Coming back to Nicaragua from Miami was the worst experience I’ve ever had traveling. Not just with the airlines, but also with TSA; they were some of the least courteous people I’ve ever dealt with.
I was traveling with the people I love the most, my mom and my dad. My mom speaks a little English, my dad speaks almost no English. They’re tourists in Miami. They call Miami the “capital of Latin America” because there you will find almost every single Latin American nationality and almost everyone speaks Spanish.
So we get to the airport early, as my dad is a accustomed. We usually travel in Avianca because they let you carry 22 kilograms (48 LBS) per bag, and you can check two bags. That’s great. Before we get to the counter, Avianca makes you weigh your bags. The lady, who looked like she had been up for three days straight, on a starvation diet and had probably run over her dog on her way to work, told us in a monotone voice “you are only allowed 30 Kilograms (66 lbs) per passenger. You will have to pay a fee. Next.” We worked out the mathematics, and yes. Indeed we would. Darn it!
Later, once we got to the counter, the lady said she would give me my boarding pass after I paid a $30 fee. For that, I had to go to another line. At this point, I’m starting to lose my cool; it had been a long day, long lines, and inconvenience after inconvenience.
After waiting about 12 minutes, I finally get to the counter again, and tell the lady I have to pay the excess baggage fee. I give her $40 expecting $10 back. She looked at the money with her mouth open, looks up at me (almost in shock) like if I had just given her monopoly money. She squints her eye brows and tells me in a rude complany voice “I DON’T HAVE CHANGE FOR THAT.” I murmur, “why do you charge people if you can’t make change?” Of course she heard this and says, “Excuse me?!?!?! People pay with credit card! You can go way over there, get change, and come back. Next!”
I was in shock. Of course, at this point I lost it. I told her, “You know, I have a job too, and whenever a customer comes to my office, I am nothing but nice to them. I have a big smile on my face, and try to make the customer experience as nice as possible.” Of course, she is talking over me while I’m saying all of this. At this point her manager comes and whispers at her and I leave to get change. When I come back, I’m in line again and I got to the counter again we pretended like nothing happened. I paid and she gave me my boarding pass.
I was agitated. My adrenaline was higher than normal. But at least I had the long security line to calm me down. Both my parents are in front of me in line. They take their shoes off, keys and change from their pocket. Then, then I see a TSA agent almost dissing my mom. The sweetest woman on the face of the earth (seriously, people can testify to that). A TSA officer telling her “I SAID LAPTOPS GO ON SEPARATE BINGES NOT IPADS!”
My dad had already gone through the scanner but my dad went through with credit card and cash in his pocket. The TSA officer was furious to say the least. Even other TSA officers were laughing at him. He starts yelling… YELLING at my dad “I asked if you had anything in your pockets! Cash is SOMETHING ISN’T IT?” (I guess they make you clear your cash after this story broke).
It reminded me of the movie Schindler’s List, when the soldier is yelling at Stern for his papers. Of course, Stern gets nervous, he couldn’t think because he doesn’t want to screw up, he was intimidated. And it’s intimidating for many non-frequent flyers when a TSA agent is barking order at you like you’re guilty until proven innocent. I stepped in and say, “sir, he doesn’t speak English!” he replies “English is the official language” at which I responded “he’s not an American, he’s a tourist!”
Once I landed in Nicaragua, Avianca had left my luggage. They gave me a number to a call center that closed at 4PM and it was already 6PM. We travel like cattle, at least I was fortunate enough to travel with those I love the most.