Our First Morning in MaltaPosted: March 4, 2012
It may have taken 28 hours and 5 airports before we arrived early Thursday morning, and I do mean early, but we got here in one piece. 12:45am Malta time which put us home with our ridiculous amount of baggage around 1:35am. Linda, exhausted and running on adrenaline, somehow shuffled out the door on 2 hours of sleep to report for her first day of work that very morning.
My task was much easier. My son and I slept in a bit longer, then began unpacking the few things we brought from California to start making our new ‘flat’ home. Our first morning in Malta was sunny and mild, and I am still stopped short when I look out of our windows at the view we are blessed with here.
The journey wasn’t too bad at first. After researching cargo shipping from San Francisco we decided that we would just fly with extra baggage, take the hit there. According to everything we found online it seemed that this option was going to be $1,500 to $2,000 cheaper. Shipping meant crate delivery, pickup, shipping, customs taxes in Malta, then delivery to our flat were going to be in the range of $4-$5k for a small 4’x4′ crate.
We should have shipped everything.
When we checked bags in SFO with Virgin America, things seemed like they were going so well. Only $400 to check our bags through to Gatwick! And we had FOURTEEN checked bags (Mostly donated by neighbors and family). Amazing right? We should have saved the celebrating. It went downhill from there.
We had one layover in Las Vegas where we were to transfer to our long flight with Virgin Atlantic. This is where things got ugly. They informed us that they had no record of our payment to Virgin America for our checked bags, and to make matters worse, the boarding passes that they gave us which tell how many checked bags we had didn’t include another essential item recording our bags. After a long, messy conversation at the Virgin Atlantic counter with management, we had to cough up another $1,400 for our excess baggage. Ok, fine…we are still on track for our estimate, except for one thing; Virgin Atlantic refused to check our baggage through on our connecting flight out of Gatwick to Malta (which we found out later at Virgin ticket counters in Gatwick was totally absurd). So for 10 hours we begin to worry—will we make our connection in Gatwick to our Air Malta flight?
Have you ever flown into Gatwick or Heathrow? They are amazing sprawls from the gate to customs/baggage claim. Miles of walking (and cajoling a nine year old to hustle). Once we reached customs, non-UK citizens are escorted to a line made up of ever other nationality. To put it mildly, that line took us out of the running to make our flight. Regardless, we still had the nightmare of baggage claim (remember the fourteen bags I mentioned – oh, boy!). After piling this plethora of bags (I’m beginning to think about throwing a match on the lot of them) onto three pushcarts, we head over to talk to another ticket officer to find out that the next flight to Malta from Gatwick is not in a few hours, but the next day. Our options are now find a cab that will take all of this hot mess to a hotel (way more money) or take a bus to Heathrow to catch an Air Malta flight 9 hours later (more money). We choose the latter of two evils.
After we are loaded on the bus to Heathrow, unloaded, repacked onto three new puchcarts, we head to the Air Malta counter. This is when every fiber of my being is needed to keep me from being locked up in some UK dungeon. Air Malta’s policy (which is never stated anywhere on their website) is to charge for, get this, not the extra bags, but extra kilos over a certain amount.
£15 per kilo.
And we had 185 extra kilos—that’s £2,775 or, $4412.78.
At this point you are a hostage. What do you do? Wheel everything out into a dumpster? You are exhausted, you have a child with you, and your wife looks like she is going to join you in a collective meltdown that leaves nothing but a crater where London once stood. So you beg. You get ignored. So you pay. We even spoke with management. He was no help whatsoever.
Ship it. Period.