Euro Tour Begins… with Baggage Woes

Euro Tour Poster

When I got into the taxi yesterday for the airport with a big suitcase and one guitar case and my carry-on bag, I was heading to the airport to fly to Europe FOR THE FIRST TIME. Yes, I have never been to Europe, for gigs or pleasure. All those years of constant touring and not a single airplane ever routed me through Europe. It was all North American shows and then Australian adventures (9 of them!) that included a remote European island (New Caledonia, but, I don’t think that qualifies as Europe)… and then, of course my last nine years of travelling throughout Asia.

So, I had just said a teary goodbye to my two kids for the longest separation ever and I was not anticipating the drama that lay ahead for me:

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I will (endeavor to) never fly Austrian Airlines again.

They need a reservation for an instrument 24hours before you check in! But, I really did review the baggage rules! I saw nothing about this specifically. It did say you needed to reserve oversized items, but my brain didn’t even consider that an oversized item would include a standard-sized guitar case! So, at the counters in Beijing, they wouldn’t accept my guitar for the full route. They could make an exception to get it to Vienna (my stopover place), but not all the way to London (my first stop). They were firm.

I phoned the head office and they started a request for the second leg of the tour but told me that I wouldn’t get approval right away and I had to wait. My first mistake was allowing them to dismiss me and make me wait for 30 minutes before I started to try to solve this myself. My head was spinning with options. I could fly without it. I could send it by courier. I could pray they approve it and continue waiting. As the time got closer to critical, I phoned head office again who said no approval had been received “as of yet,” and I made the executive decision to just store my guitar at the Beijing airport and pray my friend Vanessa would be willing to pick it up for me. (She was).

Then I had to literally run through the airport to find the storage desk. Then race back to the departures level to get to the airport shuttle train. Then run to the customs line and beg to jump the queue. Then run to the security lines and beg to jump the queue there too. I was sweating like a pig and felt very embarrassed to have to be so obnoxious, but I got to the gate just as they were loading passengers. The adrenaline spike had been intense.

I got on the flight heavyhearted to be leaving without my guitar but relieved to have made it at all. I spent the next little while trying to see the positives: I could buy a new one! What’s so bad about that? It’s never not fun to go guitar shopping! My Visa card isn’t prepared for it, but that’s okay. I’ll pay later… that’s what the card is for, right? Emergencies!

But, I also wasn’t prepared for the next drama, which was a delay on the Beijing tarmac and the likelihood that I was going to miss my transfer in Vienna. There was nothing I could do. I had to just settle in and watch movies and be grateful that they hadn’t forgotten my vegetarian meals—at least!

In then end, I didn’t miss the transfer. The London flight out of Vienna was also delayed. I breathed a sigh of relief when I made it, even though I hadn’t eaten dinner in between and I got off the London flight with a rumbling tummy.

THEN… “la pièce de résistance” was when my suitcase didn’t make it off the flight from Vienna. A long line-up at the baggage claim counter revealed that it hadn’t even made it out of Beijing for “security reasons.” Maybe my guitar pedals confused them? Did they misunderstand guitar pedals for explosives?

My bag is expected in to the Heathrow airport today (this afternoon) and hopefully I’ll be able to get there to pick it up and back to the venue in time for sound check. I can’t afford to wait for them to deliver it or else it just won’t arrive in time for my show.

May I get a moment to change my clothes between the sound check and the gig, that’s all I ask.

And then, may the first gig of my European tour be **extra** fabulous!

More updates soon!

~ Ember

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Sticks & Stones: Press Release Jan, 2017

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