Monday, July 14, 2008

The Flying Dutchman. Or: How I learned to stop the yawn.

This is a bit of a personal post, but given that I haven't done much on here I thought I would give you all a bit of an explanation.

You may not know, but I went up to visit a friend in rural Harbor Beach Michigan over the weekend. Getting up there I was delayed two hours, but nothing compared to getting back. First off, Harbor Beach is a good 2-3 hours from the Flint airport, with a flight scheduled to leave at 5ish, and needing to get something to eat, I left at 1pm. That's when the travel time clock started.

Arrive at the airport to see that the flight has been delayed until 11pm. Fortunately there is another, earlier flight, the 3pm flight(it's now 4pm with it scheduled for 6). Get on that flight and wait, and wait, as it gets delayed, and delayed. As it is delayed past 8pm, I change tickets for my connecting flight. As it gets delayed past 9pm, I change tickets again for the last flight to Ft. Lauderdale out of Atlanta. As it is delayed past 10:30pm, I realize that it is impossible to make that and change the ticket once again to Miami.

Two hours of flying time so far for 10 hours of travel time. The plane actually leaves at 10:50pm. Enter, Atlanta. After an hour sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open up, I learn the Miami flight is canceled. As all the flights have been delayed the terminal is packed, standing room only, and there is a line of about 200-300 people for the customer service.

I estimate about 2 hours of wait....I was wrong, it was more like 4.5 hours. I got in the line at 1:30, I got out of the line at 5:30am. They were able to put me on standby for the next 3 flights out to Ft. Lauderdale, unfortunately the only flight they could confirm me on was the next day, about 28 hours away.

The 8:10am to Ft. Laud leaves without me on it. But I did luck out and get a emergency row seat on the 9:10am. Finally getting me in at around 11:30 or so due to delays. Finally get home around noon.

So, all in all, 23 hours of travel time. Yeah, for all of 4 hours of flights.

Not that I was the worst off, by no means, there were people who had been waiting just at Atlanta for 20 hours or more. Highlights include a group of 20-30 people who banded together to charter a bus to Ohio. An elderly lady with 1 day of medication left being given a ride across two states by the sister of a person she met while in the line for customer service. A man with a medical problem told that the only medical station was in another building, unfortunately he wouldn't be able to get there because he didn't have a boarding pass for that terminal. A family separated as the husband goes out to look for a rental car(none were to be had), only to find they could not get back into the gate area because their ticket was from the day before(about 3 hours), and that there was no way to get a new ticket until the counters opened(another 3 hours). Which was in vain anyways as there were no rental cars or hotel rooms to be had for blood or money, and no shuttles to take you anywhere. And a family with toddlers who learned that the entire terminal was sold out of drinks, it took a gate agent who was going off shift to bring back a little carton for them.

All in all I got two impressions from this. First, that the agents of the airline that were there were helpful despite the pressures, with high level of patience. I complemented the gate crew at Flint on juggling me from one flight to another until the last second. Second, there was no organization. The line was never addressed or separated, services were not provided for those who needed them, especially concern for medical problems. There was no effort made to make our wait more pleasant, even a small gesture would have counted for much, a free water bottle while you waited or blankets. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to have opened up extra counters at the empty gates and to direct portions of the line to be serviced there. However none of these things were addressed. For our troubles, what we got, if we asked, was a hotel discount voucher, good for a reduced rate at a hotel....of which all were filled to capacity long ago.

Anyways, I may be ranting, and I know there is nothing that one can do about the weather, but the weather was only a small part of making that return flight the trip from hell. I've been on longer flights, waited longer times, but never with such conditions that the elderly, families with children, and medically endangered were not seen to.

1 comment:

ctcomics said...

the flying dutchman indeed...there are just some days like that...for some reasons you cant explain why it all goes awol...such is life...sorry .