CUSCO, PERU : MY UNFORTUNATE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

Traveling, like life in general, may come with inevitable circumstances and countless uncertainties. Bad weather. Airport traffic congestion. Multiple delayed flights. Missed connecting flights. And the list of things goes on. Most of them are beyond our control. No matter how petty or severe the situation may be, what matters most is how we react and deal with it.

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The cobble-stoned streets within the Historic Centre of Cusco, Peru.

It was my first time in South America and so I made sure I’ve prepared everything for the trip several months before I left my current place in Dubai last August 3, 2015.

For my 2-week-long-break, I only booked 2 package day tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and in Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru, then the rest of my itineraries were all personally hand-picked and all-Do-It-Your-Own kind of thing. I like it that way; however, I was caught unprepared and did not expect that hassles still could happen in between.

After my spending a week in Brazil where I toured Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Iguazu, I left the country for Cusco, Peru via Lima. Despite I needed to wait for several hours from midnight till dawn in Lima Airport, flights from Brazil to Cusco via Avianca and LAN airlines were basically uneventful.
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Must be in your bucket list, Machu Picchu, Cusco region, Peru.

I stayed in Cusco for 2 days – toured the historic centre and all the way up to Machu Picchu (I cannot wait to share my blog series complete with photos about it!). I enjoyed taking photos, killed time by sitting at Plaza de Armas del Cusco, dined and savoured a few Peruvian dishes, sampled wood-fired-pizza and drank alcoholic Pisco and whatnot. Cusco was beautiful, incredibly charming to say the least. Machu Picchu was enchanting, breathtaking, surreal. Everything went fine until the moment I have to leave Cusco for Lima, Peru.
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Plaza de Armas del Cusco, Peru.

AIRPORT POLICE RANDOM CHECK

(If you read my post on Facebook, you may skip the below part

and leap to the what-happened-next).

I was early to my supposedly 11AM local flight from Cusco to Lima and was 3rd on queue in front of the LC-Peru Airlines check-in counter. When my check-in bags were weighed, they said it’s 27 kg and they only allow 23 kg. I asked how much should I pay for excess weight, and luckily, they told me, it’s OK (Just so you know, I left Dubai with only 19 kg – check in luggage. Then after buying few souvenirs from Brazil and Peru of which mostly fridge magnets and postcards, I don’t know what happened in between. Hindi ko naman po inuwi ang nga bato mula sa Machu Picchu!).

After I got my boarding pass, my attention was called by 2 AIRPORT POLICE. They got my 3 check in luggage and I was asked to follow them to their office at the 2nd floor. I have no issues with random check except I’ve been feeling the urgency to urinate and I thought of the horror of packing my things again. They asked me to removed my jacket. Fine. Then they wore gloves and started unpacking my things. The female police knows how to speak English while the old policeman doesn’t.
Me : Senior, no abla Espanol.

Police : *spoke in Spanish*

Lady police : What’s this? Why do you have so many flags on your backpack?

Me : Those were countries I’ve been to.

Then they looked at each other.

Police : Passport? Profession Filipinas?

Me : Doctor. Ahhh…Medico. but I work and live in Dubai now.

Lady Police : Dubai? Beautiful city!

Me : Cusco, Bello! (They continued to unpack my things).

Lady Police : From Lima, where will you go?

Me : Overnight only in Lima then I’ll go to La Paz and Uyuni in Bolivia, then transit in Chile before Rio de Janeiro then back to Dubai. Lady Police : What’s this?

Me : That’s my traveling bear. His name is gelothebear. He has instagram account.

Lady Police : Oh! Nice! Police : OK! Sign. Por favor, sign.

I signed a waiver that they did their random check properly. Then they carried my luggage and backpacks back to the check in counter. Past 12:30PM and I was still at the boarding gate. With all flight monitors shut down, no information on flights, I asked staff about my flight sched.

3:30PM. Delayed from 11AM to 3:30PM. And my airport pick up in Lima has been waiting.

I arrived in Lima at 5PM instead of 12noon. The day was lost. I told myself, It’s OK, at least I arrived safely in one piece.

