The Cancun Airport Debacle
May 24, 2022 § Leave a comment
Tuesday, March 1: The first booking
After RSVPing for Rosaline’s wedding, I booked my flights to Cancun. Going there I would fly AA, and returning I would fly JetBlue. I paid cash for both legs of the journey because I didn’t want to use my points but did want to get the 10x points bonus for booking in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Friday, April 8: The unhappy discovery
I was booking transportation to and from the airport in Cancun. While texting with my Cancun roommates Kathy and Alice, I checked my JetBlue flight in the app and was confused by a discrepancy — my original screenshot from when I booked my flight said that the departure time was around 3PM, but in the app it was saying departure time was 2PM.
It turned out that my original flight had been canceled, and JetBlue rebooked me on a flight that went from Cancun to JFK and then back to Austin. So what should’ve been a 2.5-hour flight turned into 12 hours or something ridiculous like that. Obviously it was not acceptable!!!
Monday, April 11: The second booking
I called Chase Ultimate Rewards to cancel my JetBlue flight. The agent was able to get me a full refund, but my only option for rebooking a nonstop flight through Chase was on Spirit Airlines, which I haven’t flown since I was a broke grad student. I figured it would be fine just this once, but I was extra annoyed that the new flight cost $70 more than my original one.
Kathy confirmed that our flights would be leaving around the same time, so I booked the shuttle to pick us up from the Fairmont Mayakoba at 11AM on the day of our departure.
Sunday, May 22: The day before
We woke up late because we had stayed up very late the night before. We proceeded to rush around trying to get tested for covid before going to brunch — the hotel’s covid test site closed at 1PM that day, and brunch closed at 12:30PM, so we really had to squeeze everything in.
Of the people leaving on Monday, I was the only one who was unable to get my covid test in on Sunday because I forgot to bring my passport to the test site (and didn’t have a photo of it on my phone), and the staff refused to take my driver’s license (even though Kaiti said that she was able to use hers the previous day). Ugh.
We did end up having an epic brunch at the Rosewood Mayakoba, though.
At some point, Kathy and Alice discovered that their departure time was actually 3 hours later than mine, but they resigned themselves to getting to the airport super early with me and just hanging out at the United lounge.
Monday, May 23: The day of
8AM: I went to get my covid test first thing in the morning. I had heard that they were giving guests estimates of 5 hours to wait to get the results email, but people were actually getting theirs within 2-3 hours. I wasn’t sure at which point during my journey I would need to show confirmation of a negative covid test, but I figured I’d have enough time since my flight was 3:30PM.
11AM: But before we got to the airport, I discovered that my flight had been delayed until 5PM. So we all got to the airport unnecessarily early.
12PM: When I went to check my bag, the agent asked for my negative covid test. It still hadn’t landed in my inbox yet. So I reluctantly turned to my last resort: the airport covid test center. The line there was long. Just as I got in line, I refreshed my email one more time — and my negative test result was there! Very lucky timing. So I went back to the Spirit counter, checked my bag, and met Kathy and Alice to go through security.
1PM: We walked around terminal 3, bought some snacks, and sat down to chill for the next few hours. (Unfortunately, none of us had access to the only lounge in the terminal.) These chips were my first/only meal of the day…
2PM: I checked my Spirit app again, and it showed my flight was somehow now leaving at 3:18PM instead of 5PM — but it was still labeled “delayed”??
I decided to go speak with an agent. My flight was supposedly departing from gate C11, but when I got there, the plane and agents were Delta. So I went next door to C10, where a flight was just about to board for St. Louis. I waited 10 minutes in line just for the agent to tell me she couldn’t help me until the St. Louis flight had finished boarding. Kathy, Alice and I sat down nearby.
During this time, my 3:18PM flight had gone from being delayed to being canceled and then being reinstated for the next day. I was absolutely NOT about to spend a night in Cancun by myself!!!
I quickly looked up other flight options and found an AA flight departing around 6PM that evening, and booked it right away. For a minute I considered t waiting to see what Spirit would do, if they would put us on a later flight that day, but even if they did, I figured I’d rather spend the $200 and have a safety net than risk not getting home at all.
