Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mid-Week Trip to Europe

Well, my little string of airport luck (finding the airport salad bar to end all airport dining options) has officially ended.  I'm dragging.  And sadly, I woke up in Dallas today.

I FEEL like I should have woken up in Europe. 

I was on a plane long enough to have gone to Europe, so this feels particularly unfair.

How could I have taken a mid-week trip to Europe you wonder?

We kicked butt in court in Philadelphia.  Things went well and things went quickly.  Defense verdict in hand, I left the courthouse and did some "networking" for a little while, took a facility tour, then headed to the airport in Philly.

The woman at the USAir counter was AWFUL.  She was saying I needed to go to American to check in (different terminal).  She just kept repeating the same thing and wouldn't say why my American app was telling me to check in with USAir.  Bitch.  But whatever. 

I got checked in, got through security quickly (pre-check is da bomb) (haha, that's funny because it relates to an airport).  It was about 3:00 at this point, maybe a little bit later.

There was a 3:15 flight to Dallas in terminal A.  I trekked over there as quickly as possible, stopping once briefly to change my shoes.

The door was closed, it said the flight was departed, but the plane was there!  It was about 3:12 at this point, so I began my begging to the gate agent.  Please let me on that plane, please, please, please.  I want to go hooooome. 

And then something weird happened -- 2 passengers got off the plane.

Begging began in earnest because I was now certain there were available seats.  The gate agent (who I can say with no sarcasm at all was professional, courteous, friendly, amazing, etc.) said to give him some time, but he didn't think I really wanted to be on that plane, there was an issue with it and he thought I should stick with my 6:00 confirmed flight.  So I took a seat and waited. 

Sure enough, the 3:15 flight started getting delayed 3:25, delayed 3:35, delayed 3:45.  And then everyone got off.

The rebooking madness began. 
I decided to take a break and get food.  There's an awesome burrito place (Currito) that has tofu right next to the gate American uses for Dallas flights in Philly.  I've always ordered the teriyaki, which is tofu, carrots, broccoli, carmelized onions, brown rice, and teriyaki sauce.  Well, sometime since I last ate there, they've changed the menu -- they've added crispy noodles to the teriyaki burrito. 

So damn good!!  It put me in a good mood. 

The 3:15 flight kept being delayed in 10 minute increments until about 4:15, and then it was pushed until 8:15, and then moments later, delayed until 10:15. 

Gate agent very apologetic, said they're trying, but that's the current info, and people can stay in line to rebook, go to another gate to rebook, or try to get through on the phone. 

And my 6:00 flight to Dallas filled up!  There was also a 4:25 (that left at 5:40), which filled up. 

But then it started raining and they closed the runways in Philadelphia, which meant that the plane that was to be used for the 6:00 flight to Dallas got re-routed to DC, where it had to refuel and then fly up to Philly.  So the 6:00 flight became a 6:45. 

But then they said the 3:15 plane would be fixed earlier, and they reboarded the 3:15 flight.  I elected to get on it.  At that point, it was maybe 4:30? 

We sat, they closed the door and made us turn off everything, like we were ready to go, but I was sitting up front in a window seat and I could plainly see that there were carts of luggage and a ramp alongside the plane.  We weren't going anywhere. 

The pilot gives us an explanation -- the baggage cart's brakes had failed, and it hit the belly of the plane, knocking off an antenna.  They were going to get a new plane, so they took all our bags off, then they decided to epoxy the antenna on, which meant doing that and then waiting 4-6 hours for it to solidify and be cleared.  Then they decided it was not necessary to do that, and they'd get a maintenance exemption to fly without it. 

Well, as we sit, the hours tick by.  They have to stop loading our bags periodically since there is lightning in the area. 
And the baggage loading is slowed down even more because they have to individually rescan each bag before reloading so they can pull off the bags of people who have rebooked.

Eventually, DOT regulations kick in and they have to open the door to let people off the plane if they want to rebook.  They pass out food and water. 

I can see the 6:00 plane at the gate next to us pull up.  Everyone gets off.  Then it's boarding.  Sitting next to us, full, but presumably still with my seat open. 

