Last night we were supposed to go to London. Supposed to… that should say it all. We were all very excited about this journey, one we have been talking about for months. Aidan thought we were going weeks ago and has been talking about the impeding journey constantly. So when we found out that we weren’t going, I think he may have been most devastated of all.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate in this past year to have the opportunity to travel thru Europe on a regular basis so I don’t want to seem like I’m acting like a spoiled brat here who’s complaining about a cancelled trip. But it’s more than that to me. Part of the reason we came to Europe was to experience Europe as much as possible. And so to me this is an opportunity missed that we can’t get back. It may seem like 3 1/2 years is a long time to have to see “all” of Europe but the kids only have so much time off of school and Josh from work so there are only so many long weekends that we have to take these trips. This weekend was a good one – a 5 day weekend! Not many of those happen and so we were super excited to spend 4 full days in London (despite the freezing temps there!).
So what happened you ask? Why aren’t we going? Was it the snowstorms in England? Nope… it wasn’t. It was the air traffic controllers. And while I don’t know or necessarily understand all the details involved in the strike, I do know this. Last night as we were waiting in line to board our flight (the flight before us made it out) after waiting in the airport for over 2 hours, an announcement came on within the airport. All flights in Spain have been cancelled due to air traffic controller strikes.
Now strikes are VERY common here in Spain. A little too common if you ask me. However, they are done respectfully and are planned so that while they are inconveniencing people they are at least giving you advanced notice so you can plan accordingly. Several times in the last few weeks the FGC (our commuter rail) has gone on strike between the hours of 12-4. For me, not a huge deal but for those that go home for siesta a 2, I’m sure it was a huge pain, but at least they knew in advance. The difference with the strike last night? It was an unannounced strike. Apparently it started around 4PM in Madrid, then went to the Baleric Islands and the Canary Islands and then on to Barcelona. So when our flight went to board they had cancelled all flights.
As you can imagine, we were pretty irate. If this had been a planned strike we could have rescheduled our flight instead of dealing with chaos of trying to calm the kids, calm ourselves and try to figure out a plan of action from the middle of Barcelona Airport. It was a lesson in frustration and to add insult to injury, what makes me all the more upset about this strike is that my understanding of the situation is that the air traffic controllers were having a problem with their hours and working conditions. Sure, I totally understand that – everyone should have good working conditions. But here is where I get angry and it’s 2 fold… the first is that they make over 600,000 euros a year. Hard in my mind for you to complain about working conditions when you make that kind of money. And my second issue is that you have now affected over 250,000 people who are trying to travel on the longest of the long weekends in quite some time – it has cost the airlines significant money in cancelled flights, hotels and meals for stranded passengers and quite honestly has just put a really bad taste in the mouths of many. In an economy that’s really struggling, the choices of the few have affected the pockets of many and I think that’s just unfair.
What now of our vacation plans? There are none. We are out significants amounts of money between cab rides (Josh took the kids home while I waited for our luggage), the kennel for the dog and for the Lion King tix that we will not get refunded for. Not to mention the let down of a trip we were really looking forward to as a family and the opportunity to experience a new place. We jumped the gun a little, I will admit and arranged for Jake to come home today, Saturday rather than waiting til Wed as originally planned and so most hotels won’t take dogs and most car rentals places are out of cars anyways so we are kind of stuck regardless.
My plan now – to make the most of a “bad” situation. It sucks that we are out money for a trip that we couldn’t take but I think that during the next few days we’ll take some time as a family and do some things around Barcelona. I’ve heard the Christmas markets are really great here. And we’ll start to make some travel plans for 2011 since we now have some “free” time – I’m glad we had insurance on our flight at least and we’ll make sure to do that again for any future trips too!!