Forty minutes to transit through Nicaragua would be enough time, I thought.
it’s a small airport (there are only 5 gates) and I hadn’t checked bags. Plus I had booked the services of the VIP Sala Lounge to help aid my transition. What could go wrong? Potentially more than I thought.
I was doing a same day turn mileage run with a friend. A mileage run is when you fly somewhere to earn miles to keep your elite status with that airline. During the first of the eight segments of our run, we ran into another frequent flyer friend who was doing the same mileage run.
The VIP Sala Lounge is a paid lounge at the Managua Airport that provides VIP level services to arriving and departing passengers. It is the only lounge in the airport. They assist in getting you through customs and immigration and if needed, can get your boarding passes.
The cost is $35 per person. You can pay in US dollars or a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
I’ll go into a full review of the VIP Sala Lounge in my trip report. But for now, here’s how I almost became an expatriate.
As we waited in the lounge for immigration to review our documentation, we were approached by a customs and immigration officer. There were three of us, two females and one male. The officer addressed the male of our group and asked,“Do you speak Spanish?”
I took four years of Spanish in high school, but that was when Columbus was sailing the Nina & Pinta, so I’m a little rusty. My other two traveling companions didn’t speak Spanish, so we were at a little disadvantage.
So the customs officer decided to give his English a try.
During this exchange, the three of us were seated in a semicircle, with my female friend to my left, the male friend to my right, and the customs/immigration officer directly in front of me.
Customs Officer: “How long are you here?”
Male friend: “Just for an hour. We just got here.”
Customs Officer: “Why are you here?”
Male friend: “For the miles.”
Customs Officer: “Miles? What is this miles?”
Male friend: “When you fly you get miles. We are getting miles to fly here.”
Customs Officer: “What company are you with?”
Male friend: “We are not with any company.”
Customs Officer: “But how did you get here? Who brought you here?”
Male friend: “We flew on American Airlines.”
Customs Officer: “Oh, you work for American Airlines?”
Male friend: “No. We fly on American Airlines.”
Customs Officer: “So, you work for American Airlines?”
At that point in this Laurel & Hardy episode of “Who’s on First,” we may have been tempted to just say, “Yes, we work for American Airlines.” But you never want to lie to immigration.
Male friend: “No. We fly on American Airlines. We flew here to get miles…on American Airlines.”
Although not satisfied, the immigration officer left, leaving the three of us alone to ponder our fate: would we be allowed back into the US and would we make it on our flight that was leaving in 10 minutes.
After we paid the fees for the VIP services, we were finally cleared to go. We were the last on the plane and they promptly shut the door about 5 minutes after we were seated.
Next time, I’m going to have someone write me a note in Spanish explaining what we are doing.