We noticed that Hong Kong airport had a United Club and my membership was still valid for another couple of weeks so we headed over there to wait for our flight. This United Club was far better than most. They had real food, including Sushi, Teriyaki Chicken, Fried Rice, and a whole bunch more. The food was not great, but it was good, free and plentiful, so we were happy. Better than that, they had showers. Nothing makes me feel better and more refreshed than a shower. Peter and I took advantage, while the girls passed. It felt incredible to be somewhat clean.
After a couple hours in the lounge it was time to head to our gate. Our flights had been delayed about 40 mins, but that was not big deal. Now, Hong Kong airport is HUGE, so it took us about 20 mins to walk from the lounge to our gate. When we got there, we were still a little early, so we took a seat and waited. Once they announced boarding everyone seemed to run to get in line. By the time we got in line we were dead last out of 300 people. It was at that point when Stacie turned to me and said “I think I left my other bag back at the United Club”. It was another oh crap moment. We had about 30 minutes to take off and a bag full of stuff we needed back about a mile away from us. The bag was just a plastic grocery bag with some medication, food and Stacie’s neck pillow, but at the time (sleep deprived) it seemed important. So I handed Peter my backpack and said “I’ll be back” and started sprinting. By the time I reached the United Club I was drenched in sweat and out of breath. I tried to convey what was going on to the receptionist, and she jumped up to help, but looked confused. We ran back to where we were all sitting, and big surprise, the bag was gone. I told her the bag probably looked like trash and was thrown away, so she went to the cleaning crew as I started digging through the trash bins while looking at my watch thinking about how much time I had left. People were looking at me like I was a junkie scrounging for my next fix. I was sweating like a pig, tired from my last flight, dressed in yoga pants and a flannel digging through trash cans in what is supposed to be a refined place of peace for weary travelers - it was not a shining moment for me.
The receptionist came back with that “sorry crazy man, but I can’t help you” look on her face and told me nobody had seen anything. At this point I thought I had about 25 mins to get back to the plane, however, I had somehow confused the departure time as 9:50 instead of what it actually was which was 9:40, so I really had 15 minutes. I decided I needed to give up and started my O.J. Simpson impersonation (the Hertz commercial, not the murderer part) and started sprinting back to the gate. When I got 100 yards away there was an agent who asked if I was Mr. Gombert. I confirmed and she raised her walkie talkie to her mouth to confirm I was on my way. I got there just before they closed the door. It was 9:32 for a 9:40 international flight, not a good move, but I was on. I relaxed and started heading towards my seat, which was 59K, however, when I got to 52K I saw Peter and Lea sitting together in an Exit row. “Hum", I thought, “why are they in the wrong seats? And where is Stacie?”. Peter looked up, completely flustered and said “they just moved us without telling us why”. I was at the end of my rope and nearly turned from Hertz O.J. to Brentwood O.J. instantly. I found Stacie in the next isle looking equally as pissed. It turns out that when Cathay Pacific canceled our flight from London to Hong Kong and then rebooked us, they could not tell if the 4 HOUR layover in Hong Kong was going to be sufficient for us to make the flight, so they unchecked us in and gave away our seats - nice - well done Cathay. Now Peter and Lea - 13 and 15 were responsible for the safety of the rear of the plane by manning the exit row and Stacie and I were sitting apart from one another and were probably in middle seats - I say probably, because they did not actually tell me where my new seat was.
We caused a big commotion on the plane complaining to anyone we could and refusing to take our seats. We were those people on the plan you look at and want to kill because they are being unreasonable crazy people who are delaying your takeoff. However, if they knew the backstory of the canceled flight, the middle seats and the random changing of our new seats for this 11 hour flight they might be more on our side. I have to say in 20 years of flying I have NEVER had my seat changed without permission unless I am being upgraded, so I was furious (and tired). We held out until we got seats together, but they were in the middle of the plane, not the window and asile we booked. We sat down and fumed for about 45 minutes, replaying the whole thing and then decided to put it behind us and get some sleep. We sleep most of the way to Auckland and woke up with only a couple hours left.
We landed a little late (thanks to us), but we were safe and all received to be at our destination finally - it was 2:30 PM Auckland time on Monday, 2:30 AM in Argentiere - 35 hours after we departed. We cruised through immigration and went right to baggage claim. All we wanted at that point was to get our bags, get our car, and go take a nap. However, Cathay had different plans for us. Once again they figured we would be better off with a change of plans, so they decided to leave our bags in Hong Kong. In reality, I think Cathay Pacific (which Peter aptly renamed Crappy Pacific) was just looking out for our best interest. I mean who would want a clean set of clothes after 35 hours of travel? They believe deeply in the adage of what does not kill you makes you stronger and like to help their customers to gain this perspective when traveling. Suffice it to say I will NEVER travel on CP again.
We picked up a voucher for our incidental expenses and then headed to get our rental car, totally frustrated and exhausted. We got our car with relative ease and found our rental house about 30 mins later. The house has a beautiful view overlooking the ocean, and half of the house is really nice, the bedrooms and bathrooms, however, are not nice, but for two nights we figured we could manage.
We decided to go walk around Auckland for a while to pick up some necessary supplies given we did not have our bags. We finished our errands, and then had a good dinner at a local pub. When we got back to the house we figured out we had no internet access so I had to contact our host to see what could be done. This took a little while, but I finally go through and as I sit here on Tuesday afternoon at 11:52 AM our bags just arrived 5 mins ago, but we still have no internet. Regardless we are here safe and sound and looking forward to another travel day tomorrow to get down to our real New Zealand destination - Queenstown.
Mishaps while traveling are part of what you expect, and can even be fun sometime. You hope to handle these difficulties with grace and dignity. I can’t say I handled this situation exactly how I would have wanted to, and maybe there is something to learn from that, but right now I am still fuming at CP. I don’t mind when bad weather or mechanical issues throw a wrench into your plans, but when an airline just treats you like a piece of meat to be shipped from point A to B, they deserve some ire, and in this case we were ground chuck.