Morocco, Travel Advice

Losing my Marbles – Hostage Crisis at an Airport Hotel

11 Comments 23 July 2007

Me, Rosaline, and Sherif

Me, Rosaline, and Sherif at the Cairo airport

After nearly 11 months of travel, it finally happened – I finally reached the end of my rope. Thanks to Egypt Air and Royal Air Maroc Airlines – I nearly had a nervous breakdown that was colossal. I actually had visions of me ending up in a Moroccan jail, arrested by the airport police in Casablanca. This incident actually happened over a week ago – but it was such a sour, terrible experience that I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it until now. I had to step away and collect my thoughts a bit first…so here’s my story of 2 shitty airlines, an inept airport hotel, non-existent customer service, living in the same clothes for 3 days, shedding many tears, making 2 great friends, and experiencing the largest cultural difference that I have faced yet – this is the story of how I got from Morocco to Egypt.

I left Marrakech bound for a flight to Cairo Egypt. I was to arrive in Cairo on Sunday morning early which was perfect as my tour that I was to meet up with started on Sunday night. The Egypt tour group was to meet for dinner that night at our hotel and then early the next morning we were touring around Cairo – I was finally going to be able to see the Pyramids! I had booked my air ticket through Royal Air Maroc who flew me from Marrakech to Casablanca. I had a 4 hour layover in the Casablanca airport and then hopped an overnight flight from Casablanca to Cairo on a Royal Air Maroc flight operated by Egypt Air. Thankfully my bags had been checked through to Cairo so I didn’t have to lug anything around other than my carry-on which included my laptop, camera, passport holder and a book or two. I worked on catching up on my writing while sitting around at the airport, and I worked at spending my remaining dirhams since I wasn’t expecting to be back in Morocco anytime soon! In fact – I was rather proud of myself for spending every last dirham I had at the little café on 3 bottles of water, gum, and M&M’s. In fact, I was actually short by one dirham and the nice boy behind the counter at the café just let it ride. Perfect! I was ready to go to Egypt!

airplane

I boarded the plane, excited to have some downtime to simply listen to music and read and sleep. The plane wasn’t full so I had my whole row to myself…a great perk for an overnight flight! Things were looking great! We taxied out to the runway, and you could hear a weird noise – but I had my itunes on listening to the Digital Photography Show Podcast – perfectly happy in my geeky photography world. It appeared that we turned the corner and were about ready to take off down the runway – but we stopped instead. Little did I know that this signified the beginning of the end. We sat for about 10 minutes with the weird noise still ringing throughout the aircraft. Then the crew/captain came on the loudspeaker and said something in Arabic, and then repeated it in French. I wasn’t really too concerned as I watched the reactions of the passengers around me – they all seemed a little annoyed, but they just stayed seated and kept on reading – I decided that I would follow their lead.

About an hour later, I was starting to get annoyed and restless. We still hadn’t moved and it was now 1AM and I was getting tired. Soon we had another announcement – in Arabic and French and now everyone around me wasn’t ok…in fact – they seemed rather upset and started to get up and get their items out of the overhead. I still didn’t know what was going on – but I followed the crowd and removed my items and followed people off the plane in a sleepy haze. There were airport buses waiting for us and everyone got in a bus and were bussed back to the terminal. Obviously – this flight wasn’t going anywhere tonight…crap. It wasn’t the end of the world as I had an extra day in Cairo anyway before my tour started – so if I made it there later in the day – no problem. I liked my new laid back attitude…3rd world countries make you patient…and I felt like I had successfully stripped my high strung NY attitude and achieved patience successfully in Morocco. However, since I was tired, I was mildly annoyed with the whole situation.

As I got off the bus and followed the rest of the passengers back to the terminal I was rather fed up with the fact that I really had no idea what was going on. I was worried that I was going to be sleeping on the airport floor; and let me tell you, there’s nothing in the Casablanca airport besides one (yes one) electrical plugs, a few worthless shops, and smokers (you can smoke all over Morocco). The prospect of sleeping in the airport was not a good thought.

