Admittedly since moving to Qatar I have been spoiled by international airlines that are doing well, not dependent on profits but government subsidies.
And while I have been back to the U.S. on a number of occasion for work, and listed to NPR horror stories of travel from my desk in Doha, nothing has compared to the stories of this weekend.
First, a flight that was on time at Dulles airport (outside Washington D.C.) at 1:15 pm suddenly was delayed by the time I exited the nearby Subway line, sandwhich, drink, and cookie in hand.
The flight was delayed for three hours because a passenger on the incoming aircraft had ‘a medical emergency’. So the plane had turned back around to Charlotte, off loaded everyone, reloaded, and come back.
Charlotte being the major east coast hub for US Airways, there was a line of 14 people long, one gate agent, trying to rebook connections. The gate agent smartly offered everyone the 1800 number and from the comfort of my chair and in about 4 minutes, (I do like sitting) I rebooked myself on the 8:10 pm connection in case I missed the 5:40 pm one.
Well, I also managed to turn around and tell a few people standing in line that they should go the phone route and settled in to wait for the plane. Meanwhile a German family of four were sitting next to me. I tried not to think of their predicament but I couldn’t. My sister has 3 kids and traveling as a family is not something anyone does lightly.
Of course they had no idea how to navigate the touch tone “Push 1 for a new flight, ….” so I was Iris Bitn– for a few minutes. With them settled I opened back up A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS (which I highly recommend) and got to work figuring out how was the serial killer in Augusta Falls.
Three hours later, we boarded the plane.
The woman next to me was a shambles, because, as it turned out, if she missed her 5:40 p.m. flight in Charlotte she would miss her daughter’s wedding. In Germany.
Needless to say it was a long flight and I debated before touching her arm gently and saying, “I hope that’s not your flight” as we taxied to our gate and the Lufthansa flight was taking off.
So here I sit: in the Memphis airport, having gone to my gate only to be told my flight to Charlotte was delayed. Luckily there was a Northwest flight, non-stop going to Florida. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the airport. Nobody said life was clear cut.
So I hauled myself over to the new gate (33! halfway down to Mississippi) only to be told the other gate agent had not in fact booked me on the NW flight as she had informed me.
I had two choices: walk all the way back or use the 800 number from Friday – still in my call history – to sort it out.
That I did and believe it or not – the agent on the phone was helpful – after being put on hold so she could talk to NW agents over the phone had a confirmation number for me.
So here I sit, typing, using the best of my time, and the flight is in range.
Of course I didn’t check a bag (you can get a lot out of 3 oz toiletries after all) and the plane is in range.
Who knows what could happen? Maybe I’ll get to Florida earlier and not have to do the midnight haul to my destination and perhaps arrive early.
Stranger things have happened.