Good thing my airport pick up driver waited for me for 5 long hours, and brought me to my AirBnB accommodation. I have chosen a quaint solo room with ensuite toilet and shower at Barranca, Lima, Peru (I will blog about it in detail soon).

My host, Carmen was so generous; she even called a taxi cab for me after she briefly explained where to go. She provided me a map of Lima’s interesting places with their wifi password and whatsapp details (that I don’t have!). The following morning, I left my AirBnB accommodation at 5:30AM, I was pick up by the same old Peruvian driver who brought me to Casa Nuestra, then he took me to airport way ahead of my flight schedule.

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Cathedral of Lima, Centro de Lima, Peru.

BAD WEATHER, DELAYED FLIGHTS, MISSED FLIGHTS AND WALKING DAY TOUR, AND PERUVIAN AIRLINES THAT’S NOT PASSENGER-FRIENDLY.

My flight from Lima, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia via Cusco, was initially set at 8AM. To be specific, the flight schedule was Lima to Cusco 8AM – 9AM via Peruvian Airlines, then Cusco to La Paz 10:45AM to 12:15PM via Amaszonas. However, Peruvian Airlines was delayed due to bad weather in Cusco hence, we didn’t leave Lima on time.

Alright, I told myself. I was trying to be optimistic, hoping that my connecting flight in Cusco to La Paz will be delayed too, so I could still catch it. But I know, that’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

Monitors of flight schedule at our boarding gate in Lima airport were all shut down. Airport staff rarely speak English. Information about our delayed flight was on hold until the aircraft landed from Cusco. The male ground staff said that Flight number 211 of Peruvian Airlines will depart to Cusco at 20 minutes after 9AM. Then at 9:20AM, we were still in the boarding area, clueless of our flight. To cut the story short, we arrived in Cusco Airport at 11:45AM and obviously, I already missed my connecting flight from Cusco to La Paz, Bolivia via Amaszonas Airlines.

I booked my tickets via Skyscanner and made sure there’s an adequate waiting period in between connecting flights, except for this. Probably, when I was making the reservation online, I gave importance to the duration of flight and cost, hence I purchased such.

The flight was apparently delayed and when we got inside the plane, the pilot announced we have to wait for 20 minutes to half an hour before take off as there was traffic congestion at the runway.

During the flight, I tried my best to convey my unfortunate and unexpected circumstance to one of the younger flight attendants. I appreciated her at first particularly when she noted my name and flight details. I asked her to inform the pilot or anyone in authority on board about my missed connecting flight, for them to at least contact concerned persons in Cusco. When I inquired about how Peruvian Airlines would handle my situation while they were distributing our snacks, she replied to me that made me more worried. She said, “I don’t know, we will know once we landed in Cusco.”

At that time, it was cleared to me that I already missed my connecting flight, my reserved hotel booking in La Paz for overnight, and a guided walking tour in La Paz that I booked for 2PM at 15 USD. What was not clear to me was how Peruvian Airlines handled the situation.

On the usual pilot’s announcement about flight details, where the captain thanked all passengers for choosing Peruvian Airlines, the pilot also stated that for problems and concerns about anything, we must notify the flight attendants on board. And so I called the attention of a senior lady FA  and asked about my condition. She only told me that she knew that I have a connecting flight from Cusco to La Paz  and will know everything once we landed; clearly, they did not offer concrete solution and left me hanging on thin air.

When we were about to deplane after landing in Cusco, I looked at the senior FA and walked towards her. She then simply made a hand gesture pointing to a female ground staff. I thought there was still hope on my case. I was being positive in thinking that Peruvian Airlines could do something, at least be passenger-friendly. Everything became clear that I was alone with my problem when the ground staff that I thought would accompany me to the office or check in counter, left me with the statement that the 2 flights to La Paz already departed that day and the next flight will be the following morning, and they cannot do anything about it. Then she left me and went back to the tarmac.

After I collected my 2-check-in backpack and trolley, I went directly to the Amaszonas check in counter. There was no staff. Thankfully, a concerned man led me to Amaszonas’ office where I was received cordially.