As we re-entered the terminal, there were some men passing out arrival/departure customs cards….now wait a minute…I was really confused now. I decided to start using my vocal chords at this point. As the guy handed me the card, I asked him if he spoke English. He motioned me over to the side to wait (for someone who spoke English to come talk to me presumably). I got fed up with waiting while everyone on the plane passed me, and finally butted in again and asked him if he could explain to me what was going one and why were they giving us customs cards again. He told me to follow everyone and that someone from the airline would be out to talk to us. He also mentioned something about sending us to a hotel. So I kept on following the crowd to customs, loosing my patience slowly. I filled out the card and we all queued up again and they basically voided our previous Morocco departure stamp in our passport and admitted us back into the country as if we never left. By this time it was now about 1:45AM, and my annoyance and sleepiness level increased another notch. I finally found someone again and whiningly asked them what was going on. They told me to wait and someone would explain.

Apparently the whininess of my English attracted some other English speakers because we all started to gather together…all 4 of us. We expressed confusion about the whole situation – no one knew what was going on, but everyone thought we were being sent to a hotel. As we were all commiserating together, one of the Australian women next to me, Rosaline, said something about the fact that her tour started tomorrow and she was worried about missing it. I said – “yeah, me too.” As we continued this miserable exchange, we came to realize that we were actually both booked on the same tour in Egypt with Intrepid! It was really a weird coincidence that we had both been in Morocco touring and now we were both heading to Egypt on the same day to start the same tour. Hell, we were probably slotted to be roommates in Egypt for all we knew – and here we met in the Casablanca airport at 2AM!

We did introductions and stayed together as we followed the crowd back out to the departure area and out of the airport to 2 big buses. Since we were talking, I don’t think that I was really thinking to much about what was really happening and that no one from the airline seemed to be present – instead, I just followed the crowd and talked to Rosaline about her Morocco trip. I have no idea who was leading us out to the buses, an airport employee of some sort, but no airline representative was to be seen – this should have been my first red flag…but I was tired, and missed this first clue. Maybe my dream of working as a ‘Charlie’s Angels’ private detective was really a little too lofty for me. I obviously wasn’t paying close attention.

Rosaline and I stayed by each other’s sides because we both needed to get to Cairo for the same reasons, and we both spoke English! We sat on one of the buses for a long time – another 20 minutes passed and the crowd really started to get cranky. No one was telling us any more than the fact that we were going to a hotel. At this point I also realized that I didn’t have my luggage…shit. Sure, I had my carry-on’s, but my luggage had been checked and was on the plane. When you are a world nomad like myself – your suitcase becomes the only thing you are responsible for – it is your life, your home, your identify sort of like a homeless person with their shopping cart. You lose that shopping cart and you are really screwed. Annoyance turned up one more notch. The thought of not having my suitcase by my side that night made me really, really jumpy.

As the crowd was getting rowdy on the bus, Rosaline and I started to get a bit more worried as we still had no idea why we were on the bus, where we were going, when we were coming back, if we’d every see our luggage again, or who was paying for our hotel. People were yelling around us in Arabic; we made the comment to each other that we didn’t understand what was going on. The worst is that you don’t know what happening and you don’t know if that’s due to the language barrier or if it’s because no one is providing any info to anyone. You start to assume that it’s the language barrier and believe that everyone else knows what’s going on. However, this lovely young Arabic man in the seat ahead of us turned around and explained to us in perfect English that we were being taken to a hotel and that no one had provided any additional information at this time. Rosaline and I thanked him and then looked at each other and mouthed that we needed to keep this translator around…we knew that he would be invaluable in this crazy escalating situation. Finally at 3AM the buses started moving and we went about 7 minutes to the Atlas Airport Hotel…my cell for the next 2 days.

As we entered the hotel, I knew this was not going to be a good situation – there were about 40 very angry people and 1 man at the front desk. The check-in procedure was painful – pulling teeth without novacane would have been more fun. Everyone attacked this man behind the counter for a room. Yelled at him, and crowded around. Even though I was dead tired – I didn’t feel like getting caught up in the craziness – instead I was pre-occupied with making a mental list of what items I had with me in my carry-on bags and what was in my luggage that was not with me. I think I was going through all of the worst-case scenarios in my head – what if I never saw my luggage again, etc. The only real necessity that I was missing for the night was a toothbrush and toothpaste – so it wasn’t the end of the world – in fact, I had my really important, expensive things with me – camera, lenses, laptop, ipod, cell phone, and passport/travel wallet. I even had a breath freshener spray…so the lack of a toothbrush wasn’t a big deal. However at that time I also realized that I had no Moroccan money anymore as I had gotten rid of it all. I wasn’t too thrilled about that – but I had assumed that the airline would take care of us and tomorrow we would leave sometime, no problem.

