggage was a breeze.
Luggage picked up and some of the guys stopped by the Telco counter to get the local sim card whilst the rest of us headed towards the main entrance. The hotel senior staff was waiting for us and assisted to get our things loaded into the hotel van (by the way, we encountered people who wanted to help to carry the luggage to the vehicles – they are NOT the airport staff but rather people who wanted to make a quick buck from unsuspecting foreigners).
The trip from the airport to the hotel was short – it only took less than 10 minutes to reach the hotel. It was probably a 2-star hotel from the look outside and our rooms & keys were ready even before we reached the hotel. This was good to quickly clear the registration process.
We had finally arrived in Cape Verde in one piece and it was high time to take a good rest before the start of work on Monday. Jet lag was severe on everyone’s faces so we were not expected to wake up so early in the morning.
To be continued in Part 5…