The start of our recent holiday is something I won’t easily forget. We were flying from Brussels to Dublin and from there to San Francisco. We had almost 2 hours at Dublin airport, which is enough to get leisurely through US preclearance and to our gate. But instead of turning left at a certain point and going to the connecting flights, we went straight through the exit and out of the secure area.
Right after we exited, we realized our mistake, but at that point, our only option was to go through the security once again. To pass through the security, you need a boarding pass, and in Brussels, we were told we’d get ours in Dublin. So, we had to go to the check-in first.
At this point, I wasn’t stressing. I thought that we had about an hour and a half to get to the gate and that seemed doable. Once we got to the check-in, we asked an assistant at self-service check-in machines for help. And she told us she’s not sure we will make it because our gate is closing in just a few minutes. It was at this moment when I went into a full panic mode.
We run to a first class check-in counter, rushed past all the people waiting. We explained what happened and again everyone was like, ‘no chance, you have only 3 minutes’. Luckily, they printed our boarding passes and told us to ‘run as quickly as possible, because your gate is closing.’
We run to the second floor, went through the security control and run through the airport to the US preclearance only to arrive in a kilometer-long queue of people waiting for TSA security control. I didn’t know what is the point until which we had to make it in those 3 minutes everyone at check-in repeatedly mentioned. I was hoping that waiting for TSA means we are good. When I spotted a few people from our flight from Brussels waiting in the same queue, I gained a tiny bit of confidence that we’ll make it to San Francisco that day.
After the TSA we still had to scan our passports, had our photos taken and scan our fingerprints at the self-process kiosks and join yet another queue of people waiting to go through US immigration inspection. Anyone who went to the US knows that the line at US immigration is painfully slow. It takes ages to get to an immigration officer who checks your documents and decides whether you are good to go.
As we were waiting, we were painfully aware of the clock ticking. I was checking my watch every two minutes. I was focusing all the energy I had left on the officers to work faster, other people to move quicker and us getting to our gate on time. About 15 minutes before our flight’s scheduled departure time, passengers flying to San Francisco were called out. About ten people raised their hands and pushed to the front, where we still had to wait for our turn to talk to the US immigration officer.
We were second to the last to enter the plane. Just 5 minutes after we sat down to our seats in row 35, the plane closed its doors and prepared to take off. As we were fastening our seatbelts I was feeling all kinds of feelings. I was tired, hungry and thirsty and relieved. We made it! We were on the plane, and we were flying to San Francisco to start our two-week holiday.
This certainly wasn’t how I imagined our vacation would start. During that hour and a half, when we were explaining, running, feeling angry and frustrated I couldn’t imagine a worse start to a holiday. It was certainly our mistake, and we should pay more attention where we are going next time. At that moment it seemed like the worst thing ever, but now, when it’s all over, it’s becoming a funny story with a happy ending.
After 10 long hours on the plane, we arrived in sunny San Francisco. You can look forward to a post about our time in SF + one zillion pictures in a few days.