Rosaline, Sherif (our translator), and I sat in the lobby of the Atlas Airport Hotel while about 40 people duked it out at the front desk yelling and screaming at each other. I had found my inner-peace again, or maybe I was just exhausted, but I just sat there and waited – for another hour. Soon the line died down and I got up and eventually they gave us all keys to our own rooms, and we went to bed around 4:30AM…exhausted. I was mildly concerned that I really had no idea when we were leaving tomorrow but the front desk said they would call us in the morning with the information. Mind you…this was just the hotel staff telling us that – no airline representative was ever present – yet because we are human – we want to believe in people, so I fooled myself into thinking that the hotel staff must know what they are talking about. I’m sure that we’ll leave sometime tomorrow on another flight. Worst case scenario, we will be put on tomorrow night’s nightly flight to Cairo and I will be one day late. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t the end of the world either. If I was delayed exactly one day, that would mean that I would arrive in the early morning on Monday and I would hook up with my tour group on day one. The tour was scheduled to go see the Pyramids that first morning – the whole reason I was coming to Egypt – so I didn’t want to miss that! I fell asleep, a little uneasy with the whole situation, but exhaustion took over.

The next morning I awoke early, at 7:30 – due to the mild stress of the situation no doubt. I took a shower, tried to brush my teeth with my finger and my Listerine spray, and waited until 8AM to call the front desk to see what was going on. I had somehow thought that the front desk would for sure have some information for us by now. The airline should have a new plan and I wanted to know what it was so that I could go about making the necessary phone calls to Intrepid, my tour company, and let them know what was going on. I called the front desk, told them that I arrived last night on the late, cancelled flight and asked for an update. For the first time of many, they said “Sorry, Miss, we have not heard from the airline.” I was taken aback by this a bit, and asked when they expected to hear from them. They said that they should know more by 9AM. Ok, that’s wasn’t too far off, so I decided to ask the next big question on my mind…”will you be feeding us breakfast?”

Rosaline, Sherif, and I met in the lobby at 8:30, received our breakfast vouchers at the front desk and had breakfast. We got to know each other a little better over bread and butter (the typical breakfast in Morocco). Sherif was 21 years old, from Cairo. He was a tennis player – ranked 3rd in Egypt – and he had been in Morocco for a tournament. He had actually traveled all over the world playing tennis, which explains his flawless English skills. He told us about Cairo as we mentally started our tour through his information. After breakfast we went back out to the front desk and asked about the status of the cancelled flight and when we would be leaving. We got the same answer, “We have not heard from the airline.” I was visibly disappointed and Sherif stepped in and talked to them in Arabic. He didn’t get any further with the conversation unfortunately – but they told us that we should just be patient and the airline would call them when we were supposed to go.

I decided to stay calm, and do the next best thing – I asked them about internet access as I had seen a wireless router on the wall of the lobby. They had free internet…the one redeeming factor of the whole situation. I knew that if I could get online, I could get information. The web is my friend, and it ended up being my savior. I checked email, did some writing, while Rosaline and Sherif went back to bed. Sure, the hotel was very nice – just like your typical airport hotel – good, clean rooms, bad food, swimming pool, bar. However – we didn’t have our luggage, and I had no Moroccan money with me – so the pool just taunted us, as well as the bar.

Noon came around, my teeth were getting really icky now, and I was getting more and more concerned about the fact that we hadn’t heard any info. I went to the front desk again…still no info, but they gave me a lunch voucher. The 3 of us went to lunch again and now all we talked about was what was happening, or not happening with our flight. Sherif had talked to his parents in Cairo, and they said that the Egypt Air office at the Cairo airport said that the flight was delayed and that it would be leaving Casablanca shortly…ha. We went back to the front desk after lunch, well fed, but more annoyed than ever, and was much more forceful when asking for information. They kept on reassuring me that they had been calling the airport but they had no further information about our flight, they ensured us that they would contact us when they had any info.

