Note: Just left Chile and returned from traveling in Peru and Bolivia. And upon returning home in the Philippines, my family had two funerals in our hands. More about that later.
It’s Christmas Day and I’m sitting in Lima airport waiting for the most stressful flight of my life.
Around me people are wearing Santa hats. Families hugging and giving each other besos. Christmas trees beamed brightly with its gimmicky LED lights. The air is filled with Christmas song and cheer.
My Christmas Eve was filled dealing with bureaucratic crap from United airlines and then finally falling asleep exhausted only to have anxiety filled dreams of missing my flight.
Four months ago I spotted this cheap flight to get out of South America from studentuniverse.com. For a second I saw the note “Airport change – Newark, NJ – JFK, NYC” and thought surely there would be an easy train connecting the two if people make a lot of transfers between these two airports and that I won’t need to exit immigration to make this international connection. And so with that my eager fingers quickly clicked BUY.
What happened next was the worst airline nightmare I could imagine.
Turns out there wasn’t a train connecting Newark to JFK airport.
Turns out even though I was in transit, I still had to clear immigration and customs in the States.
All within three hours and thirty minutes. I found that this was the minimum amount of time necessary to make a connection from Newark to JFK.
Which fool created this?
By the time, I would clear immigration and customs in an hour, I have to make the journey from New Jersey to New York City in snowy weather which takes 60-90 minutes. Not including traffic and finding a taxi. That means I’ll get to JFK at 10 AM. Check-in time for my international flight is 9:15 AM. My flight leaves at 11:15 AM. Then I have to go through security and find my boarding gate.
Cutting it a little too close.
And if I miss my flight? I don’t want to imagine the worst case scenario. I have bled myself dry in terms of finances in South America. The thought of staying in one of the most expensive cities in the world makes my head burst with crazy what-ifs scenarios.
If you’re in NYC, perhaps expect to see an Asian girl with a begging sign and auctioning off her suitcase by the streets.
I’ve called United several times to no avail. They wanted me instead to buy a new ticket worth more than a thousand dollars. Then I called the travel agency student universe that issued the crappy connection and they wanted me to do the same thing.
At the United counter in Lima airport, they wouldn’t change my flight so it looks like I’m destined to do this connection.
I can only pray to God that I make it.
Flight Update- Newark- JFK Dec 26, 2012
It was nothing short of a miracle.
United arrived half an hour ahead of schedule at Newark at 7 AM. It took me 45 minutes to go through immigration and customs. Then I spent a good 15 minutes calling and looking for the Dial7 taxi service I reserved. Then we sped off via the Holland Tunnel and cut through Chinatown at NYC to JFK airport. There was little traffic at NYC since it was a holiday (Dec 26) otherwise those tunnels will be jam packed.
The taxi driver said that if I was making the connection on any normal given day, I wouldn’t be able to make it to JFK since it would’ve taken a little more than 2 hours because of the traffic. Also, the weather should’ve sucked today as there were predictions of snow but it was a clear crisp day. All in all, the drive from Newark to JFK took 50 minutes and I arrived in time for my check-in at 9:00 AM (I had expected to get there at 10:00 AM). But boy, that was the most expensive cab ride ever was I forked USD 113 for that 50 minute ride ($80 for the fare, $13 for toll and $13 for the tip). That’s already a two hour plane fare from Philippines to Hong Kong.
Still, either that or forking USD 200 for a helicopter to get me to the airport. I’ll stick to the cab thanks.
I consider myself really luck and blessed to have been able to make it to JFK on time under all these fortuitous conditions. I have God to thank. Next time, check the fine print for airport transfers.
This is one connection I’ll never forget.