One can never be too early to an airport. I have always considered that an axiom but yesterday I discovered that in Brazil one can indeed be too early.
I got to the airport in Salvador at 6pm, four hours before my 10pm flight only to discover that the American Airlines counter wouldn’t open until 6:30pm. They had some of those automated kiosks but they were also out of service. At least I wasn’t first in line as there were a dozen or so similarly baffled passengers ahead of me.
By the time I made it to the counter they had fixed the kiosks so I saw plenty of guys saunter right up to the clerk who accepted their checked luggage but ignored us early birds.
My boarding pass indicated that I should be at the gate at 8pm. I confirmed with the young lady who took care of me and she told me that I had been randomly selected for an extra security check and they would call my name at the gate. Since by now it was already 7pm, I headed directly to the regular security line which didn’t seem too long however I soon realized that it wasn’t moving and none of the workers understood English. I was finally able to get confirmation that I was in the right line so I didn’t tempt fate by trying to ask why my line wasn’t moving.
Every once in a while some people would be ushered to the front of the line by an attendant. Since I was in the right place, I didn’t worry too much, but it was getting close to 8pm.
Then, a few minutes before 8pm the line started flowing and when I got to the front the guy said “No, no, no. Miami no.” I asked “When?” and he pulled a guy in who spoke English. Apparently they weren’t ready for people going to Miami yet. They were only letting people going to Madrid and Lisbon get into the security line. They said it wouldn’t be long and asked me to head a new line.
So when the guard said “No, no, no” to someone with a blue passport, I would tell them that if they’re going to Miami to queue up behind me. There was so much frustration that I just had to laugh. It wasn’t long before a plane load of people where standing behind me.
Why didn’t they just have us form lines by flight from the beginning, I have no idea. Every once in a while someone who looked vaguely supervisory would come through and point to me and my line as though it was a problem and as if this was the first time something like this had happened, which I just can’t believe.
Around 9pm they let the Miami folks go through security. Since I was first I settled in at the gate which hadn’t even posted the sign indicating Miami as the destination yet. Then I heard people speaking in confused and frustrated tones. One group that were all going to Miami had different gates listed on their boarding passes. I looked around for the ubiquitous arrivals and departure monitors and there were none to be found. I then heard someone say that the gate had been switched. There was no way I would’ve known if I hadn’t been eavesdropping on my fellow English speakers.
I got to the new gate as they began boarding. I hung out expecting to be called but nothing happened. After just about everyone else had boarded, I presented myself to the attendant and he asked me to stand aside. Eventually a security officer came over and went through my carry-on laptop-book bag and made sure I didn’t have anything in my shoes or any unexplained metals on me. I was the last person to board the plane.
Maybe for the Rio Olympics in two years, they should hire some Germans to make sure things run more efficiently but after today’s horror show on the pitch, I don’t think that will happen. Poor Brazil! I am so sad for all my friends back in Salvador who are heartbroken tonight. Condolências!