August 07, 2007
Our Most Eventful Flights in a Long Time
It was due to be a routine couple of flights across the U.S. today.
The kids and I had to get up during the 5am hour and get to the San Jose, California airport to fly to Richmond, Virginia, via Chicago O'Hare, scheduled to arrive at 7:20pm. Arrival would be followed by over an hour in the car. Long day, right?
None of our allowed contingency time was needed for traffic, rental car return and shuttle, check-in and security - all went like clockwork until we were seated at SJC gate C3B peacefully eating our last toasted Noah's Bagels of the trip, with an hour to go before take-off. Delicious. Until one of our party put down his/her Strawberry-Banana Odwalla bottle a little too forcefully, and half of it erupted in projectile fashion across the aisle onto the chair next to me, with drips sprinkled on the person in question's jeans, sweater, and tank top on the way. Boy was I super glad it missed me completely. We used quite a few napkins cleaning up the mess. Fortunately, the seats and armrests were of the wipeable kind, not fabric. Little did we know this event foreshadowed trouble to come.
Once we got on board our first flight, a few technical problems surfaced. The reclining mechanism of one of the seats (not ours) was damaged, and the seat back was flopping wildly backwards into the space of the person behind. It just wouldn't stay up, despite the flight attendants' coaxing. Eventually a mechanic arrived and skillfully whipped the seat into shape. Meanwhile, it was rumored that the audio and video systems weren't working. Furthermore, the co-pilot's headset was emitting only static. Oh, and a generator stopped working. I think everyone saw the need for a bit of a delay to get these things fixed. We taxied back to the gate to retrieve the necessary staff and tools.
After two hours, the essential matters had been taken care of, but by then we'd missed any available take-off slots, and had to wait some more. We were getting really familiar with our seats by then.
We finally took off two and a half hours late. It felt good to be making some geographical progress at last, moving towards our destination. We discovered en route that they actually never had fixed the video system, so the movie showing was cancelled. Oh well.
We were left to wonder what was to become of our connecting flight, but since there was nothing to be done, we just persevered.
As we approached Chicago, we were informed that there were thunderstorms there, and there was a bit of a delay in landing. When the time arrived for the landing, the pilot changed his mind and aborted the touch-down, due to strong cross-winds or somesuch. Fine. I'm all for safe landings. We tried again, and this time made it down. Yay, super-duper.
My mom relayed over my cell phone that although our connecting flight to Richmond had been delayed an hour as well (yay), it was due to take off in five minutes (rats). Entering the concourse, the monitor let on that it had been delayed by yet another hour, so we now had plenty of time (yay), and no need to run. Good. We made the usual pit stops and kept checking the monitors as we marched from concourse B all the way over to F. The exercise felt good, that's for sure. The delay kept increasing with each monitor we passed, though (boo), and I started to wonder if the flight might get cancelled in the end. By now the 4:15pm departure had been pushed back to 6:25pm.
Just as we sat down to eat our Quiznos subs, the boarding began (good, good). Eager to be hugging Grandma in Virginia, we stepped off Illinois soil into the 2nd aircraft of the day... And sat there for 105 minutes without moving . Continuing thunderstorms were preventing the luggage handlers from loading the bags into the plane. There is a reasonable rule at O'Hare that those guys are not allowed out on the tarmac during lightning. So we sat some more and watched the pouring rain run down the plane windows.
An age later, there was a long enough break in the lightning that we were able to load up and taxi out...whereupon water started leaking from the ceiling above Emily's head and onto her seat. Fortunately, when I mentioned it to the flight attendant who was on her way to buckle up, she just passed me some paper towels and explained it was the condensation from the air conditioning (it was 93 degrees outside, apparently). Yes, and how do you explain my extremely creaky seat ? I don't recall ever sitting in a noisier airplane seat - it complained loudly every time I shifted my weight (which I was feeling the need to do often by this point in the sedentary, cramped day).