I struggle.  What will get me home first?  The 3:15 plane sitting there at 6:45 with some bags still waiting to be loaded?  Or the 6:00 plane sitting there at 6:45 with an unclear bag loading situation? 

Struggle, struggle, struggle.  It's killing me not to know what will be the better course, what will get me home as soon as possible.  My fate is solely in my hands, so no one to blame if I pick the wrong flight. 

The pilot mentions that he and this crew are going to Dallas tonight no matter what or when. 

The app on my phone says the 6:00 flight is delayed until 8:15. 

But that app also says we, the 3:15 flight, departed at 7:01 (which must have been the second time they closed the door). 

More time ticks by.  31 planes ahead of us due to the runway closures.  That's 31 planes as of the pilot's announcement, but of course we're still not fully loaded.

I commit to staying on this 3:15 flight, certain it has to beat a 6:00 flight.  But I'm reluctant because there's one more variable I know of that hasn't been mentioned by the pilot or anyone else -- hours.  A 3:15 flight delayed over 5 hours with a  flight duration over 3 hours, I kept waiting to hear the pilot or someone on the crew was over on hours and replacements would have to be brought in.  I was afraid to even think it really, but part of me was braced for that to happen, which was the main reason I was thinking the 6:00 flight might be the better choice. 
Struggle, struggle, struggle.  Wishing for a crystal ball.
Eventually, the weather passes, bags are loaded, we pull away from the gate after 8:00. 

(That picture is of the 6:00 plane, my big competitor.)
We wait in a long line of planes to take off, but actually get to bypass a bunch of them somehow (per the pilot, it was due to something about our maintenance delay).  I don't even know what time we took off, after 8:32 when I took this picture:

In the end?

I win!!!  I got home after midnight, but if I'd gone with the 6:00 flight, it probably would have been after 1:00.

So from the time I got to the airport in Philly until I got home in Dallas, just over 10 hours.  Don't even get me started on the time I called for a cab to get me in Philly, the hour wait for a cab, the driver getting lost going to the airport (how hard is it to take the airport exit??).  All told, I'm sure it was over 12 travel hours. 

I really feel like I should have woken up in Europe.  This feels unfair. 

Maybe if I pretend I'm in Italy? 
At least everyone around me (and on the entire plane as far as I could tell) was very chill about it all. There was one woman who was in the same situation as me that I'd bonded with at about 3:00.  We were both hoping to squeeze onto the 3:15 flight at the very last minute, and when we thought there was maybe a single seat left, wondering if her being there first would beat out my elite status.  We took turns watching each other's bags and going for food, and when I pulled the trigger to board with the 3:15 flight, before boarding, I went to the 6:00 flight's gate to tell her there were seats available on the 3:15 so she could do the same if she wanted.  She decided to do so, and sat in the same row as me so during the hours on the ground waiting, we periodically checked in with each other to assure each other we'd made the right choice.  And the woman next to me was awesome as well.  She'd been on the flight when it first boarded at 2:45, and she was funny and optimistic.  When the plane doors opened due to DOT timing, the other guy in our row got off, so we had room to spread out.  And then today, American emailed me (and everyone else I assume) with bonus miles for the inconvenience.  Very well handled in the end.  You know, except for landing in Dallas instead of Lamezia.


  1. I think what you wrote is a mathematical word problem for the new common core curriculum. It's funny because as I was reading this I thought hmmm hours alone in the airport...I could read uninterrupted, walk around, catch up on blog writing, organize the week ahead, etc. Don't get me wrong I adore my husband and son, but alone time is rare for me. I'm glad you made it home safely.

    1. Dwindling power supply, lack of outlets and need to stay near the gate during the time we were not sitting on the plane hampered all of that -- along with my frustration, which probably contributed to the bulk of it!

  2. That is always an interesting logic puzzle to play ... I honestly would have stuck with the original flight once they unloaded the other one.

    Definitely know what you're saying about being in that airport situation and thinking about going *anywhere* ... but since I am usually there alone and would rather have my family with me, it isn't as bad of an emotional pull.