We made the mistake of booking at 6:25am flight from Quito to Manta on New Year’s Day. If I knew then what I know now we would not have done it. New Year’s is a huge party in Quito and no one has any interest in working New Year’s Day.
We managed with some difficulty to book a taxi to the airport which is an hour plus drive from Quito. We used “we help” in Plaza Fosh who speak English and were very helpful. We had to pre pay for the Taxi and the rate was $35 not the $26 we paid to get to Quito from the Airport, taxis in Quito charge extra for night trips.
On the advice of the apartment owner’s wife we planned to be at the airport two hours in advance. It sounded like a lot for a domestic flight but we believed her. I tried to do web check in the night before and could not. I kept getting a message saying there is a ticket problem please see the agent at the counter when you check in. We had had an issue with Harold’s middle initial being tacked onto his first name so he was Harolde on the way down so we assumed that was the problem and went to bed. Our biggest concern was will the taxi actually show up? We even had a plan B which was taking the bus directly to our final destination Porto Lopez . A 10 hour overland trip which would have cost us $10 each.
At 2:00 am the phone rang. It took us a while in our sleep deprived state to figure out that it was the phone not one of the three alarms we had set to make sure we did not oversleep. Harold answered it and it was the Taxi driver who, of course, spoke no English. We think he was trying to confirm that we still wanted the taxi and what the address was. Harold, went downstairs just to make sure he was not there! He wasn’t, but luckily we got out of bed because when the phone rang 15 minutes later he was! Our 3:00 am taxi did not just show up it was 45 minutes early!
We arrived at the airport before 4:00 am. The only people there were backpackers sleeping on the floor. We found the desk for AeroGal which is one of Ecuador’s two national airlines (the other is Tame) it was not open and the information desk told us it did not open until 5:30am. So much for being at the airport 2 hours before the flight. The flight was listed on the departures and there was not much else to do. Airport prices were closer to home than Ecuador, $3 for a cup of coffee.
We sat on our bags and waited. By 5:00am there were people getting in line so we got in line as well. At 5:30am the line was getting longer but the desk was not open. At 5:45am the line was really long but the desk was still not open. We were starting to question our 6:25am departure. We started asking other people in line which flight they were taking. Oddly a number of the tourists in line were on package tours and they did not know where they were flying to. They were just told to come to the airport. We could not find anyone on our flight.
At about 5:50am our flight listing went from on time to canceled and the desk opened.
There is a separate desk in the airport for rebooking flights but as we were almost at the front of the line I stayed in it. When we got to the desk the attendant who spoke excellent English appeared surprised that we did not know the flight was canceled. It was never confirmed but I suspect the flight was canceled the night before. In retrospect we should have called the airline when the web check in did not work but “there is a ticket problem please see the agent at the counter when you check in” did not mean your flight is cancelled to me.
The airline did their best. They were very apologetic, they tried to find us a flight on another carrier, they gave us meal vouchers and they emailed us each a $20 credit voucher (which is pretty good as the total cost of the return flight for two of us was a little over $100). But the next flight was not until 6:30pm. They booked us seats (they even gave us the bulkhead seats) but they could not take our luggage. So there we were in an airport an hour away from the city with luggage and no place to go. Even if we paid to take a cab back to the city we would not have been able to go anywhere with the bags so we spent the next 12 hours moving around Quito Airport. The airport has two sides and the airport centre is quite nice. It was odd to see Cinnimbon, Baskin & Robins, and KFC. But 12 hours in an airport with your luggage is never exciting!
We gave brief thought to going to the bus station and taking the 10 hour bus ride after all but we decided against it. We did call the hotel we were spending the night at in Porto Lopez to warn them we were late and to ask them to send a driver to the airport. Plan A has been to take a taxi to the bus station in Manta and then take the two hour bus ride from Manta to Porto Lopez but when our arrival changed from 8am to 8pm we decided to invest $45 in a driver instead. Harold used his best Spanish on the phone so we were hopeful but not sure that we would have a driver.
Once we actually got on the plane the flight was uneventful. It had FREE in in-flight entertainment and we got a warm bun with cheese for free on a 50 minute flight. We were also very pleased to see a man with a sign that said Judy when we got off the plane!
His name turned out to be Alfedo and he delivered us safely to our destination. He sang along the way, and only went around one traffic circle in the wrong direction.