Trip Start Jul 19, 2012
17Trip End Aug 03, 2012
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We're sitting in Madrid Barajas airport waiting to board the connecting flight. Not even the Spanish Armada can stop us although the arrogant woman at check-in control tried her best.
The initial impression was glorious sunshine and 25 degree temperature when we disembarked the plane. The reflection on the plane steps was blinding so we had to watch our steps.
We got to check-in control and the woman rattled off her instructions in her native Spanish. Well, little did she know that I studied Spanish in school to O level standards, had a very good teacher and still remember 80% of what I learnt. She looked at our boarding passes and refused us entry. She said they were not boarding passed even though I showed her the words "boarding pass" written in both English and Spanish. She just kept shouting "No aqui! No aqui!" meaning “Not here!” So I shouted back at her “Donde!” meaning “Where!” and she answered something about policia, police. I confronted her again, shoved my document in here faced and pointed out and read the words “Tarjeta de embarque” which is the Spanish for Boarding pass, but she would have none of it.
Another Spanish speaking female passenger intervened and asked her what the problem was, then explained that she said our documents were missing some notation that made them not quite valid and we had to go to the police post to be issued with regular card type boarding passes.
It was clear I was not going to make any headway with this one so I made a tactical retreat and hurried downstairs accompanied by my wife who was obviously very nervous at that point. We spotted a group of immigration police and quickly established which of them spoke English. My basic knowledge of Spanish was my saving grace here again.
I explained the situation to the woman officer and she took a look at my document and pointed out to me that it said “boarding pass” at the top. Isn’t that what I was telling the excited woman upstairs? The lady police couldn’t see what the fuss was about and decided to refer me to the information desk. She explained the situation to the man on the information desk who took the document, looked at it and pointed out to me that it said “boarding pass” at the top. If it wasn’t serious it would have been funny. He got on the phone and called the woman on the check-in control and told here we were coming up and she should let us through. We headed back upstairs got to check-in control loaded our carry-on luggage in the plastic trays and placed them on the conveyor belt to take them through the x-ray machine. The previously excited woman was now somewhat subdued and didn’t even look at us. The last time we were there 10 minutes before there was a male officer loading the plastic trays onto the conveyor, now we had to do it for ourselves.
While the experience at the boarding gate was in no way hostile, it was even more chaotic. When we got there we found a meandering queue ending somewhere near a “Sky Privilege” desk. On the right was a small crowd gathered around another desk. Within minutes the queue disintegrated into an unorganized crowd and the crowd migrated to the desk on the right. Realizing by then that no one was speaking a word of English, we wormed our way to the front of the crowd and discovered that they were doing all the pre-boarding documentation but none of the staff were communicating or explaining the procedure to passengers. The immigration officers were handwriting the travel lists on plain paper and sticking yellow tags to passports.