Everyone knows traveling is stressful, last year I nearly missed the last leg of my flight home from Australia because I scheduled too little time between planes in San Francisco. This year going back I decided to eliminate that source of distress.
Arriving at the San Francisco airport in the morning for my evening flight from San Fran to Sydney on Qantas should solve it. I’d pick up my bags, check in early, and spend the day wandering around relaxed knowing where I was going.
A two-inch snowstorm in Portland, Oregon slowed my arrival at the airport a bit. No problem, I still arrived at 11:00 am for my 8:30 pm flight. At baggage claim, I gathered together my three bags and weighed down my shoulder with carryons. I asked a worker, “How can I get these bags to the international terminal?”
Her eyes sized me up, and without saying one word, pointed to the carts, which cost $6.00 to rent.
I dutifully stuck my credit card in the slot and with a huff and a puff wrangled my three bags onto the cart. If I hung on to the top one they stayed teetering as I pushed the handle. If I let up on the handle, the cart stopped abruptly and the top bag crashed to the floor.
Another worker saw me struggling and asked, “Do you need any help?”
“Yes, could you tell me how to take these to the international airport to check in for a Qantas flight?”
“Sure, take the elevator up one floor and walk across the bridge to catch the red air train.”
“Can I get this cart on it?”
“Yes, I think you can. Here follow me I’m going to the elevators.”
I maneuvered my gargantuan pile this time keeping everything on it and followed him to the elevator.
I followed the signs for the air train and arrived where a red train would soon take me to the correct terminal with hours to spare. The train stopped it automatic doors opened and the cart rolled on easily. I sat down. I asked two workers sitting on the end if I was on the right train and they assured me I was indeed.
The trained stopped at the international terminal and I rolled out into a huge open space. A high ceiling towered above me and people from all over the world milled about, some with carts piled higher than mine. I rolled my cart down the twelve aisles looking for Qantas. There were lists of airlines and flights lit up on the sides of each aisle. I read each one carefully, Qantas was not listed.
“Was I in the right terminal?” My brain switched to panic mode, then quickly calmed down. After all ,I had eight hours to find the right terminal.
I approached a nice lady who wasn’t busy at the Canada air check in desk. Thinking Australian and Canadians often know about each other. “Do you know where the Qantas check in desk is?”
“It is in aisle 12, but I don’t think they’re open yet.”
I quickly turned my cart and watching the aisle numbers headed up the rows. The numbers were on the ends: aisle 8, aisle 9, aisle 10, then 11 there was one more, but it wasn’t numbered. Maneuvering the cart around the corner I saw the number 12. I looked for Qantas. Lots of People were queued up for Japan Airlines, no Qantas sign anywhere.
I turned away frustrated my stomach growling. My cart and I slithered towards a close food court. I managed to get a tray of food, but as I moved toward a table my top bag crashed to the floor. I abandoned the luggage hopping not to be apprehended for leaving bags unattended while I set my lunch down and raced back for the cart.
After lunch, I continued my search for Qantas as I spent time making my way around with my pile. A couple of hours later I saw a place called Airport Travel Agency, it looked like it might have been a place to store luggage, but I didn’t ask, because I still had not found where the Qantas check-in was, or if it existed when it would open.
Still worried I called the Qantas help line. They put me on hold for thirty minutes. Looking up for my phone I saw another information desk, maybe just maybe they would know something. With my phone call still in que, I approached this desk.
“Do you know where the Qantas check in is?” I asked hoping for an answer this time.
“Yes it is in Aisle 12”
“I went there and didn’t see any signs for it just Japan Air and some blank ones that weren’t lit up.”
“They’re probably not open yet. They will open three to four hours before your flight.”
I hung up my phone, which was still in queue and I struggled back up towards aisle 12. I sat down in some comfortable chairs just around the corner from it. Finally at 4:30 pm I decided to look around the corner. My eyes looked first where the blank signs had been to see if they now said Qantas. They were still blank, then I stared, my mouth dropping open. There right in front of me were people lined up for Qantas, Japan Airlines signs now read Qantas, with a sigh of relief I queued up.