Cancun, Mexico, January 2015
So every holiday will come to an end. So did ours. We had booked one-way tickets from Cancun to Helsinki via Manchester through Condor. I had never heard of such an agency, but it's a good thing that we did, it turns out. Because there is an exit fee when you're leaving Mexico. Normally most airlines will automatically include this in the ticket fee, and there's no hassle at all. However, our flight to Manchester was operated by Thomas Cook Airlines, which mostly handles package holidays (you can imagine the sort of package holiday people from an industrial town in England that the plane was filled with!), and apparently Thomas Cook is one of the only two operators that do not include the exit tax in their prices, the other being Thomson, I believe. So you'd have to pay that at the airport when you depart. And for some reason this exit tax is 800 pesos ($54 or €47), which is massive high and in no way representative what the normal taxes included in an airline ticket amount for. So somebody somewhere is doing business, it seems.
Anyway, we were extremely lucky in that we had booked our flights through Condor, a German operator, that does include these taxes in their pricing. Therefore just by showing our Condor reservation confirmation at the Thomas Cook tax line we could get past them without paying.
But our return home wasn't to be that simple. Oh no no no. The airline officer behind the counter failed to acknowledge that we had bought tickets all the way to Helsinki. When we pointed this out, he said that we have to get our tickets to Helsinki from Manchester airport. Ok, fair enough, this is a common practice so I thought nothing of it, but when he gave us the tags for our luggage, they had only been checked in until Manchester. We asked about this, and he said that we'd have to pick them up there and check them in again. Now this would be a massive problem, because Len is a Russian citizen and doesn't have a visa for the UK. So it would be impossible for her to through the passport control to the baggage claim. We explained our issue to several airline workers and finally the boss of the boss of the boss or something understood the issue and checked in our baggage all the way to Helsinki.
In the middle of this hassle my printed booking confirmation was left behind in the possession of the airline worker and I only realised this once we had passed the security. Doesn't matter, I thought, you never need the printed confirmation anyway, your passport is always enough. Wrong again. When we reached Manchester airport we of course walked towards the transit area to have our boarding passes to Helsinki printed. But for some reason Manchester airport has a security check before the transit desk. And they ask for travel documents there. I'm not quite sure how that is supposed to make sense, but there we were, stuck in security without the printed confirmation that was left behind in Mexico. Luckily I remembered that I still have the confirmation somewhere hidden in my email account. After struggling to get the airport Wi-Fi to work on my phone, I finally managed to find it and we passed the security. Surely we'd be fine now. Nope.
There was a huge line for the transit desk and one person working behind it. The whole crew seemed to be at a loss and didn't appear to know what they were doing. It took at least 10-15 minutes to figure out the boarding passes for each passenger, and they were also allowing people with earlier flights to pass everyone else in the line (understandably so, but this also meant that our comfortable layoff of more than three hours started to seem short). Finally we got to the counter. "Sorry, you're flying with Finnair, I'm not trained for the system they use." So our only option was to leave our details with another airline worker and make our way to the gate to have our boarding passes printed. Only there was no information about the gate. We just had to wait. Less than 40 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave, and we're there with no boarding passes and no idea which end of the airport the flight will be leaving from.
But all's well that ends well. We made our flight and managed to reach Helsinki fine. Just an example of the frustration that travelling can sometimes bring along it. But hey, it makes decent stories later on and you can laugh about it later on! And there's never been any problem too big. That's why travelling is so rewarding.
P.S. Don't fly with Thomas Cook, they ask for money even for water and the majority of the movies they show on their flights. We managed to get free glass of water "from the back" by asking nicely, but otherwise they'd sell you a water bottle.