We flew standby to Australia, courtesy of a generous friend at American Airlines. But, since we were on D3 passes, we were almost always at the end of the list. So, there was no way we would be on the plane unless there was enough space for everyone to get on it. On Friday the 13th, we caught the Springfield-Dallas flight with no issues, but the Dallas to Los Angeles flights were pretty full. The first flight was too full for us to get on. At the second flight, the monitor at the gate was broken, so we couldn’t see where we were at on the list. But most of the people from the flight before were with us still; so we knew we were still at the bottom. An employee was watching the list on her phone and mentioned that another standby just joined the list. I mentioned that we were probably at the very bottom, and she asked if we were these people. I looked, and we weren’t even on the list! This has happened to me before. Sometimes when rolling over the standbys to the next flight (which has to be done manually, gotta love our antiquated systems; I just hope they don't develop carpal tunnel syndrome), people accidentally get dropped off. No huge deal, we just asked to be added back on. And, then we were actually able to get on the next flight to Los Angeles.
Of course, when we arrived, it was past the time for the only flight to Sydney, Australia, that we could catch. And, it was past midnight, so I could not use a booking service like hotwire.com to get a good deal on a hotel. So, we just picked the closest hotel with a shuttle and asked for the AAA discount. Saved us $10. But the flight for Sydney is only once a day at 10:45pm, so we had all the next day to burn. Since Jonathan was feeling pretty sick, we just chilled in the hotel lobby for most of the day.
Around noon, we decided to go to the airport for lunch, but our plans were curtailed when we tried to print our priority-verification tickets to get through security. The kiosks didn’t have our names or reservation number. Sadly, this has also happened to us before when travelling non-rev, particularly when you get dropped off the list on an earlier leg, they sometimes forget to add your last leg. We tried to get assistance, but they said we needed to wait in the long line. I remembered shorter lines in the international terminal, so I figured we could go over there to do that. When we finally got over, we discovered there wasn’t actually an AA counter there. Disheartened, growing hungrier and more desperate by the second, I noticed a pizza place that was on this side of security. So, we just grabbed some lunch there to refuel and give us the energy to stand in long lines.
Reenergized, we went back to Terminal 4 to get in the long line. But, there was an employee there guarding the entrance, verifying whether you actually needed to get in the long line. While helpful, she kept telling us we could get our problem fixed elsewhere, so we spent a few walks going back and forth down the long corridor trying to do as she said and getting sent back to the long line by someone else. Finally, we decided that one of us ought to get in the long line while the other tried the suggestions she made. Jonathan got in the line while I headed out to our last resort outside of the line. I made it to the counter, and the lady started helping me, so I called Jonathan to come to me. But, after I made the call, she told me that I really ought to have been in the long line and she couldn’t help Jonathan too. As I called him back, she changed her mind and told me that if I could get him here right now, she could process him quickly as well. Fortunately, Jonathan was almost there, so we were then both processed and we had our passes to get through security. Of course, it was way too early to spend the rest of the day in the airport, so we caught the shuttle back to the hotel lobby.
That evening, we departed about 3 hours early to catch dinner and be at the gate well before they started boarding. We were numbers 13 and 14 of 16 on the standby list, and the AA.com site only showed 4 seats available, so not very promising. But at 10:21 pm, they called us to the counter, so we thought we were getting on. But then they told us that they still had 12 people missing and wanted to make sure we were here. So, we stood waiting for another 10 minutes and we had watched quite a few people coming through the line, so we weren’t sure that there were any seats left. At that point, they told us they were missing 3 people and there were 3 of us left standing by. At 10:36, they decided to have us go wait on the ramp, but still wouldn’t issue us tickets. Finally, they ran down and gave us tickets and told us to get seated quickly! After all that waiting and false starts, we were on!
All went well during the flight, except that we were separated and that my seat was too high for my legs. So by the middle of the flight, my legs were swollen from non-use and excessive pressure from the seat. Then, when we arrived, I went through immigration quickly and easily. But, I guess Jonathan’s beard was too thick and the computer couldn’t match him to his passport photo, so he had to go through a longer line while I waited for our luggage. In fact, at every security checkpoint, Jonathan had to be inspected for some reason or another. I guess he just looked suspicious.
Jonathan Note: After having men in several states fondle my junk until meeting “resistance”, I have officially decided to name my left testicle “The Resistance” in honor of our ineffective and overpriced airport security.
Our luggage never arrived, though. I checked the baggage tracker, and sure enough, it said they were in the LA airport still. No surprise there, though, since we had been admitted at the very last second. They probably didn’t have time to load the luggage. We submitted our delayed baggage claim and booked a flight to Melbourne using the Flight Centre at the airport. Qantas’s policies are a lot better than AA’s. We booked a 4pm flight, as it was inexpensive. But, then when we checked in, we asked if we could be transferred to an earlier flight so we wouldn’t have to spend all day in the airport. They did it with no hesitation or additional fees.
Of course, we didn’t realize we were arriving a bit too early for our vehicle. The van was supposed to arrive at port on the 16th, which it did. We were told that as soon as we arrive in Melbourne to get our vehicle paperwork processed, which we did. But then we found out it would take several days for the container to be removed from the boat, and then several days for it to be shipped to the warehouse. Then several days for them to unpack it. They won’t schedule the inspection it requires until they unpack the container. So, here we are 7 days after we landed, and still without our van, and no idea when we will receive it.
This has been a bit frustrating for us. The Australian Open (tennis) started on Monday when we arrived, so accommodations have been full and expensive. We were spending $130-$200 per night to stay at hotels, and we had to move every night, as they didn’t have space the next day. That really started wearing on me, with the constant moving, living out of a suitcase, and high costs. We couldn’t even make our own meals to save money. And, we didn’t have our luggage yet. All of our tracking methods kept showing that they still hadn’t found our bags. Finally, on Friday morning, they called our local contact here and told him that our luggage would arrive at 9:30pm. Yay! But, only one piece was delivered at 11:30 pm. The next morning, they called again and said that they saw that our other piece was still there and that we would have it by noon. It arrived around 2pm that afternoon. So, we just finally got all our luggage back on Saturday.We also started using Airbnb.com to book a room at someone’s house for a lower price. This has helped. Especially since we don’t have to move as often. And, we are hoping that over the next few days, the van will be unpacked and inspected and we can carry on our journey.