Saturday 16 June 2007

Oman: not flying tonight

Mrs M and I arrived at Seeb airport to fly to London. We were taking the same flight to Heathrow from where mother would go to Falmouth to attend Flossie's graduation (she got a 2:1 by the way….yea, well done Flossie) and I would continue to San Diego to attend a conference. That was the plan.

We checked in as usual, went through immigration, rummaged around duty free and purchased coffees. While Mrs M sucked viscously on bucket of runny caramel gloop (with extra cream) they started to call our flight. We were a little surprised as it was one-and-a-half hours early and we were herded with an element of panic towards a different gate. We presented our boarding cards and were asked to take a seat while groups of scruffy, travel-weary passengers arrived behind. It transpired that our flight had been cancelled and Gulf were squeezing as any as possible from connecting flights onto an earlier departure. As we originated in Muscat, we would have to wait. The blue touch paper had been lit.

There was little sympathy from the staff as Mrs M made her feelings known, using gestures and facial expressions that transcended linguistic barriers. We were informed that the flight was only going to Dubai from where the passengers would have to wait until the following morning for the flight to London. We would be re-booked onto flights for tomorrow from Muscat. Mother was realising the inevitability of the situation. Concerned for our bags, we demanded their return lest they ended up somewhere where we were not.

And so we were lead around every corridor in the airport back through immigration (much confusion there) to change our flights, collect the bags and discuss several matters of administration. We sat limply as final bits of paperwork were prepared before a taxi drove us home. We had to explain to the cats.

After Mrs M phoned England to convey the tidings, I telephoned the Sheraton in San Diego to inform them that I would arrive a day later. Despite not being able to find the reservation number, the operator eventually modified the booking and asked for a telephone number.

'It's in Oman.'
'Sir, I have to have a number to get through this screen.' I provided the string of integers.
'I need an address, sir.' I knew we were heading for trouble.
'Blah, blah, PC 113, Muscat,..'
'Can you spell that?'
'M-u-s-c-a-t.' The sound of slow keyboarding ensued.
'Where is that?'
'Oman.' No response. I was careful to enunciate the 'o' for as an American, she would have heard 'Amman', adding to her confusion.
'I don't have that listed, sir, where is it?'
'Next to Saudi Arabia…'s the only country that begins with the letter "O"…….'. Long pause.
'I have found it sir.' We concluded the transaction.
'Would you like to take part in a customer survey afterwards, sir?' Click.

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