What a mess. It was obvious from the size of the crowd that there had been lots of flight disruptions in Lisbon that day. I could hear the gate agents calling out names and was worried that they might have already given up my seat assuming that I wasn’t coming. I pushed my way to the front of the group and showed my ticket. “Your flight is leaving from Gate 7, at 12:50am,” the agent informed me. I was slightly puzzled; had they put me on a later flight because I arrived late? Had they opened a new flight to accommodate all the stranded passengers in Lisbon? Had my 11:00pm flight been delayed until 12:50am?
I recognized a girl next to me that had been on my flight from Manchester. I remember her speaking in Portuguese with the poor Brazilian traveler that probably missed her connection to São Paulo. “Crazy, isn’t it?” I mentioned, turning to her. “Do you know what’s going on with this flight?” “People are mad because they are selecting certain passengers to board the empty seats on this flight. They seem to be choosing based off of company priority and many people have been waiting for hours because of cancellations,” she answered.
One particular Spanish customer was not happy with this priority policy. She was upset that she and her young children had been waiting in the airport all day after their flight was cancelled and they still hadn’t been put on any later flight. It just wasn’t “justo” (fair) she was repeating. (That is often a rallying cry of political activists in Spain). Outraged, she even went as far as to announce that TAP Portugal was worse than the infamously low cost carrier, Ryanair. That was below the belt. Another man started yelling what I can only imagine was a long string of expletives in Portuguese. My travel companion started filming it on her phone, probably to upload to social media later. She was from Porto and lives in Manchester where she works. We decided to go to Gate 7 before things got ugly.
Things were much smoother at Gate 7 where a few of us were waiting for the last flight out for the night. I chatted with my Portuguese traveler, glad for someone to share this madness with. At some point, we could hear the sound of footsteps and rolling bags as the passengers who were unsuccessful in boarding the previous Porto flight made their way over. To be safe, we jumped in line behind the desk. By the time our 12:50am flight was ready to board, there was quite a crowd. At our turn, we each approached one of the agents to scan our boarding passes. My ticket beeped negative on the machine and the agent told me there was a problem and they would get their supervisor. They rattled on in Portuguese and I glanced over and saw my new friend also having trouble with the ticket scanner.
I don’t know what happened, but the agent printed me another ticket with a new seat and told me to pass. I paused for a moment in front of the walkway to see what was going on with my friend. “Is everything okay?” I offered. “They say I can’t board the plane. I don’t know. You just go,” she replied. I was frozen for a second. Should I show my solidarity and wait for her, or just run unto the plane before they change their mind and take my seat away. Survival instinct took over and I yelled back, “Good luck!” before entering the jet bridge.
From my seat, I watched as the rest of the passengers boarded. My friend never got on. I will never know for sure, but I have a feeling I somehow got the last seat on the plane. I was only one short hour away from Porto. I was getting closer to completing my multi-journey trip to Galicia.