October 11, 2009: It’s said that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who get to airports early, and those who show up at the last minute. I imagine the latter group have had their wings clipped a little lately, what with all the extra security, and with budget airlines closing check-in early. Since I’ve always been in the first group, I left my hotel with what I thought was plenty of time in hand to catch my flight to Aleppo. I figured that after check-in I could sit down with a cup of coffee and catch up on my journal.
The roads in the center of Yerevan were closed down for a celebration of its 2,791st birthday (no, I don’t know why 2,791 is significant), but my taxi still got me to the airport in good time. Syrian Air was handling check-in, and I stood in line for a while, having a nice chat with the guy behind me (lived in Yerevan but born in Aleppo) before handing my e-ticket to the woman at the counter.
As I wrote back in August, the flight to Aleppo was a code share between Syrian Air and Armavia, and since Syrian Air’s rules required me to get a paper ticket, I booked with Armavia through onetravel.com. When I checked online a couple of days ahead of the flight I saw that the time had changed, so I actually stopped by the Armavia office in downtown Yerevan to make sure I had the right time, and that the onetravel e-ticket would work. No problem, I was assured.
Well, there was a problem. The agent told me that Syrian Air doesn’t have an arrangement with Armavia that allows them to accept Armavia’s e-tickets, and I couldn’t check in. Apparently the agents were used to this – one of them walked me through the terminal to the Armavia office, and told me to come back when I had a paper ticket. Well, that shouldn’t take long, you would think. You would be wrong. It took 40 minutes.
Readers may be wondering why the woman in the Armavia office in Yerevan hadn’t issued me a paper ticket. I’m still wondering the same thing. Perhaps she didn’t want to spend 40 minutes sorting things out, although it might have gone a bit faster on a Friday than a Sunday. As it was it took a lot of phone calls and a lot of waiting. I decided that projecting worried patience would serve me better than anger, but I was seriously unhappy.
Once I had the ticket in hand I had no problem checking in – the line had disappeared. Then, after I cleared two separate passport control checks – getting my index fingerprints taken at the first – and waited while my carry-on bag was examined by security, I arrived at the gate exactly at boarding time. Since boarding hadn’t started I did manage a quick cup of coffee. I found that Syrian Air really cares about security – all the checked bags were sitting on the tarmac beside the plane, and we had to identify our bags before boarding. The only other time I’ve had to do that was for an Agra to Khajuraho flight in India.
After the hassle the flight was fine – I had three seats to myself. But you’d better believe that I will continue to get to airports in good time – that 40 minute wait justified a lifetime of early arrivals!