12: Other Airport Mishaps
So I've mentioned before that in 2014-2015ish, to save money on our flight to Paris, we transferred in Moscow even though that doubled the length of our journey. Well, we had about an hour to make our connection in the Moscow airport, and several minutes of that time was spent going through security and getting our passports stamped in Moscow. There were no signs in English, French or Spanish. We could not find any Customer Service Personnel who spoke English. We just had our tickets with the Gate number and no idea how to get from our arriving Gate to the connecting one.
However, during our flight I had come to realize that 90% of the women on our flight were blonde so I scanned passing crowds near the customer service desk until I saw a blonde group. We neared, heard them speaking French, and followed them. That's literally how we were able to find our Gate and make our connection on time. Once at our Gate, we relaxed. My SO went to what appeared to be Russian Starbucks where he was shoved out of line after arriving at the front, by a cute little old lady. He loves to tell that story.
That same vacation, half way through, we planned to visit Rome. We booked early morning flights to make the most of our day upon landing. Yeah, when dealing with smaller airports, don't do that. You'll be in for a bad time.
We'd booked the earliest flight to Rome possible and our concierge called ahead arranging for our taxi the night before, explaining how hard it would be to get a hold of one at 4am. He told the taxi driver where we were going and why. Excellent. We were packed, we checked out, tipped the concierge (my understanding is that this is common in France), and were in our taxi on time. I had maps of Paris and France downloaded onto my phone and from the road signs, I figured out the vague direction we were headed before falling asleep. Then I woke up to find my SO asleep, the car parked, and our driver not even in the car. Were were in front of the equivalent of a 7/11 in a city directly past the one with our intended airport (probably Persan-Beaumont Airport). I could see a sign outside naming the city we were in and did not like it’s location on my map. I freaked out.
We were now behind schedule to catch our flight. When the driver returned to the car with a half eaten sandwich and coffee I gestured at the map and the signs visible from our location that made it clear he had drastically over shot our trip. Also, this wasn't some innocent mistake like he was heading for the big airport as opposed to the smaller one. There was no airport near us except for the one he must have driven right past. Maybe he wanted to double our fare (which was already really high) or maybe he saw we were asleep and that was his favorite sandwich shop. Hell if I know but that was some kind of intentional and I was peeved. He sped the rest of the way to our actual destination.
Then he dropped us off at the wrong terminal. I should've downloaded the airport maps too, I guess. Customer service at that terminal redirected us to another one so we ran there with our wheely suitcases. This was our first international trip and we really overpacked. Always travel light. Once were were there, things calmed. Customer service advised us to put our smaller suitcase into the larger one so we didn't have to pay twice for luggage. Passing through security was quick and easy.
Our flight to Rome had no frills, was with Ryanair (who I do not intend to fly with in the future, if I can avoid it. They treat their employees horribly.), and was uneventful. We slept, arrived, and passed through security again. Rome’s airport security consisted of a single officer holding a German Shepherd on a leash whom we walked by on our way into the small lobby area where the customer service personnel were smoking at their desks. One gave us the bus schedule and we caught a shuttle into Rome. Nobody stamped our passports.
Rome was great. I wish we'd planned to stay there longer but on our second evening we let that concierge know what time our flight was and when we would be checking out. He informed us that the shuttle could either drop us off at the airport at midnight about 6 hours before our flight or we could take a taxi in the morning. Having had a questionable experience with our last taxi and the shuttle being inexpensive (maybe free?), we took it, expecting to nap at our gate in the airport.
We didn’t know the Rome airport closed at night, only opening about an hour before our early morning flight. We slept outside among many others in the same predicament. It was late September so chilly at night but not freezing by any means.
We woke up a little before opening and entered as soon as we were allowed to. Normally, I like a safe two-four hour window to catch my international flight but our flight was scheduled to leave an hour after the airport opened. Exacerbating my stress, the few customer service agents weren’t at their desks the second the airport opened. They trickled in willy-nilly over tens of minutes while I worried if we would miss our flight. Why would an airport even allow for flights so close to opening? Our Ryanair Customer Service Agent *finally* arrived a half hour before our flight was to board and we passed through security, boarding without further delay, but yeah, that was not fun.
TL; DR: Moscow airport had no English/Spanish/French signs/customer service agents to help us catch our connecting flight to France. Our taxi driver drove on, doubling our fare while we slept, nearly making us late for our flight to Rome from France. After that bad taxi experience, we used an airport shuttle in Rome. It got us there 6 hours before our flight was to leave in the morning. Problem was, the airport closed at midnight, opening an hour before our flight back to France. Worse, The Ryanair employee didn’t show up at their desk until a half hour before our international flight. Not fun. Download maps of any airport you're gonna land in. Download/Memorize basic directional phrases in the local languages. Never book the earliest flight at a small airport. Double check if airports close before planning to sleep at one. Don’t fall asleep in a taxi. Pack light.