When air travel doesn’t go smoothly

November 15, 2015

Wednesday was a really long day.  I kind of felt like I’d done something to anger the travel Gods and they were punishing me.  I’ve been on many flights that didn’t go smoothly, but this one had me seriously questioning if I was going to make it to my conference on time.

Tuesday night after I finished packing my bag, I checked into my flights online and printed my boarding passes.  This way I could go straight to security when I got to the airport.  I arrived at 6:00am and was surprised to see a long security line.  I made it through security in time to get a light breakfast before we had to board the flight.  We’d boarded 3 of the 5 groups when they announced that all flights were grounded at Denver due to the weather.  They’d gotten their first snow of the season overnight.  No flights in or out for the next two hours.  The bright side was that since no flights could leave Denver, all flights at their airport would be delayed as well, so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t miss my connection.

A littler over an hour later they announced that the ban was lifted and started boarding the flight again.  Everyone had to scramble to pack up their things-we thought it would be another hour before we could leave, so people had a bunch of stuff that they’d taken out of their bags.  We had an uneventful flight, with less turbulence than expected and arrived to sunshine in Denver around 10:00am.

As I got off the plane in Denver, I quickly found a screen for the departures.  I was hoping my flight was slightly delayed as I would definitely make my connection if so.  Alas, my flight wasn’t listed, so I had to get in line to talk to someone at the airlines.  When I had originally checked into my flights online and I had also signed up for text alerts regarding my flights.  As I was standing there, I got the text “Your 7:05am flight to Denver is delayed.”  That was super helpful information to get AFTER I’d arrived in Denver.  I also got an alert that my 2nd flight was cancelled due to maintenance (to their credit, this one at least came in a timely manner.)  It was rescheduled with another stop in Chicago, arriving at my final destination at midnight.  Since my conference was starting at 7:30 the next morning, and I was hoping to get some sleep, I wanted to see if there were any other flights that could get me in earlier.

After standing in the customer service line for over an hour and a half, I was disappointed to hear that while there were options for layovers other than Chicago, they would all get me to D.C. around the same time.  Plus, some of them were actually further out of the way, so it would be more time on a plane, so I decided to keep my flights as they were scheduled.  The airline did give me a couple food vouchers since my flight cancellation was due to mechanical issues.  I went to get some lunch after chatting with the United agent.  However, when I got to the register at Wolfgang Puck they couldn’t get the vouchers to work, so I paid for my lunch.  My work would reimburse me-I just thought it would be nice if I could save them a few bucks, but I wasn’t about to go stand in line for another hour for a few dollars.

After lunch I walked the terminal for a bit (I like to do this when I fly to stretch my legs and keep the blood flowing) and found the gate for my flight to Chicago.  I pulled out my laptop and got caught up on work emails.  I also chatted with my dad who called because he knew I was just chilling at the airport and he thought it would be a nice way to pass the time, which it was.  I was instant messaging with a co-worker when I received a text that my flight to Chicago was delayed.  Based on the new arrival time, I would now be landing 5 minutes before my connecting flight to D.C. left, which means I would definitely miss that flight.  By this time, it was 2:30 and I’d been waiting at airport for 4.5 hours.  I muttered a four letter word under my breath-how the hell was I supposed to get to D.C. now?

As I packed up my laptop to go back to customer service and stand in line for another hour, I saw an United employee standing at the desk.  I went up and asked if she could help me.  I could see she really didn’t want to-she was working on other things and was quite brusque with me.  I offered to go to the customer service if she didn’t have time, which is when she begrudgingly agreed to try to help me.  She found a seat on another flight going through Cleveland that left in 20 minutes.  She printed the boarding pass, handed it to me and encouraged me to ‘hurry!’  As I grabbed my stuff she mentioned how happy she was that she helped me because there was no way I would’ve made the flight if I’d gone back to customer service.  I quickly headed to the gate and boarded my flight.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be back on a plane.  I had really started to worry that I wouldn’t get to D.C. and would miss part of the conference.

After the flight took off, the pilot came on the radio to announce that we should arrive in Cleveland a little early.  I breathed a sigh of relief-I didn’t have to worry about making my last connection.  No words could’ve made me happier at that point.

We did arrive in Cleveland about 30 minutes early only to find out that my last flight was delayed.  First it was delayed 30 minutes, then another 30 minutes.  We were waiting on the incoming flight.  It finally arrived and I boarded my last plane of the day.  It was about half empty so we all had a little extra room and were quite comfortable, which was nice because everyone seemed really tired.

I arrived in D.C. shortly before midnight, almost 9 hours later that my original scheduled arrival time. I got a cab to my hotel in Alexandria and checked in.  By the end of the day it was 16.25 hours of actual travel (there’s a 2 hour time difference between Boise and D.C.)  I was so happy when I got up to my room and found this:

DSCN0131    DSCN0132

I unpacked and hung up my work clothes, brushed my teeth and went to bed…registration was in less than 7 hours.

When you travel as much as I do, you get used to annoyances that disrupt travel.  I’ve been delayed, had flights cancelled and slept in airports so often that I now expect something to go wrong.  If by chance everything goes smoothly, I’m pleasantly surprised.  And if not, I take it in stride.  My personal travel motto: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  It keeps me from getting cranky, even on 16 hour travel days.

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  • Reply kandriot1 November 18, 2015 at 4:53 am

    I hope your next few days are better! I have never been to D.C. so I am looking forward to living vicariously through your blog posts!

    • Reply GadAbouttheGlobe November 22, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks! The next few days were a bit better as was my return trip. Posts will be up this week!

  • Reply Alexandria, VA | Gad About the Globe November 23, 2015 at 2:34 am

    […] we were both really tired.  It had been a long day and I was still catching up from my incredibly long day of travel.  When I got back to the room I did some research on things to do in Alexandria.  Our […]

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    […] know all the employees had a tough day on Wednesday when I flew to Virginia.  I realize that the delays and long lines weigh heavily on them as […]

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