Is your skin crawling yet….because this is when my skin started to crawl.

I was hot….I wanted information and I was tired of trying to get information via a hotel staff that really could care less about us. And I wanted to brush my teeth. I wanted to talk to someone at the airline…NOW. I got back online, and started looking up the websites for Eygpt Air, Royal Air Maroc, and the Casablanca Airport – I was just swinging in the air hoping to hit something. I started calling all of the numbers…international phone calls of course = expensive. I tried to use my cell phone, but decided that it would be way too expensive, so I used Skype on my computer and started making the phone calls through my laptop/internet for cheap. I dialed every number I could…however not a single number answered the phone. It was Sunday – and many of the offices were closed. Egypt Air only had one flight per day in conjunction with Royal Air Maroc that went out of the Casablanca airport – so they were only open at 9PM, and to make it more confusing – it was really a Royal Air Maroc flight operated by Egypt Air – so I honestly didn’t know who was responsible….but I kept on swinging.

I sent a note to the Egypt Air customer service email provided on their website – in vain…I’m still waiting for an answer a week later. I made the mistake of thinking that if they had something listed on their website – that it must be accurate. However, no phone number worked nor did the customer service email. In fact, the only phone number on the whole site that someone actually answered was the tech support number. Some poor guy in India had to listen to me rant – only to tell me that he couldn’t help me and that I needed to call customer service – I told him I couldn’t get a hole of customer service – so he gave me a new telephone number…but of course it didn’t work. It was now around 3PM – still no info at all. I finally went to the hotel gift shop and had to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste. However – you could only put purchases of 100+ dirham on your credit card – so I ended up buying toothpaste for Sherif and Rosaline too – so that I could at least make a purchase.

I tried to contact Intrepid to let them know that Rosaline and I were stranded in Casablanca and we weren’t sure when we were getting to the tour – but even they were closed on Sunday…I hate Sundays. I finally found a customer service phone number online for Royal Air Maroc and called it. Someone answered….hallelujah. As I tried to explain our situation (flight was cancelled, bussed to the hotel in the middle of the night, and now left here with absolutely no information about when we would be leaving), the customer service person put me on hold, came back after a few minutes and told me – “Miss, I’m sorry, but that’s an Egypt Air flight, you will need to call their office.” My brain was at it’s boiling point with this answer. I angrily explained back to this man that I tried to call the office for the last 2 hours, but no one answers – plus , my ticket was purchased through Royal Air Maroc – I am their customer and they need to be responsible in this situation too. I kept getting the same answer – they couldn’t do anything for me. I asked to be put on the flight tonight that left for Cairo (as I figured this would be my worst case scenario played out) – they looked at is and said, “Sorry, it’s full. You really need to talk to Egypt Air. We cannot do anything for you here.” Now I’m officially pissed.

My worst case scenario wasn’t the worst case. In fact – now I have no worst case scenario anymore because I have no idea what’s going on and who to blame. There are no flights to Egypt and no one from the frickin’ airline has contacted us, no one is answering their phone, and now I’m going to miss the Pyramids…and I still have no idea when I will arrive in Cairo.  At this time, Rosaline comes up to my command station in the 2nd floor lobby, and says – I have bad news. The hotel staff just told me that we will be leaving tomorrow around 4PM.

My friends and colleagues in NY know how I get when I’m worked up. I was beyond worked up at this point. I wanted to pummel someone, I was angry, I was sad, I was emotional, I had lost all patience. I NEEDED to talk to someone from the airline – NOW. I needed to explain that they had to put me on that flight tonight – somehow, someway. I needed to get our of this damn airport hotel where they knew nothing and talk to someone.

The Royal Air Maroc Customer service person had suggested that I go directly to the airport and see if someone from Egypt Air was there that could help me, if not, they said to ask for the Chief of the Airport. I grabbed Rosaline, Sherif, and my backpack – and took the airport bus back to the airport around 6PM. I felt like a General going off to war…but I didn’t really know who the enemy was. I had decided that I wasn’t going to leave that airport unless I was on that night flight, or without an answer as to when exactly I was leaving, or a ticket on another airline that could get me to Cairo, or my luggage. I was going to take no prisoners – I was worked up, I wanted someone to speak to, I wanted someone to tell me what the hell was going on, I wanted someone to treat me like a customer, I wanted my luggage.

