Sunday, 13 December 2009
I have travelled thousands of miles in the last few years but this experience at San Francisco International (SFO) was really outstanding. On my flight from Hawaii to San Francisco I have already learned what to expect from an American carrier – less to nothing. Poor service, no food, not even snacks, some soft drinks but not enough for a long journey. The flight was 5 hours long!
Having the previous flight in mind I wanted to be early at SFO to have enough time for the check-in procedure. It turned out that it was a good idea to repack my luggage because I was just in limit with my check-in bags. I am carrying now 17kg weight on my photo backpack and messenger bag. The check-in is a self service counter but it only works smoothly for people with a US passport. Others have to type in all the details of the passport on a touch screen. So I had to call for assistance when the terminal locked up. The surfboard was not a big problem. A quick notice that I have to pay 100$ for the excess dimensions of the bag was fine with me. The shock came when the American Airlines assistant asked me for my return ticket. I didn’t have one because I wanted to book it when I was sure where and when I fly back to San Francisco. She told me without a valid return ticket she will not let me on board and offered me a ticket for 700$ - One way and without taxes!! Of course economy! I wasn’t pleased with this approach so I have called the chief operation officer in charge to figure the problem out. We started to shout around and he insisted that I have a return ticket because it is a policy. He was also not very helpful – the only suggestion was to come back with a written statement from the DR consulate that it is fine to enter the country without a return ticket. I started arguing and pulling out tricks of the box but all didn’t work out – deadlock! Suddenly we’ve found a solution: A refundable return ticket. I own now a useless return ticket from Santo Domingo (DR) to San Jose (Costa Rica). Once I am in the Dominican Republic I can go to an American Airlines service desk, give my ticket back and get a refund. All the trouble just for a lousy policy!
I have visited so many countries this year and many of them had the return ticket policy. Even it is required for the US. But I never have been asked to show the return ticket and many times I didn’t owe one at the time of entering the country. I run quite often in this policy trap in the US. I don’t want to follow illogical and stupid policies just because some bureaucrats are too stupid to figure out intelligent solutions. Many people agreed to my arguments but refused to make an exception of the policy because they fear that they get in serious trouble. It’s really obvious here that the country has a lively military background. People are treated in a very rude way and they seem to accept it. Orders are given by securities and authorities and the people do what they say without questioning if the order is reasonable or not.
Another highlight are the airports themselves. It is quite obvious that something is going wrong here in the States. The airports (speaking of SFO, MIA and JFK) are old, lacking of infrastructure and service facilities and could be run more efficient as other big international airports. Travelling here is really a tough job.
Soon I will leave to my final destination Puerto Plata. I’m thinking of the full pleasure program today when I’m finally at my hotel: Rum and cigars. I have even bought a cigar magazine and learned that the Dominican Republic produces more types of cigars as Cuba.
The final highlights of the day - yes - more then one was at the Miami International Airport. Before the counter opened the clerk (from Dominican origin) started singing a song with support of a Caribbean scratch instrument. That was a great and very energetic performance and the people loved that. He even sung a second song and also one encore. That was the positive highlight - the downer in Miami was that I have recognised after getting seated in the air-plane that no one stamped my passport with the leave stamp and also I had the green card stapled in it. It's quite likely that I face problems coming back for my return flight to Europe. The immigration officers will blame me for violating the immigration laws and I will tell them that someone of their staff didn't follow their own policies. Big fun expected for the next American flight adventure.