Date sent: Mon, 30 Oct 1995
From: Rob Borcic

Subject: Here's a travel story for you...

For our honeymoon, my wife and I wanted to go to Eastern Europe. We were interested in Prague and Budapest. We found a travel agent who was pushing Bulgaria, and because we could get a direct flight from Ottawa, Canada (where we lived at the time) to Sofia, Bulgaria, we thought it would be OK.

Our itinerary was: 3 days in Sofia, 7 days in Budapest, 7 days in Prague, 3 days in Sofia. We didn't like Bulgaria anywhere near as much as the other countries, but the worst part was the flight home...

We arrived at the airport about three hours early. The airport is packed. Our guide goes to check us in, but comes back a few minutes later telling us that the flight is overbooked and that people from the last two flights are still in the airport because they were turned away. Apparently, the airline (Jess Air) had two planes that flew back and forth between Bulgaria and North America. They were both A-310s, and there was an A-310 crash while we were on our trip. One of their planes was grounded, so they were combining both flights into one. We were told that we might have to wait for the next flight - which was on Wednesday (this was Sunday).

Meanwhile, the airport is filling up with mobs of angry Bulgarians and even angrier tourists, some of whom have been waiting since the previous Sunday. Airport security refused to let anyone into the ticketing/check-in area. Our guide, and the guide of another woman struggled to get to speak to someone working for the airline to see if they could possibly get us onto the flight.

The waiting area gets warm, then hot as hundreds of anxious people press towards the door to the ticketing area. Tempers flare - people start pushing, yelling, shoving, swearing... My wife, who is mildly clausterphobic and has a fear of crowds is nearly having a nervous breakdown. Finally, security lets us through the door - and all hell breaks loose. Pushing and shoving - everyone wants to be first.

After what seemed like an eternity, my wife, our friend, our guides and our luggage made it through the door. Unfortunately, that didn't mean we were able to get on the plane. Somehow, through some clever exaggerations about the state of our health, our guides managed to get us the last three seats on the plane. First class even. We were only about five hours late - eight hours after we arrived at the airport.

The flight was uneventful - although the music and video systems had broken down, and one of the bathrooms was out of order. When we finally landed in Ottawa, they were having trouble getting the door of the 'tunnel' to line up with the plane. We begged them to just let us off the damn plane. Waving our passports, we jumped over the small gap and back into civilization.


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