More time in Rome than I anticipated…

So what do you in Rome when you’ve seen pretty much everything interesting and it’s too hot to go wandering around all day? Well, I opted for a lie in before checking out as late as possible. I bought my train ticket for the journey to Fiumicino airport (11 Euros for 30 mins, as opposed to 7 Euros for a 2-hour bus ride).

Then I found an internet cafe and spent too long doing not a lot. At least I was cool, which I certainly wouldn’t have been sat on the street watching the day go by. I’d not have another chance to get a shower until I reached Nice, so I didn’t want to get all sweaty sat outside. For lunch I wolfed down a rather tasty kebab. It was on panini bread so was technically an Italian meal!

The hostel re-opened at 4:00 so I collected my bags and walked to the station with an American guy who was heading the same way for a flight to Berlin. When we arrived at the airport, we split up as we were going to different teminals though I couldn’t see my flight listed on the boards at all. Strange, and slightly worrying.

When I arrived at the check-in area – after contacting a helpdesk staffer to find out where I was meant to go as the signposting was pretty poor – I found out why. My 20:00 flight had been put back to 03:00 the next morning. Great.

Stereotypes abounded. Italians screamed (literally) at the check-in staff and anyone else who would listen and then obstructed the desk so that nobody else could move forward; the French sulked but ulimately accepted that nothing could be done, shrugged and moved on; the English (that would be me) asked the girl if she was having a good day and if perhaps I could have a four-star hotel room to sleep in as I waited for the flight – and a hot cup of tea. The girl refused me, but at least told me she preferred dealing with the British than her own countryfolk as they don’t fly off the handle so easily.

Note at this point that I was refused a hotel room. And I also asked how I was to contact my friends in Nice who were supposed to be picking me up. I was advised to use a payphone or one of the coin-operated internet terminals. However, we were offered a meal in one of the restaurants in the departure lounge.

The other options were a full refund (how would I get to Nice now?) or a seat on the 10am flight (how do I know it wouldn’t be delayed and who would pay for my accommodation and transport there and back?). I took the meal and checked in. I mean what other option did I have? I had people in Nice waiting for me, and trying to find accommodation at short notice in Rome would be a nightmare. Plus it would cost me another 22 Euros in return train fares alone.

As per the signs in the airport I asked for written details of my rights as a passenger suffering a delayed flight, but was told by the staff that they didn’t have any. When I got to the boarding gate area, I asked the staff there as well. Nope. No idea what I was after. Fine. So I was uninformed of my rights as a passenger suffering a delay of greater than two hours.

Those who know me, will know I don’t mind complaining and believe me I have complained. Especially when I got to nice and checked EU Regulation (EC) 261/2004 . This states that if a flight moved to the next day, the airline must provide overnight accommodation and pay for transport to and from that accommodation. Also that each passenger should be given two phone calls, faxes or emails free of charge. And that they should be provided with printed copies of these rights on request.

The only thing they got right was to give us the meal. Note that the airline is called Blu-Express and is part of Blue Panorama. Do not use them. Ever. Ever ever ever. All of their flights that night were delayed by at least a couple of hours (nobody else’s were) and we were never given a reason. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Within an hour of me checking in, Delphine SMS’d me to say that my flight time had changed. News to me. There was nothing on the screens to indicate this – in fact the flight still wasn’t on the screens at all. Which was even more worrying. Apparently I was now taking off at 0430, another 90 minute delay.

I went for the free meal which was acceptable but bizarrely involved crossing through passport control and back again. Pretty much everyone in the restaurant was on my flight. We all ended up sat together overnight in the otherwise deserted departure lounge. No tannoy announcements, no staff available on the help points, no answers on the telephone… the airport itself was as bad as the airline we were stuck with.

But finally. 4:30am came round. The other people on my flight “woke” me from my attempted snooze on the concrete floor as a truck arrived with a load of water on it for us. Whoop. And as we watched, the little TV screen over the departure gate changed to 0610. Oh, for crying out loud.

I spent a couple of hours talking to Melvin from Peru. He was stuck here with his wife and three kids, which was going to put a damper on their holiday. The kids were great, though. Oh, of course we talked about football – Peru’s captain plays for Newcastle!

Staff finally started appearing shortly after 6:00. One mad Italian woman went chasing after the first person in an airport uniform she saw to berate them – loudly. They rather rudely just laughed at her, waved her away and turned their backs. Not impressed.

The boarding person for hour gate arrived at almost 6:30. By this time, screaming Italian woman had been on the desk phone to someone in an office (I was told by the blushing guy next to me that what she yelled at him was about as rude as you can get in Italian – go girl) and smashed a nearby computer keyboard on the floor.

I think this is the first flight I have ever been on where I’ve not been polite to the flight attendants or crew. I just ignored them. Hopefully they’ll go away and get jobs with a better airline and this one will collapse, bankrupting the morons who run it.

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