After a great and intense four weeks, it was time to leave Cabo Verde again. These last weeks I have been working, together with Cape Verdean and Portuguese colleagues, on identifying a viable mechanism for social targeting in the water sector. More specifically, trying to identify an established and recognised mechanism in Cape Verde that can be used to identify poor and vulnerable families.
It is too early to say whether we have been successful. However, we have made good progress, and it was once again an interesting assignment to work on. And a great team to work with.
So last Sunday, after a lazy lunch in a small village along the coast not far from Praia, it was time for me to leave. I had to arrive in Amsterdam by midday (the scheduled arrival time) to deliver my passport on time to the visa office. I had to organise a visa for my next trip in a few days time. But I was flying with TAP Portugal, and that was not a very reassuring idea.
For unclear reasons, our departure was delayed. Maybe it was because we were waiting for someone (just before leaving, a last passenger boarded the plane), but maybe there was another reason.
Whatever the reason was, we left too late. Even though my I knew that I would probably have to, once again, run through an airport, I managed to relax and have a sleep. As my friend Petra said while commenting on Jim’s blog post about missing his connection in Lisbon (again with TAP), these are the times for which we go running three mornings a week. So at least I felt prepared for that part of the challenge.
In some parts of the world, e.g. Heathrow airport, they are prepared to assist travellers who want to make their connection. Last time I was there, I got an orange card and could use priority lanes. Helpful for the customer and good for the airway company I would say. Especially since these days, you can, easily, claim money back when delayed for more than three hours in Europe.
But there are no such privileges for people with short connections in Lisbon. There you can run as much as you want, it won’t make a difference. In the end, you have to stand in the queue for passport control and security checks like everyone else. It is only at the very last moment that they give priority to passengers to destinations where the gates are closing. Not very helpful, considering the fact that the delay of the TAP flight from Praia is not an exception, so you end up in a long queue of fellow passengers all hoping to get their
So I patiently queued, waiting to get my hand luggage and myself checked. Once through I was ready for a last sprint. I already had a boarding pass for 12 hours later in my hand. But still hoped to be able to make it.
But no, we had to wait for more passengers and go in a group, accompanied by ground personnel. Obediently I waited, hoping this meant they were waiting for us at the gate. They weren’t. And I might just have made it if I’d gone on my own.
Less than half an hour later I was queuing up again at the transfer desk. This time to organize a different connection. I still had to organize my visa, and there was now no way I could get to Amsterdam on time.
The visa service also has an office in Brussels, so I decided to try my luck and change my flight to Brussels. At least then I could hand in my passport before the end of the day. And I was lucky. There was still a seat on a flight to Brussels arriving at 16.00. I accepted and decided to worry about my trip back to Amsterdam after passport delivery.
Not really to my surprise, but very inconveniently, my luggage never made it to Brussels.
Another queue to report the lost luggage, and valuable time was ticking away.
Once that was done, I jumped in a taxi. Five minutes later we ended up in a traffic jam. The taxi driver was good and fast, and I stumbled into the visa office just in time.
Exhausted, and cold (of course for once I decided I didn’t need to carry a jumper, I obviously hadn’t checked the temperature in Amsterdam), I arrived at the train station. And by a miracle, I organised a train ticket and train to Amsterdam in less than 15 minutes.
And as a result I arrived almost two hours earlier in Amsterdam than I would have with the alternative flight to Amsterdam they had offered me. I travelled comfortably light since my suitcase hadn’t arrived in Brussels, with a story to tell, and saving on the cost to send my passport from Amsterdam to Brussels where it had to go anyway. Plus, I should get financial compensation for the delay.
It is true, what the great Dutch footballer, Johan Cruijf, says with his piece of wisdom ‘elk nadeel heb zijn voordeel’– every disadvantage has an advantage’. Or, every cloud has a silver lining.
It’s wise advice to keep in mind, at least when traveling TAP next time. Or is it better to follow the advice hidden in TAP’s unofficial acronym: Take Another Plane?