Sunday, May 13, 2012

Airline Adventures

I have to confess: When I travel, I tend to post the highlights.

Just so you all don't think my travels are all fun and corporate rock-and-roll, Here are some travel adventures that bring it back to reality:

2012: Rochester to White Plains (AA)
Arrived in RST at 9am Sunday

Delayed until 10:30. Fine. that's why I book not the 'next' connecting flight in O'Hare...but the "next, next" flight. After all, I'm on work time from the time I leave home so I'd rather make my connection.

...taxied out
"Umm, controllers re-routed us, and the new route requires more fuel..."
...taxied back to get more fuel

...taxied out
...taxied back due to ground halt in Chicago Waited 1.5 hours but I got to have a relaxed lunch, so not all bad!

...boarded plane
"Umm, controllers gave us original route back but we now have too much fuel. We can't suck it out, so we need to de-plane 9 people and your luggage"
...9 deplaned

...heard O'Hare had another Ground Halt
"HEY, GET BACK IN!" - Pilot decided to burn the fuel while we wait
...9 re-board...and we taxied out

...waited for Ground Halt to be lifted while burning 1500 pounds of fuel

Landed in Chicago...
...Ran to connecting gate...
...watched gate door shut "...I'm sorry, once the gate door is shut, it can't be opened..." I hear as he smiles in his little circle of absolute power.

...all other flights canceled
...slept at O'Hare Hilton. THANK YOU IBM ($119/night IBM rate, $400/night normal rate)
...arrived next morning for 9:10 flight
...delayed until 10:30 because while the plane and crew were ready, they had to wait in Milwaukee until their 8 hours of rest was complete (I picture them all in uniform at the gate all watching the clock to tic past the 8 hour mark)
ARRIVED at 3:00 Monday. 1.5 hours to spare...and ready to ROCK!

2009: Rochester to White Plains (Delta)
Boarded in Rochester, taxied out
...sat on tarmac for 2 hours due to storms in Minneapolis

Flew to MSP
Missed our connection
Our meeting with a VP was still on at noon the next day...
...earliest flight arrived at 1pm
...couldn't get a hold of assistant to see if we could re-book so stayed over night in MSP
In Morning: "Nope, VP cannot reschedule until next week"
We drove home to RST wasting $920

Note: This was with my colleague that I traveled with often. She and I laugh because if I tell people this story with certain phrasing, people would wonder: "Ya, I flew to Minneapolis for a work meeting with a female colleague, spent the night in a hotel, drove home the next day". Of course, we learned from our mistakes and the next month when the executive had an opening, we flew early the day before to LaGuardia...and spent the afternoon in NYC. Rode a helicopter over the Hudson, and drove up to White Plains that night. (but this post is about the realities of travel...ok back to the ugly)

2008: Poughkeepsie to Rochester (AA)
Arrived and boarded
...taxied out
...felt plane turn around ... like Indiana Jones in III
...mechanical problem
...plane leaves for machine shed to get fixed

While we're waiting at the gate, the adjacent gate arrives with fresh plane! We all can fly to O'Hare in that!
...We start boarding
...we stop boarding
...mechanical failure light turns red
...that plane leaves for machine shed

Original plane arrives back at gate!
...gate agent announces boarding in 2 minutes
...gate agent starts talking fast...then loudly shouts, "NO, WAIT FOR US!"
...plane...completely empty...leaves gate and flies to O'Hare.

It turns out the pilot had 5 minutes until he was "not eligible" had to leave gate so airplane could get to O'Hare for morning run

...2nd plane returns to gate
...we all board and fly to O'Hare

...and I miss my connection back home to Rochester.

Since it's only 6:30, I decide to drive home
Go to car rental...only thing they have is a very fancy SUV!

Drive home in SWEET style listening to my podcasts

2006: Las Vegas to MSP (Delta)
Taxied out
Crew announcement, "Umm, we're really sorry, but we found a box-cutter on board. Don't worry...we know it was left by the cleaning crew filling the cup bin...but TSA rules require us to taxi back to a quarantined gate, de-plane, have you gather your luggage, and provide detailed body and luggage inspections. It will take some time"
...3 hours later we taxi back out and fly to MSP
...I miss my connecting flight, but I just drive home.

2011: Singapore to Bangkok
AmEx travel is awesome...usually. They booked me and a colleague on a cheap flight since we had to teach that day, then fly that night...and teach then next morning.

We were 1/2 way through the 2nd day (4 hours to departure) and our Singapore guide (who was also traveling with us to Bangkok) asked our flight # to confirm same flight.

"OH, you should not have used that airline. It is a very cheap airline...never flies on time...sometimes not the same day", and "It is like a river boat...they leave when full".

Sweet.  I call AmEx and they book 2 tickets on Singapore Air. We arrive to airport a tad worried: You see, according to the "Kingdom of Thailand", we are foreigners with 2 booked tickets on two different airlines...the only country that requires a visa to get in...and we each have 2 passports due to that same visa. We had the profile matching of a secret agent.

(we got through fine, and arrived safe and sound...never knew if/when the other flight arrived)

2011: LA to Sydney
Besides all the "Hey, did you see John Locke on board?" questions, it started iffy. We boarded, taxied out.
...Stopped...for 1.5 hours.
...the little car that pushes the plane out bent some metal on the landing wheel as it disconnected from us
...mechanics are out trying to fix without de-plane
...they fix!
...15 hour flight begins (did I say we had already sat for nearly 2 hours?)

2011: Evil Water
I know we can't take water through security. I dutifully empty or thow my water bottle and if I need a new one, purchase on the other side. But in international flights, there is a secret second security to enter the gate area that ALSO does not allow water! My first experience was Tokyo. I was flying to Singapore and I bought a water bottle in Tokyo after security...only to have to dump it before entering the gate security. So much for "Mountainside fresh water" and welcome "Tokyo tap water from in-gate fountain"

There ya go...just a few of my favorites that I pull out when a bunch of us are comparing travel horror stories...

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