3PM: The St. Louis fight at C10 finally cleared out. When I went to the counter, the agent told me to go to gate C1 to get information on my canceled flight. The three of us walked over, and unsurprisingly there was just a mass of people at C1 waiting to get an update.
I was trying to check in for my new AA flight on the app, but I kept getting an error when uploading my covid test document. I asked an agent at a random AA gate if she could help me check in, but she said I would have to exit the terminal and go back to the departures counter.
The Spirit situation seemed like an ongoing shitshow, so I asked Kathy and Alice to figure out what was happening at C1 while I went out and checked back in via AA. I figured worst-case scenario, my suitcase would take the next day’s Spirit flight without me and I could just pick it up at the Austin airport.
There wasn’t an actual route to exit the terminal from where we were, so I had to just walk back through the metal detector. Another woman was going the same way — apparently she was flying Spirit back to Houston, but that flight got canceled, so she rebooked to Austin, which then got canceled, so she was also trying to leave the gated area to figure out her next steps.
We got to the queue area where the agent checks your boarding pass and passport…and the guy there wouldn’t let us through. He hailed his supervisor, who came over and told us that we just had to go back to C1. I tried to explain that I had a new flight to check in to, but they just kept telling us to go back inside. It was ridiculous. Eventually the other woman was able to get through, so I just followed her back to the check-in counters.
I checked in for my AA flight with no issues. I even asked the agent there if there was any chance the flight would be canceled, and he reassured me that the plane would arrive in Cancun in an hour, so I was good to go. Thank goodness!!!
Kathy and Alice filled me in once I got back to C10 — apparently the flights were canceled because there were no pilots. (I firmly resolved at this point never to book Spirit again.) And now they were making everyone go back throug customs to retrieve our luggage…which I would then have to leave the terminal to check in at AA. omg.
So once again I left my friends. Everyone on the cursed Spirit flight shuffled through gate C10 down to immigration. Waited in line there to get my passport checked. An airport staff member who was leading our sad group made us wait 10 minutes for everyone to get through customs.
4PM: We made it over to baggage claim, where our suitcases were all waiting for us. Our overseer made us wait at the carousel for 10 more minutes for no apparent reason. Then we had to go line up against a wall for 10 more minutes while waiting to go through the declaration zone. Then we lined up to have our passports and (canceled) boarding passes checked again. Then we lined up right outside that area for 10 more minutes. I was living a Kafka novel nightmare.
At this point I was getting pretty restless; my AA flight was at 5:50PM, and I needed to check my bag in at least an hour before departure!
After all that pointless start-and-stop waiting, we made it past the exit doors to the corridor where a bunch of taxi companies are vying for customers. I thought we were finally free — but the guy stopped AGAIN!!! I had fucking had enough and just walked away on my own to exit the terminal and go back inside the departures area. Later we surmised that he was herding everyone to get on some shuttle to some comped hotel, so thank goodness I didn’t stick around for that. I guess most people were not able to book another same-day flight…wonder when they’ll actually be able to get home.
I checked my bag at the AA counter with no issues. I know some people hate flying AA, but I’ve had no bad experiences with them the past bunch of years, and after today I’ll be eternally grateful that they were there and problem-free so that I could get out of Mexico!!
4:30PM: Newlyweds Rosaline and Jon had arrived at the airport for their 5PM flight back to LA, so they were already hanging out with Kathy and Alice by the time I made it through security for the third time that day. Look at all the miles I got in just by retracing my steps at the airport.
After this, there were no more mishaps. I got to hang out just a bit more with the bride and groom. Everyone’s planes departed on time. I even managed to switch my middle seat for an aisle seat because the guy next to me wanted to sit next to his wife. And I am super grateful for Kathy and Alice’s efforts to get information from Spirit while I was running around and help me not feel alone!
My flight landed at 8PM in Austin, and I decided I’d prefer to never return to Cancun again.