We arrived at the airport and went straight to the Egypt Air office…a little sign read – Closed Sundays…blow to the stomach. However, they had 3 phone numbers on the sign as an alternative. I had my cell phone and dialed all of the local Casablanca numbers – not one answered…another blow. We decided to go to the next responsible party…Royal Air Maroc – they were at least open and should be able to help us in some way. Little did I know that I was walking into a minefield of the rudest people I have ever met. These people were despicable. Our game-plan is to have Sherif be our voice since he can at least speak Arabic – they might be nicer to us that way. Sherif goes through an exchange with the Duty Manager at the Royal Air Maroc office. Even though I can’t understand it – I know it’s not going well. They basically tell us that it’s Egypt Air’s flight – they can’t help us. Yet – we show them our tickets that have the fact that we have Royal Air Maroc (RAM) tickets and the flight has two flight numbers – one for RAM and one for Egypt Air. They continue to give us the cold shoulder and send us to a different RAM office in a different part of the airport.

I feel angry.

We go there – it’s a ticket office – we talk to them. They tell us to go talk to the Duty Manager (who we just came from) and work it out with him. They also tell us that the flight tonight is full and our names aren’t on the passenger list. The final blow is that they tell us that they have no record of a flight going out tomorrow to Cairo around 4 or 6PM – the only flight is the standard 11PM flight – and our names aren’t on that either.

I feel invisible.

They tell us to contact Egypt Air – we are frustrated and yell back at them that Egypt Air is closed and no one answers their phone. We ask them to call Egypt Air for us on their phone – they refuse. They tell us to go back and talk to the Duty Manager…the evil man that we just came from. We ask them to come with us as we told them that the Duty Manager sent us here! They say no.

I feel helpless.

We go back to the duty manager, he sees us coming and goes into his office trying to avoid us. We go into his office and start the futile process again saying that the RAM ticket office told us they we were to come back here and they said that he should help us. At this point – I wasn’t even sure what help I needed…but I needed something. He came out of his office, he yelled at us more – basically making us feel like it was our fault that we were in this situation. I tried to speak to him logically about our situation and our lack of knowledge of next steps, and our need to get to Cairo, he turned around and walked away from me. We were left standing in the middle of the airport.

I felt like crying.
I did cry.

Sherif, young Sherif put his hand on my shoulder and said that it would be ok – not to worry.

Photo: The Royal Air Maroc office in the airport where I lost my marbles.
airport We went to the luggage area to see if we could at least pick up our luggage as without our luggage we were really a hostage. I couldn’t just re-book myself on another flight – there were no other flights going to Egypt. I could possibly buy a ticket to get me to Istanbul and them from Istanbul to Cairo…but there were a few problems with that. One, I would probably never see my luggage again, and two I would have to pay for it out of my own pocket. My father ingrained these principles of right, wrong, justice, and fairness in me. These principles grow deep within me. I love them and I hate them. I wasn’t going to pay for another ticket when one of these goddamn airlines were responsible for my travel to Egypt. The shitty part is that I didn’t know who was responsible. The luggage manager told us that we couldn’t get our luggage as it was still on the plane, locked up. Wonderful….my visions of putting on my bathing suit and jumping in the hotel pool to cool down my temper and attitude were ruined. Plus – now I’m more confused than ever – why is our plane still sitting out on the tarmac with our luggage in it – it has been nearly 24 hours. The luggage manager tells us to go back and talk to the ticket office.

I feel lost.

We go back to the RAM ticket office – we let Sherif do all the talking at this point – I’m on the brink of losing my mind – I can’t speak. I see mild-mannered Sherif starting to get upset with the conversation. I may not speak Arabic – but I’ve been traveling enough in foreign countries to interpret most conversations – and I know that this conversation isn’t going well. Another RAM manager comes over to us – yells at Sherif. Now, in all fairness – I’m not sure if he was yelling as the Arabic language is a very gruff language. It’s already loud and ‘in your face’ – so it is hard to tell if someone is angry with you or if they are just saying “have a nice day”. But in the mental state that I was in at this point – it seemed like yelling to me. Sherif gather up Rosaline and I (who were now blobs of depression about the whole situation) and told us that we were to go back to the Duty Manager at the RAM office. He said that the ticket office does agree that it’s RAM’s responsibility to help us, but the Duty Manager has to do that.  For mental levity,  I wonder what it costs to hire a private plane.

