Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

I Suppose It Could Have Been Worse

on June 30, 2014

In the grand scheme of travel days, there is a gradual continuum between smooth trouble-free airline travel, and frustration-fraught, delayed travel. Also on the continuum are accident-complicated and outright emergency situations, which of course, lurk on the horrible dark end of the travel continuum.

As some of you may know, my family embarked upon an airline trip to California to visit Jeremy’s parents. Our itinerary was moderately convenient, leaving at a very early 7 a.m. from Akron. A connection in Atlanta would lead us to Orange County, where we would arrive in time for lunch. We hustled our very sleepy toddler out the door and made it within a comfortable time frame to buy coffee at the terminal, find our gate, and enjoy some snacks we had preparedly packed in our carry-on bag. We were literally next in line to early board with a young child, when the word came down the jet bridge to hold up, there was a problem. The lady in a wheelchair who had already boarded even deplaned as well. Turns out there was a problem with a “non-critical” item of machinery, some small generator that powers the a/c and ventilation. The maintenance team would try a couple things and hopefully we would be on our way shortly.

Well, non of the ideas worked, so they decided to fly in a replacement part from Atlanta. They apologized for the delay, and began rebooking everyone’s connections from Atlanta. We got a later connection from Atlanta, but we had to switch our ultimate destination to LAX rather than Orange County. They sent Jeremy out to the check-in ticket counter to switch our luggage to arrive at LAX.

The replacement part arrived. Guess what? It didn’t work. So they decided to drive in yet another replacement part from Detroit. I could have told them that if two of the same part don’t work, the problem is probably somewhere else in the plane, but they didn’t ask me for my opinion. Meanwhile, the airline agents supplied drinks, snacks, and pizza in the gate area.

As the flight departure time continued to creep later and later, we decided to rebook again. This time we opted to abandon Akron and depart from Cleveland. We were able to book an itinerary with a different airline, departing from Cleveland to Chicago O’Hare departing at 5:20 p.m, and from there on to Orange County. It would be a late arrival time, but at least still a Sunday arrival. We went back to the ticket counter to retrieve our luggage, only to discover that it was already in Atlanta, on its way to Orange County. Despite Jeremy having switched it to LAX, but whatever. We also copped major ‘tude from the airline agent who was obviously very put out by all the changing travel plans. Still, she had no excuse. Silver lining, at least we could go on our way with carry-ons only, which would make things a bit more streamlined.

In the midst of all this toil and strife, and my increasing feeling that I no longer even desired to travel on this day, but rather go home and sleep instead, it is important to remember that it could have been worse. Maybe not a lot worse, but it could have been.

My parents graciously agreed to shepherd us to Cleveland, which meant we could leave our cars at home and avoid paying long term parking fees at the airport. We arrived in due time to board our flight to O’Hare. We ate some dinner(ish) and found our way to the gate. It began to rain while we walked through the concourse. No problem, airplanes can fly in the rain. Oh, and then we heard thunder. And saw lightning. And heard the announcement: the incoming flight that was to be our plane was diverted to Pittsburgh because of the weather. One hour delay. We needed to rebook our connection, which we were able to do, thank God, and back into Orange County! Plus the agent was even able to sit two of the seats together which meant a three-year-old didn’t need to sit alone. Hah. So we were ready.

After a couple more delays (the storm was heading east, so the plane was late leaving Pittsburgh), our plane arrived! We boarded, and miracle of miracles, we flew to Chicago. Whew. We had just enough time to change a diaper and get to the gate. The flight was on time, boarding on time, taking off on time. Big win. Things were looking up and we started to think that maybe our troubles were over.

And then this was my flight.

courtesy of twitter

Seriously, at this point I was so beaten down by the ordeal of my travel day, that this did very little to phase me. I just felt like, “I told you so,” when they announced that we were diverting to Wichita for an emergency landing. That was pretty dramatic, actually. We descended so quickly, my ears hurt. Luckily, Stephen slept through the entire thing. When we landed in Wichita, the fire trucks flanked both sides of the plane as we taxied toward the terminal. The plane stopped a few hundred feet from the end of the terminal, and we all waited to learn what was going on. The cabin pressure was fine, no one was injured, we were all just bemused. Many of us had had long travel days, so we were just trying to roll with the punches. When we landed, the flight attendant announced, “Welcome to Wichita.”

We waited and waited while the fire fighters and maintenance people assessed the problem, then we were told we much overnight in Wichita. The airline was kind enough to comp everyone a hotel room for the night, including vouchers to pay for breakfast. Good on them. See, even though we were venturing dangerously close to dark, horrible “it can’t be worse” end of the travel continuum, it really could have been worse. Really. Perspective must be maintained in all situations.

So we booked in to a hotel at midnight local time Wichita, KS. The “do-over” flight would be accomplished in the morning, TBA, using a plane that would be flown to Wichita empty for the sole purpose of taking us all to Orange County. We set an early alarm to check the flight status: 9:15 a.m. Score another 90 minutes of sleep. We enjoyed a lovely mostly-comped breakfast in the hotel restaurant and made our way back to the airport. Check in. Piece of cake. Kill some time purchasing “Wichita” t-shirt memorial souvenir. Done. Find our gate.

Flight delayed. Man oh man. Weather delay.

And folks, here is the true cherry on the top of our travel day banana split. Guess where the special plane was flying in from?

Cleveland. Man oh man.

So, to wrap up this chapter book of a travel tale, we did make it onto our special plane where the airline comped us snacks and drinks and in-flight entertainment. The flight this morning was totally uneventful, we enjoyed free and delicious airline snack boxes and movies, we managed to track down our luggage at the Orange County airport, and we are now comfortably ensconced in Jeremy’s parent’s living room. Even though the whole experience averages out to be IT SUCKED!!!, I have to say the airline agents and flight crews were all very accommodating and helpful, except for that one girl at the ticket counter. The airlines were very generous in comping materials to help make up for the inconvenience of interrupted travel.

Our day should have been, “we checked in, we flew, we arrived,” but instead we got an experience and a story. I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

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3 responses to “I Suppose It Could Have Been Worse

  1. JeneaSwainston says:

    This did make for a much more entertaining read but I wish I had just read “we checked in, we flew, we arrived…
    You need to sell some essays or write a book!

  2. Rebecca Wood says:

    Wow, that was quite a travel tale. I hope the visit was at least enjoyable.

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