Friday, December 12, 2008

Uneventful events of an eventful trip; the flight home.

Sitting in the full waiting area at gate 39, sipping coffee and reading the morning paper, I was anticipating a first boarding announcement any moment.

"Passengers at gate 39, there is going to be a slight delay in boarding flight 7739," said a female voice through the p.a. system.

I'm thinking, damn, we haven't even started and it's started. The flight plan home had been worrying me since I'd purchased our round trip tickets through Expedia 6 weeks ago. The flight down had been perfect: first flight of the morning out of Ottawa to Chicago and a 2 hour lay over before a mid-morning flight to San Antonio. Crisp, clean, and smooth, like a Swiss watch.

The flight home was a little more convoluted and left zero time for error, i.e. delays. A nine-thirty flight to Dallas, then a 40 minute period to change planes and go on to Dulles in D.C..
An hour in D.C. and a airline change leaving for Ottawa at 1650. A sketchy weather forecast, three changes were, in my mind, a prescription for disaster.

The female voice continues: "The maintenance crew has detected an odor of something burnt. We're going to wait twenty minutes while they search for the source."

I'm thinking: twenty minutes is cutting it too close for comfort, but still possible to make the Dallas to Dulles flight.

Female voice in sicky-sweet southern drawl: "If the maintenance crew can't find the source of the smell we'll book you all on the next flight." When these things happen, I always ask myself; would you want your mother to get on this plane?" I muse: why no, I'd rather put her through all the bullshit you're about to put 177 people through. I mean if she were alive she'd be 89, no cell phone and little if any tolerance of disruptive incidents in her plans. No lady, don't even go there.

Oh, and the next flight only serves to delay our problem 'til Dallas where we'll land well after the Dulles flight has left.

Two women in the seats in front of us , maybe fifteen feet away, sisters I think from the similarities in their looks, are conversing ominously. One is sitting, the other , standing in front of her, facing toward us, whispers to her sister but loud enough for us to overhear: I just checked at the counter and there are only 10 seats on the next flight to Dallas, so we'd better get in line now.

PIA voice over p.a.: "They still have been unable to locate the source of the offending odor. In the event that we may have to cancel flight 7739, would all the passenger form a single line starting in front of the desk and to the left, there will be three of us to help you get rescheduled. If the flight is canceled, I'll walk down the line and pass out an 800 number that you can call, if you have a cell phone, to make rescheduling arrangements."

While standing in line, I say: "Well, I guess we won't get home 'til Sunday." I soon learn that, really, our situation is dwarfed by the number of passengers who are going to miss their international flights out of both NYC, and D.C. Some folks are able to get good assistance like the young woman directly in front of us who, within 5 to 10 minutes was able to get a seat on a direct flight to NYC and that would salvage her overseas flight plans. However the man next in front of us, after three calls with many holds, was unable to get any satisfaction. I'll give him credit for keeping the lid on his boiling emotions.

The voice is now a face, with Ashley Banfield glasses and a form fitting leather jacket, with a pleasant smile. As she peels a slip off the pad of slips with the afore mentioned 800 number, she repeats: Call this number, and someone will be able to assist you rearranging your flights."

I nod, smile reluctantly, and say thank you.

The female voice on the other end is friendly, and professional, showing serious concern. Within 15 minutes and three "holds"(good thing I charged my phone last night!) this well seasoned and practiced airline professional succeeded in getting both of us in adjoining seats on another airline's direct flight to D.C. and we would arrive there only a few minutes later than we would have originally, so we would still be able to catch our original flight to Ottawa. Hallelujah!!! She asked me for a description of our checked luggage and what tags were on them and if our address was on the tags. She assured us that there was ample time to retrieve them and get them on the United flight.

I repeated back to her the directions she had given me to insure I knew how to proceed from here. She acknowledged that I had it right. The rest of the story is mundane with two exceptions:

Because we were changing airlines and it would appear like we had just purchased our tickets just prior to flight time a red flag comes up for TSA the red flag is four SSSS's printed on your boarding pass. This is a special code that entitles you to be locked in a glass cage until an agent can escort you to the area where they will pat you down and search and test everything in your carry on. Not all that bad as they were very courteous, professional and fast.
Sometime during the flight to D.C. it dawned on me that we'd only have forty minutes to catch our flight to Ottawa, if we arrived on time. Since we'd be changing airlines and had no pre-issued boarding passes we had been instructed to go to the ticket counter in D.C. to get our boarding passes. I'm thinking: get off the plane, make our way out of the gate area and back to the united terminal, get boarding passes, come back through security and then get to the proper gate to catch the flight; no f'n way!!!! I don't know if you're familiar with Dulles, but some times you have to take a bus from one terminal to another. I decide that are only chance is to go to the gate and plead our case to the agents there and hope against hope that they can check us in and issue us boarding passes, otherwise we'd spend the night in D.C., because, I found out later, this was the last flight to Ottawa this day.

We arrived a few minutes early, the next departure gate was only 2 gates away, maybe 200 feet. There were two agents in attendance and no one in line to delay us in seeking their assistance. The next 20 minutes was a little rocky, not unpleasant but shaky. Finally, after a phone call by the second more experienced agent, he printed out our boarding passes. We sat down only long enough to hear; passengers at gate 3 for Ottawa can begin boarding now. Whew, whew, whew.

I know I said only two exceptions, so I lied. There is one one more exclamation point to this journey.

We set down in Ottawa 30 minutes early. We were so early that they had no crew available to help the pilot park and so we sat on the tarmac for fifteen minutes before parking and deplaning.
That was no issue. The temperature was 25 F. we moved through customs and immigration quickly, and proceeded to the baggage claim area.

You knew this was coming didn't you? You just knew it! Yup, you are 100% right: our luggage was in absentville.
This is not the first time for us. We're old hands at lost luggage. However we've always gotten it that same night or the next day at the latest. It's now Saturday evening, the 6th of December.

Monday 8 December, afternoon at 1700,

Our luggage was delivered, intact and evidently well searched. Nothing was missing.

You see rel, you always worry over the most insignificant of things.

If only we'd taken AMTRAC

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Blogger willow said...

The last time WT went to Dubai, his luggage didn't make it back home for two weeks. It finally did, though, fully intact.

I'm really not much of a traveler. Nothing ever goes according to plans when I do.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man. Sorry for that debaucle of an experience!!

2:03 PM  
Blogger Churlita said...

Yeesh. That sounds stressful. Sorry you had to deal with that.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Pear tree cottage! said...

Well after reading this post dare I say "Happy Christmas" to you from Australia. Just dropping in to old and new blogger friends early to send good cheer to you and your family.

the trip did sound great at times!! (smiles) just the luggage lost sounds horrid to me.

Lee-ann from Australia

7:41 AM  

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