About ten minutes into the two-hour flight , a female attendant came onto the PA and casually announced that we were beginning our descent to Richmond, and could we please turn off all electronic devices. Passengers all around exchanged perplexed or bemused glances and shrugs. A minute later, a male attendant came on and basically said, oops, that would be the opposite; now you CAN use electronic devices.
A little later, the guy gave the "seat belt sign is off, but keep them on anyway" spiel. Followed by the lady repeating the same thing . When we landed in Richmond, the lady came on saying we would be using a jetway, and to take care. Then the man followed that up with, "Actually we're not using a jetway, we'll be using the steps, and the baggage handlers need to begin before we can deplane..."
We got to Baggage Claim Number 3, which was proclaimed on the monitors as being the favored recipient of our flight's luggage. We advantageously and strategically positioned ourselves at the mouth of the belt, and waited for about seven minutes. Ready? The loudspeaker announced our luggage would actually be coming in on Baggage Claim Number 2. Okay, no problem, we headed over there and all three pieces of our luggage gloriously appeared (yay!).
We wheeled everything outside into the 80 degree (F) heat and 82% humidity of Richmond, still, at 11:30pm! But...no Mom in sight! It turns out the airline website LIED and told her our flight would be landing at 12:35am!!! The bad thing about that is that she was driving to meet us from ONE HOUR away! So once we connected (thank God for cell phones over and over again), we discovered we'd have to wait another 45 minutes or so.
I can't believe this many odd happenings can come to pass all in one day of flying.
Of course, it's all a lot better than when our whole trip to Colorado got cancelled entirely last Christmas due to the blizzard in Denver. I'm just glad we ended up getting to our destination, even if it is three and a half hours late and 18 hours after we woke up early and left our hotel.
The REALLY GREAT THING about this moment is that we are sitting in the AIR-CONDITIONED, clean, nice RIC terminal, with two outlets for laptops, comfortable chairs, AND FREE WIRELESS INTERNET!!! Why can't airports worldwide follow Richmond's beautiful lead in generosity? So now I can post this comedy of errors and heave a great sigh of relief that we are here and my mom's on the way. Also, huge kudos to my two special kids, who have been long-suffering today and trekked along with me. Thanks for the lack of complaining, guys.
August 7, 2007 | Permalink
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Wow! I'm sure you were incredibly happy to see your mom :-) Thank God for cell phones and your safe arrival in VA. Blessings to your time and future travels...
Posted by: Julie | Aug 7, 2007 6:22:53 AM
Wow is right and you are certainly the object lesson for the day in grace! I would have been just about ready to scream, yell and pull my hair out and you talk about "reasonable, no problem,necessary" and say nothing worse than "oh well." I am extremely impressed and will remember your example the next time I experience travel 'events.' :)
Posted by: randall | Aug 7, 2007 3:23:18 PM
Too bad. Of course, 50 years ago, you'd have taken a few days by train . . .
Posted by: Martin LaBar | Aug 8, 2007 12:08:19 AM
What great blog fodder! :) I'm sure that's just what you were thinking when all that was going on....(she said sarcastically)
I hope the rest of your trip goes much smoother. So glad you are where you want to be and that the kids were good, too.
Posted by: Melene | Aug 8, 2007 3:39:12 AM
Wow. I've heard this summer was supposed to be a traveer's hell, with so many delays for various reasons. Sounds like an opportunity for patience and mood management. What? The kids didn't complain? Amazing!! Thanks for the reminder of the advantages of sticking close to home.
Posted by: Helen | Aug 8, 2007 4:36:59 AM
Oh, the stress of travelling with children. What a story. Everything in and out of Chicago is notoriously delayed. Always.
Posted by: MotherPie | Aug 8, 2007 2:28:04 PM
So what was the evil airline so we know to avoid them?
You may not want to point a finger, but I know that from our recent trips, I'd choose AirTran over Continental, if given a choice!
Posted by: paul merrill | Aug 11, 2007 3:52:13 PM