The flight

December 21st was a day that will live in infamy. My boyfriend and I got to Terminal 4 of Madrid-Barajas Airport two hours before our flight, waited in a long line to check in, and then were informed that our flight–purchased more than two months earlier–was overbooked.

“I’m sorry,” the man at the counter said. “It’s something the Americans do.”

He worked for Iberia, which handles American Airlines’ Spanish flights.

He sent us to another counter where a different attendant spent over half an hour looking for other flight options for us. Our original tickets would have sent us through Chicago and then to the nation’s capital–something I wasn’t too thrilled about, but had accepted for the incredibly cheap price of the ticket. But this gray-haired airline-passenger-anger veteran worked some magic and got us on a flight to New York five hours later, and then booked us two flights to D.C.: one with a short connection and a second one standby, but with a longer connection time.

He then sent us to the Iberia information counter where, he said, they would give us our money. Money? Oooh. And, yes, within ten minutes a bespectacled woman was handing us each 300 euros for the inconvenience and a voucher for a free meal in the airport during our wait.

Dang right.

Of course, in New York we missed the first flight because it took our bags so long to come off the plane. And we almost didn’t get on the second (and last) flight to D.C. because we were on standby. But we did, and by the end of the night we were hugging my parents at National Airport.

Apparently, giving out money for your wait is part of some European Union legislation. I suppose it’s a way to avoid getting hammered by hundreds of furious airline passengers.

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