Monday, December 01, 2008
Here I am sitting at Shanghai airport, having initially arrived at Delhi airport (DEL) some 18½ hours ago (9pm on Sunday 30th) to hopefully depart for Melbourne via Bangkok with Thai Airways . At first I'd planned to get there 2 hours before the scheduled departure time but then thought that perhaps arriving 3 hours beforehand might be prudent, given the problems at Bangkok airport .When I arrived at DEL (with my bike suitably depedalled, dehandlebarred and with derailleurs enclosed in cardboard & air let out of tyres as requested by airlines, and hence rendering it incredibly unwieldly to manoeuvre it about the airport as I ended up being required to do, from one end to the other, several times) the electronic flight indicator said my flight had been cancelled, and this was echoed by the occasional recorded announcement, encouragingly inviting affected passengers to "contact your airline." After muttering the obvious under my breath, and perhaps even audibly, I went to the Help desk, where I received a different & happier message: the flight was still on. A lengthy queue had already formed, and incredibly, given I was there so early, I found myself almost at the end of it. After waiting for over 2 hours in what I think was the slowest moving queue I have ever encountered, I was instructed to wait at the side as Thai said they would buy me a ticket with China Eastern airlines (who?) to take me to Melbourne via Shanghai. Fantastic! - I'd feared being stuck in Delhi or Bangkok for days. I was promptly booked in with the aforementioned airline but I quickly noted from the looks of their officials that the bike was going to be a problem. First up they insisted that I get it wrapped in plastic, but the machine operator at the airport couldn't do it as it wasn't geared up for bicycles. On returning to the counter, an official glared at the bike and then me and said that they were going to levy an additional charge to take the bike. I expostulated, noting that this was unprecedented in well over a decades' biking (and the bike plus check-in luggage was only slightly over, and within accepted limits at 21.3 kg) but my words were countered with examples of other airlines that allegedly also charged to carry bikes. Luckily Thai Airways who had bought the ticket for me (how helpful they were) managed to have this charge waived. After this, it was off to get the bike X-rayed - no problems here, and it was whisked away, hopefully to re-emerge at Tullamarine. Another 1½ hours & I should be out of here (the plane departs at 18:15), and I am to arrive in Melbourne via Sydney at 7:30am on Tuesday. Fingers crossed.