I feel empty.

I don’t want to go back to the Duty Manager…the callous man that left me crying in the middle of the airport. But I have surrendered to Sherif now – I’m letting him deal with it. It’s now about 8:30 PM – we have been walking back and forth in this airport now for 2 hours, making no headway, learning that we still have no flight, and we have no luggage. We are nowhere. Sherif talks to more people at RAM. I notice that mild mannered Sherif is now getting visibly upset while talking to the Manager. They are yelling, they are disagreeing. The Duty Manager refuses to speak anymore – they are in a stare down. I look around the airport, I imagine myself letting out a blood curdling scream…just to get attention, just to not feel invisible, just to let out all of the emotions that are dying to break out of my skin. I have this lucid vision of the police surrounding me, cuffing me, and taking me away to some Moroccan jail…all because no one will talk to us and tell us what flight we are on and when. I have officially reached the end of my rope.

I give up.

We go back to the hotel, get dinner voucher and sit and eat in silence…dejected, more confused than ever, feeling lost. I look around at the other stranded guests at the hotel. There are many. Why aren’t they mad, why aren’t they making a scene – the thought of this makes me even more angry. I realize there is a huge cultural difference here, but I can’t understand how they can just sit back and do nothing about this clusterfuck that we are in. Maybe they are just happy to be in a nice hotel with a pool, swimming in their underwear. Or maybe they know more than we know…maybe there is a conspiracy going on here. I am loosing my mind now. The front desk has no more information other than the fact that they will get a call tomorrow afternoon and then they will bus us to the airport for a flight. I wash my clothes in the bathroom sink.

I go to bed.

Photo: Pool that we were unable to use at the Atlas Hotel
airport hotel

The next day I wake up refreshed – a new fight in me. It’s Monday now – our tour group is looking at the Pyramids right now – we are still stuck in an airport hotel – with no information. We get our breakfast voucher. Rosaline and I make a plan – we will go to the airport again and the Egypt Air office should be open by now – we can talk to someone there and at least get the information as to if we are truly on a flight, when it leaves, and when it will arrive in Egypt. Since 2 nights have passed, we have missed the Pyramids, and we have a bigger problem – our tour group is leaving Cairo tonight and taking an overnight train south to the town Aswan. Therefore, we no longer need to even get to Cairo…we need to get to the town of Aswan so that we can meet up with our tour group there in route. It’s 8:30AM, before we leave for the airport in search of an Egypt Air representative, we ask the front desk girl for any addition information about our phantom flight. She says – oh – I heard that you are leaving at 11. What?

I am confused.

We arrive at the airport. The Egypt Air office is still closed. We talk to Information. They try to contact the numbers at Egypt Air – no one answers for them either. They cannot help us. We ask what the flights are that are going to Cairo today – they say there are two – one at 4:00, and one at 11:00 both by RAM. We go to the RAM counter – a new Duty Manager is there…he is nice, helpful, says that it’s not our fault. He looks up our names on the two flights. Our names aren’t on the flights. He said that there are no other flights listed. He said that we would need to talk to Egypt Air.

I am lost.

We go back to the hotel just in case there really is a bus at 11:00 taking us somewhere, anywhere…hell, maybe it’s driving us to Cairo. We are grasping at straws. We ask the front desk if there is a bus at 11:00, the girl says no – the bus will leave around 4PM to take us to the airport for a flight around 6PM. I tell her that we were just at the airport and that there is no flight at this time. She says, “Well, that’s what the agent told us – that’s all the information I have.” I immediately key in on ‘the agent’ Who is this agent? Who does he work for? What is his number? Is he the Wizard of Oz making the decisions – I need to talk to him!!! She has no contact info for him and does not know what airline he works for. I agitatedly ask her who is paying for the rooms. She says Royal Air Maroc.

