The Travel Two-Step

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I’ve processed this whole experience…it’s time to share!
I’m no frequent flyer, but I usually fly 1-2 times a year. I have never had a big problem. A few delays maybe, but nothing to cry about. This flight, however, was of nightmare proportions! I left PDX right on time, heading for my layover at Chicago O’Hare. When I got there I realized I had about 50 minutes until my next flight. Of course my next gate was in another wing (Do they EVER make it easy to change flights?), so I had to make a run for Terminal B, gate F11. My United flight was supposed to leave at 6:45 PM. Oh, and on my almost-4-hour flight to Chicago, there had been no meal service. Four hours on a plane and no meal service? Plus paying for my checked bags?
By the time I got to Chicago I was starving, but I was afraid to stop for food because my next flight was coming up soon. I found gate F11…there were 6 screens up and not one of them said Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which was my final destination. I went up to the counter. Finally a man asked how he could help me. I asked about my flight, and he said it was the correct gate. It was about 6:20, which  meant it was almost boarding time, so I grabbed a bag of chips (ugh!!!) from the nearest kiosk and waited for the lineup.  20 minutes later there was an announcement, “Flight #### to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will be delayed. We will be boarding the flight at 7:30.” Rats! I looked at the girl next to me, who was having the same reaction. She shook her head and grumbled. We got to talking and I found out that Stefanie lived in Scranton, and had been waiting at O’Hare since 2:00 PM. No wonder she was grumbling! 7:30 was close enough that I felt uneasy about searching for food. We were at a dead-end and there wasn’t much available close by. So I waited, and ate a Luna bar that I had packed for emergencies.
At 7:30, it was the same story, only the gate employee gave us the information that the plane was actually in the hold, but we were waiting on crew members to arrive. I had a fleeting thought of volunteering to be a flight attendant. Instead, I waited.
At 8:30 an employee grabbed for the microphone and everyone at the gate bristled. “Flight #### to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will not be departing at 8:30…we actually don’t know where the crew is, so we’re going to delay the flight until 9:45.” Sounds of surprise and aggravation were heard across the room. At that point I got mad and went to find something to eat. I found a grill and bar that was open and grabbed a Greek salad with chicken. Stefanie looked at it longingly when I sat down. Shortly after I returned to the gate, the announcements started. “Flight #### to Cedar Rapids is cancelled,” the gate attendant announced. “Flight #### to Lincoln has been cancelled.” Stefanie and I looked at each other with dread. Did none of these flights have crews? Would ours be next? Did they forget to schedule crews for all of these flights?? All in all, five flights were cancelled. Ours was called last, at 10:30. We were instructed to go upstairs to the service desk for overnight accommodations and to reschedule our flights. Stefanie and I raced upstairs…only to be met by a line that snaked all the way down the terminal. I’m talking at least 200 people. One clerk, 200 people. We groaned, and got in line. We started talking to the people around us. Soon we had a posse: David, a fast-talking sales guy from Scranton, Stefanie, my buddy from the gate, Mika, a woman from California, and me. Mika’s story was the worst, hands down. She had to be at a wedding the next day at 1:00 PM. David and Stefanie were the lucky ones since they lived in Scranton.
So we waited. It seemed the line was not moving at all. Finally a man came and told the back half of the line to go downstairs to another desk where more representatives could help us. We were trying to be cheery. We got to know each other a little, shared other flight horror stories, and giggled so we wouldn’t cry. David suggested we rent a car with the four of us. It was about 12 hours to Scranton from Chicago. I reminded him he’d be travelling with three women, so it would be more like 14 with bathroom breaks. He told us to forget it. Then we hit the front of the line. We heard that there was a flight leaving at 7 AM to Scranton via Detroit, and we all wanted on it. Stefanie had been on the phone the entire time we stood in the queue. She got a hold of her travel agent and quickly realized she didn’t have to wait in line. She’d book a new flight and expense the whole thing. So she waved goodbye and  jetted away to the Hilton across the street. The rest of us weren’t so lucky. We were on personal trips and couldn’t afford to just buy another flight.
When I got to the representative, I asked her what was available. She said there were some direct flights to Allentown and Harrisburg, but none to Scranton. For some reason, I got it in my head that Harrisburg was closer than Scranton, so I asked to be put on the 9:00 AM to Harrisburg. Score! She gave me my hotel and food voucher, and I waited for David and Mika to finish up with their arrangements.  They were lucky enough to grab tickets to the 7:00 AM flight to Scranton via Detroit. By the time we were at the front of the queue, the airport Hilton was completely booked. We were assigned the Crowne Plaza. We grabbed our carry-ons and headed to the shuttle. We waited for the shuttle, and waited some more. After about 25 minutes we were getting a little testy. In the meantime I called my father to tell him the good news about the Harrisburg flight. “Harrisburg!! Aaarrgh! That’s twice as far!” Uh oh. I wanted to cry at this point. I felt like a total moron.
David pointed out that there was a chance I could still get on the Detroit-Scranton flight, but I was just too cranky and tired to care. He grabbed my Harrisburg reservations, whipped out his phone and started talking. He was on the phone for 45 minutes, and I’m not sure how he did it, but he somehow got me a seat on the flight. I wanted to kiss him! During this time the hotel shuttle finally came, and we were off…to the scariest location EVER. The shuttle took us 20 minutes away from the airport to a Crowne Plaza. It was a beautiful hotel inside, but the location made us not want to walk outside at all. The three of us walked in…just in time to get in yet another line. By this time it was 1:00 AM, and we were really sick of lines. When we got to the front, we were assigned our rooms. The nice lady at the front desk swept her hand to the side to indicate the free incidentals we might need. “Do you have saline solution?” I asked, desperately hoping. I’d been wearing my contacts for about  16 hours and my eyes were burning madly. “No, I’m sorry dear. The gift shop is closed and won’t open until 8:00 AM tomorrow morning.” Our shuttle was to leave at 5:00 AM.
I did what I had to do. I walked up and down the line of remaining travellers and asked if anyone had saline solution. One man did, and I almost hugged him. (I should have, he was pretty cute!) I raced upstairs to my room and grabbed two drinking glasses, raced back downstairs and grabbed my glasses that I had thankfully packed in my carry-on, and pulled those suckers out of my eyes and dropped them into the cups. Ahhh…
David, Mika, and I went up to our rooms and flopped into bed. It was now 1:30 AM, and our wake-up call was at 4:30 so we could make the shuttle at 5:00. I slept fitfully, worried I wouldn’t hear the wake-up call. Fortunately, I did wake up. When we got to the airport we headed to the desk to get our new travel documents. Mika got hers right away. David and I…we had seat numbers, but no reservation! Please don’t ask me how this is possible because I don’t understand it myself. David started fast-talking, and worked it out. Whew! We went to the gate and finally, finally, boarded the Delta flight, reuniting with Stefanie in the meantime, who had also gotten on the new flight. The trip to Detroit was thankfully short. My seatmate was a man in his 40s, and was a fun conversationalist. When we landed in Detroit, the four of us waited for each other and went to the next gate. We were anxiously awaiting our final destination, and I thought, we should memorialize this! Here is the picture that resulted:

Becky flight friends
Becky and The Posse

We don’t look half bad for being raggedy and exhausted! Arriving at Scranton, we were giddy to get down to baggage claim. Then we realized our bags were still on the United plane, though we had switched to a Delta flight. We would not be getting our baggage until the next plane arrived. By that time my father had gotten to the airport and was waiting for me outside in the queue. I kept him waiting another 45 minutes while I stood in line to file my baggage claim. At 12:45 PM, over 24 hours after I had left Portland, I was on my way to Danville! Wooohooo! I made dad stop at the nearest Walmart so I could grab some saline solution and another outfit to last me until my luggage came. I had to wait another day to get it, but when I did I was really thankful! But they broke the zipper pull…

Yes, this trip was insanely awful. Yes, I got no sleep and was starving most of the time. But one good thing came out of it. I made three new friends! It was refreshing to see people come together during this situation and become friends and allies. It makes me smile to know that now I have two more friends in Pennsylvania and one in California that will always share these memories with me. Plus I have an instant blog topic! But, just for the record, Universe, I don’t ever want to go through this again. Note that down.

3 responses to “The Travel Two-Step”

  1. Catherine Noble Avatar

    My Goodness… that sounds like a nightmare trip! Kudos for seeing the positives in it though :D They sound like a fabulous bunch to go through it all with :)
    In light of your experience, I shall remember to pack some extra snacks for my next flight. See? It wasn’t all in vain! Hehe…

  2. synthcat (@synthcat) Avatar

    You’re one of the rare breed of people who could turn the worst of the travel-related nightmares into a positive1 I am so glad to have you as a friend!

  3. beckydancer Avatar

    Thanks Catherine! Yes, I will always over-pack snacks from now on…I can’t believe how bad the airlines have gotten.
    Mo, I think you’d have been the exact same way! Birds of a feather…

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