Work sometimes sends us in strange and wonderful places. Such was the case last month when I was asked to attend an exercise named African Lion which was held in Agadir, Morocco. I am kind of used to being sent to a place that I have never heard of. I was expecting the exercise to be held in some remote desert fort where Legionaires used to reign. Instead I was pleasantly surprised.
Getting to Agadir wasn’t easy and I think I broke DTS in trying to book a flight there. I had to throw the problem to SATO to solve. Here is what they came up with:
Although booked on Delta, the first two legs (IAD-CDG-CMN) were on Air France as were the last two (BOR-CDG-IAD), which was fine with me. I planned to credit the miles to Alaska as that is a great catch all program. The iffy part was flying Royal Maroc Air from Casablanca to Agadir and then Jetair from Agadir to Bordeaux, France on the way home. We’ll I know how to shut up and follow orders and the flight into Agadir went fine. However, trying to get home was another matter. I showed up at 0500 for a 0630 flight from Agadir to Bordeaux and went through all the usual steps and went through customs and waited at the gate. I couldn’t believe it when the board said the flight was delayed until 0915. I finally got up to the agent would looked at me as if wondering “the plane will be almost three hours late – is that a problem?” Well, it meant that I would miss my already tight connection of 30 minutes at Bordeaux.
Furiously calling back to SATO 24 hour hotline finally got them to come up with an alternate flight. This would have me take Royal Maroc Air from Agadir to Casablanca and then Iberia from Casablanca to Madrid to JFK. Then a separate flight on jetBlue to IAD. Oh boy! Well at least it would get me home in time to pick up my daughter from IAD when she returned from her own vacation in Scandinavia. Not happy about losing those Alaska miles, but the objective at this point was to make it back to the good ‘ol USA.
Now came the hard part of explaining to the Moroccan TSA equivalent that I needed to go back through customs and over to the domestic side of the terminal in order to take the flight to Casablanca. One thing the Moroccans definitely learned from the French is the phrase “It is not possible”. Brain cells were exploding left and right when I tried to get out of the international terminal. After an hour and many calls to get permission (lest they be blamed), I finally got out of their equivalent of TSA. The customs guys were “sure that makes sense, no problem” and let me go back through. I got to the ticketing agent to get my bags back. They acted like this had never happened before, but were great about finding a solution. They told me that with the time left, they would take my information and find my bags and re-tag them. I wasn’t crazy about this plan, but fully believed that they were right and following “procedures” would mean that I would miss my plane.
Finally, I got my tickets and was waiting in the domestic terminal. Then a civilian official approached me and asked if I was Mr. Goddard. I said yes and he replied “please follow me”. He took me out of the domestic terminal, back through customs and into the international terminal. Then out a gate of the international terminal and to a bus waiting outside the domestic terminal gate that I was waiting on to catch my plane to Casablanca. It turns out that they could not figure out a way to “unstamp” my passport, so their solution was to have me exit the international terminal gate and catch the domestic plane. I am sure it all made sense to them, but I have never had to check through security four times in one day!
At least I finally made it home…