I am pissed.

I now have a mission – I will get to the bottom of this – I will. I go back to the second floor lobby and set up my command center again…laptop, Skype, cell phone…group of 4 people standing around me (the other English speakers) waiting for action. I was ready to lead my troops into battle again…but one that I had the upper hand in…in the digital world of the internet. I decide that I need to talk to someone from the western world…someone that understands customer service, someone that understands that you don’t just take a plane full of passengers and dump them in an airport hotel for 2 days and not EVER talk to them. I am armed with the internet and I’m swinging again. I find a Egypt Air phone number for a London office. Great – they are awake by this time in the morning – I will call them. After being transferred a couple of time, I finally get to a customer service number for Egypt Air in London. I am connected to Susan, a customer service rep. I tell her the story. She says, “What has the airline representative told you?” I said – there has been no airline representative…none…ever! She said that can’t be…but I tell her it’s the truth. She asks how many passengers are stranded here…I told her about 40 or so. She told me that they have offices in Casablanca that I should contact – I said yes, I know, but no one answers the 5 phone number that I have. She puts me on hold. She tries to call the Casablanca office – after 5 minutes she comes back…she couldn’t get a hold of them either. I say to her – “Look, I’ve got a group of passengers around me with no idea what is going on, we’ve been here for 2 days with no information, I beg you to help us.” She said, “Sherry, you don’t have to beg, we’ll work this out.”

I feel justified.

After being put on hold a number of times again – she takes my cell phone number and promises that she will call me back. I can hear her manager behind her – they both seem absolutely shocked and embarrassed that we are in this situation…the exact emotions that they should have. When I told her I missed the Pyramids, she felt my pain. She was on my side. I liked Susan…she was my angel.

I waited.

Susan called me back and told me that I would be getting a call from the Egypt Air Manager in Casablanca shortly. I trusted her, so I waited. At noon, the manager, Salem, contacted me – apologizing profusely, and providing me answers. They were waiting for a part to be shipped from some other country. It arrived today and they were repairing the plane now. He was expecting that we would leave around 6PM that night. He said that he would call me back at 1PM with an update. I told him that Rosaline and I now need to get to Aswan, he said that he’d take care of it.

Justice.

I am sure that Salem, the Casablanca manager, got in a huge amount of trouble of this – as he should have. Susan told me that she called the Egypt corporate office and explained things. I’m sure that Salem had someone rip him a new one from the corporate office. I bought myself a bottle of wine, to celebrate my small step forward, and to take the edge off, I cried more, I just wanted to be away from this stupid place, I wanted to be in Egypt, I wanted my luggage, I wanted to change clothes, I wanted this to be over. I think that once I got some action, I was able to release all of the emotion inside.

Redemption.

Salem called me back and said that me and the other passengers should go to the lobby now and that there would be a bus waiting to take us to the airport to be put on a 4PM flight. The mechanical fix was successful. He then asked me how I would like to pay for the Aswan tickets…

Anger.

What? Did I hear that correctly? I said, “Sir, I appreciate all of your assistance this afternoon. I’m sure that you can appreciate the situation that we are all in here, so I’m sorry if I get upset, but I am NOT paying for the Aswan tickets. It’s Egypt Air’s responsibility to get us to Aswan now. You cancelled our flight, left us at an airport hotel for 2 days with out any communication, I have now missed my tour, and Egypt Air is responsible for getting me to Aswan.” He told me that he would have to pay for them himself. I said, “I’m not looking for you to pay for them out of your own pocket, I’m expecting that Egypt Air pays for them. Do I need to call customer service and talk to them about it?” The magic words…he said that he’d call me back.

We got on the bus.

We arrived at the airport and I had a call from Salem again, he said that I was to look for Mr. Sukani at the Egypt Air office at the airport, he would have our Aswan tickets for us. Mr. Sukani doted on us…he made sure that we were ok and had everything we needed. This is how it should be.

Perfect.

Photo: Boarding the repaired plane
boarding plane
As I sat in the waiting area with Rosaline, and Sherif feeling justified finally – I called back Susan from customer service and thanked her profusely. I looked at my boarding pass and ticket to Aswan – I called Salem back and thanked him and told him that I appreciated his help. He said that he was glad to work things out, was sorry for the confusion, and that he hopes that I come back to visit Casablanca soon.

