Changing planes is changing planes, right?Â Pretty much the same all over – you get off one flight, check the display to see what gate your next flight departs from, and go to that gate to board your next plane.
Not quite.Â Not if you are changing planes with Mexicana in Mexico City.
In Mexico City, when you look at the display, it will tell you your flight departs from Sala 2.Â Oddly enough, so does every other domestic Mexicana flight.Â And when you go to Sala 2, it’s a huge waiting room with no actual gates or jetways in sight.
What’s with the room, and where’s your flight?
Benito Juarez InternationalÂ Airport is the largest airport in Latin America, and is (to put it mildly) extremely busy.Â It’s also, despite a recent facelift, stretched to capacity.Â As the city has grown around it, there’s really nowhere for the airport to expand.Â So officials have become very creative at maximizing the space available.
Domestic flights often do not leave from an actual gate or jetway.Â Your plane may be parked somewhere out on the tarmac, a considerable distance from the terminal. Passengers are loaded onto buses and driven out to the plane.
Mexicana (and its subsidiary, Click) uses a central waiting room for domestic flights.Â In the waiting room there is a different set of displays, separate from the ones in the rest of the airport.Â The displays in this room show the departure spots for all the flights assigned to “Sala 2.”Â The Mexicana employees also announce the departures over the PA system – but again, only within that one waiting area.Â When the buses for your flight are ready to board, they will add that information to the departure display, and also announce it.
I go up and ask about the flight as soon as I arrive in the central waiting room.Â The staff can usually tell when the flight will start boarding.Â Then I find a seat strategically near the Mexicana counter so I can hear what is going on.Â When their predicted boarding time arrives, I go back up and ask again. It’s hard enough to understand things over the PA system in English; it’s really difficult in Spanish. Don’t be afraid to keep asking, as long as you are polite.
When your flight is announced, go immediately to the assigned gate to board your bus.Â This is not the time or place to be the last person to saunter onto the plane.Â They will not run a special bus for you if you show up late.
Fortunately, this is the only airport you’ll ever have to do this in, so sit back, relax, and revel in the experience.