Male Amaszonas officer : My plane already departed for La Paz and you already missed it. It’s not our fault.

Me : Who’s fault? Mine? I asked help and assistance from staff of Peruvian Airlines because their plane was delayed at Lima Airport due to bad weather but they left me without concern. I was hopeless and helpless. 

See, I need to be in La Paz, Bolivia today as I have a flight from La Paz to Uyuni tomorrow at 6AM with Amaszonas too.

Female officer : Let me see your flight booking (so I provided them. Then they verified things from their computers).

Another male passenger who was in the exact situation as I am entered the office.

The officers told us that the best that they can do is to rebook our flights the next day.

I thought I could not afford to spend another night in a hotel in Cusco, worse to spend the entire day and night in Cusco airport.

About almost an hour, we were told to go to their office at 3PM-7PM, located at Avenida El Sol near Cusco’s Historic Centre to rebook our flights.

And so I thanked them and went out of the airport with my bags and hailed a taxi cab. I asked the driver to take me to a cheap and affordable hotel near Plaza de Armas del Cusco as I didn’t have any reservation at all.

I checked in at Awki’s dream hotel, and paid 150 Soles for an overnight stay. The room was very clean however, at the 4th floor, the wifi access was poorest. I needed to go down the lobby by stairs (as the hotel only have 4 levels and got no lifts) to go online.

Few minutes after 3PM, I went to Amaszonas office in Cusco as directed.

Initially, I was told by the guy at the office that I needed to pay penalty charges for missing the flight. And those words fell flat on my ears. Luckily, after verifying everything from their system, he rebooked my flights for the following day, Friday, August 14, 2015, Cusco to La Paz to depart at 10:45AM with 1 hour flight, then La Paz to Uyuni at 6:15PM, to arrive in Uyuni at 7PM the same day. He handed me the printed reservation tickets and informed me to pay nothing so I felt relieved.

I asked for their wifi password at the office and hurriedly sent emails to the hotels in La Paz, and in Uyuni and the travel agency where I booked Walking Tour in La Paz for 15 USD. I found out from their email that the tour guide and other participants were all waiting for me, and even called my hotel in La Paz, however, was declared as no-show.

I missed a flight for the first time in my limited traveling history. And as paying passenger, who entrusted my flight to Peruvian Airlines, I believe it’s my right to expect something positive from them amidst the unfortunate circumstances. But as mentioned earlier, I received none. Not even a friendly assistance.

I know there are a lot worse scenarios that were experienced by other passengers else where however, it’s not the degree of the problem that matters, but how concerned parties respond to the situation.

I’ll update this post once I get to my final destination in Bolivia.

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11 thoughts on “CUSCO, PERU : MY UNFORTUNATE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

  1. Resilience it is. I believe Doc everything happens for a reason. Later you will laugh at it and maybe thankful it happened. Enjoy Bolivia!

  2. That sucks. Your accommodation should have been covered too. But all your re-booked flights were free, right?

    Similar thing happened to me and Rem. We missed a connecting flight to Bali, and no compensation was given whatsoever.

    1. Hi Claire, that’s what I told Amaszonas officers, in other airlines – they cover accommodation in similar situations. But they said it’s not their fault; I told them it’s not mine either. Peruvian Airlines for me was so unfriendly to passengers.

      Yes, my rebooked tickets with Amaszonas are all free without penalty charges.

  3. If you didn’t pay extra that’s fine. Part of life I suppose. We had some fiasco in India where we have to get (pay) a new ticket for something we already paid for. Not all experiences in travel are good. Our patience and resilience will be tested for sure. Hang in there.

  4. It’s a good thing you didn’t have to spend extra on the flights. Kainis when these happen but I agree, it’s sometimes part of the traveling experience.

    1. Despite I lost total of 2 days of supposedly exploring Lima and La Paz and Uyuni, Im still thankful nothing more severe happened. Oh well. Take care, Aleah! Cusco Airport are very particular with drugs and drug traffickers hence, passengers are subjected to random checks.

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