Yeah right…never.

We arrived in Aswan the next morning…exhausted from our 2 days of hell, 5 hour flight, 4 hour layover, and 1 hour flight. We met Sherif’s mother and father at the Cairo Airport – we gave them a big hug and told them that they raised a great man. We promised to come cheer him on in the US open and the Australian Open one day! We collapsed with our luggage in our room…the ordeal finally over.

Photo: All of us with our boarding passes…finally.
boarding passes

Prologue

There is good and bad out of this ordeal. Sure, I already knew that airline travel can suck. However, I learned a lot about myself, but I mainly learned about the cultural differences. There are cultures that sit back and accept things – and then there are cultures that demand results. I was happy that I was able to hold it together (even if it was by a thread) long enough to get results. I felt alive again – I felt resourceful. Rosaline and I will be able to see the Pyramids…we are actually ending the tour in Cairo so we have rearranged our tour schedule to see the Pyramids the last day in Egypt. The bad news is that I have to hop back on an Egypt Air flight to get out of the country….God help me.

Some information in this post provided by Private Plane Charters

Your Comments

11 Comments so far

  1. vonny hass says:

    Good Morning Sherry,

    How blessed you were to find a few persons with whom to communicate in Morroco! Can you imagine how much more awful the situation would have been had not you had the Australian and the Cairo English speaking persons with whom to conspire!

    There is a loving God who deals with every situation in in His time and His way to accomplish His purposes for His created and His Creation. smiles

    Prayers for your safety, Vonny

  2. Bobbie Ann Tilkens from Philly says:

    Sherry – I am in awe of your blog, photos and travels. I am interested in perhaps doing something similar someday – hope I can pick your brain!nrnrHow did you plan your travel? Books, websites or other?nrnrAnd, a bit of a personal question – how much money did you budget for the year? nrnrI would love any insight that you can provide!nrnrBest,nrBobbie

  3. Alexis Mobley says:

    Sherry:

    This is a story for the record books!!!! I truly have my hat off to you, because I too would have been a big puddle of tears, trying to call anyone, someone who could help me sort out the mess. But, it also makes you aware of how strong a person you are, and what you are made up. You fought the “law” and WON!!! There is nothing in this world more powerful than education. You’ve utilized every bit of the teachings ingrained in you by your parents, and fought for what everyone deserves, respect.

    Truly wishing you smoother travels.

    Alexis

  4. Ruhie says:

    Hi Sherry!
    What an awful experience!!

    I don’ t know you but you are my hero!!

    I would have collapsed into a million puddle of tears if i had been in that situation!

    You give me hope!

    Praying and hoping you have smoother travels

    Ruhie

  5. Brian Bowling says:

    Oh my GOD! I was getting stressed and pissed off just reading what happened to you. I would have absolutely flipped out (and probably get arrested)_ if I went through what you went through. You are a strong person. Hopefully you never have to go through that again.

  6. Oh my! You must be really brave, but I can totally understand as I have had quite a few bad experiences at the airport but none like yours. You rock!!!

  7. Marty says:

    What a pain. Glad you made it through all the insanity. Next time, have Captain Renault round up the usual suspects. ;)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpoyshqB8-o&feature=related

  8. Nigel says:

    Fortunately you met two other good people to work though this with. Even better one of them spoke the local language !

    If ever you visit France, consider this as preparation for the kind of customer service you’ll experience here.
    Well, it’s not as bad… but not far off.

    good luck

  9. Lizzie says:

    Eeeesh! I was looking around reading up on Morocco as we are heading that way in a couple of weeks, having just booked flights and wondering what to do.

    I got so stressed reading this, I feel all tense now!

    But you have given me courage incase something like this happens I will keep fighting!

    Hopefully won’t happen though!

    We are flying to and from Marrakech and will be there for 10 days, but want to travel to the coast (hopefully see those goats!), hopefully to the mountains and desert too.

    If you have any advice, to contact me :)

    Thanks for your website, it is so interesting, and stunning photography.


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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Where am I and Where am I going?

NYC -> Jaipur, India
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