Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The journey back to Arizona

Warning: you will find a reference to OJ Simpson and derogatory remarks about Delta Airlines in this post.

On Sunday I was supposed to fly back to AZ. I had setup to get updates on my flights via TXT messages from FlightStats.com and I get one saying that my flight is on time and good to go. I leave the neighborhood that I have lived in for the last nine years and also grew up in for the last time, or so I thought.

So we get to the airport and in broken and incomplete sentences, I am told that my flight 6:35pm has been canceled. When I ask what will be done, I am told that the 6:35pm flight is full. Now I am confused and trying to avoid getting angry. After much arguing, after all how can my flight be both canceled and full and if it is full - I have an assigned seat so why can I not get on it, I finally figure out what is going on. The Atlanta flight is full, my flight to New York is canceled, and both were supposed to leave at the same time. I have no idea why she was telling me about the Atlanta flight. But what was even funnier was that I kept asking “do I at least get a ‘sorry’?” and she would shake her head and tell me either the flight is full or canceled, depending on whatever was on her mind. Finally, she gives me a seat on a flight to Atlanta and then to Phoenix for Monday morning, and I never got my “sorry.”

I monitored my flights from home and discovered that it was such a mess at JFK that my flight from there to PHX was 2.5 hours late. I would have arrived at Sky Harbor after 2am.

So we try again Monday morning and the ticket agent was a much friendlier and happier person. Despited the fact that as I walked up she was informed that the flight to Atlanta after mine was canceled and that my flight’s plane was being downgraded. I find out later that my plane was supposed to be a 70-passenger jet, it is now a 50-passenger jet, so a bunch of “volunteers” were sought to skip the flight. I should have taken the $400 Delta Dollars and changed flights.

We land in Atlanta at least 30 minutes late and I had only a one-hour layover to start with. The stewardess asked who had less than 30 minutes to make a connecting flight and almost half of us raise our hands. She asked everyone to let us off the plane first. Eventually the plane pulls up to the concourse after what seemed and eternity and I make my dash off the plane. We are so far out that they have to shuttle us to the end of Concourse E and the shuttle would not leave until the everyone was off the plane. So much for the dash off the plane.

As we are on the shuttle, one of the guys makes an OJ Simpson reference. There was a Hertz Rent-A-Car commercial where he did his football moves running through an airport and jumping over bench seats. I was ready to replicate that run. So I dash off the shuttle and run up the stairs and discover that I am at gate E-36 and I need to get to B-34. I run down to the center of Concourse E and then run right by the tram since it is not there yet and I thought I could out run it. I get to Concourse D and I did beat the tram, but not enough to keep running so I wait for it and get on board. When the doors open when it gets to Concourse B, I dash out and up the escalator. I plow through the concourse and get to Gate B-34, no one is there. I can’t breathe. I see a gate attendant at B-36 and ask her to get me on that plane and oxygen. I tell her where I just ran from and she sends me to the main ticket counter back at the middle of the concourse. I decided to take a detour, I fall to the floor.

Yes, I did blackout for a few seconds. I had my water bottle in my hand and I barely got it open and started drinking it and trying to breathe. The idiot gate attendant does NOTHING. I hear someone behind me yell for medical help and an older gentleman with a cane and eye patch checks on me. I never see or hear the IDIOT DELTA GATE ATTENDANT. I get up and stumble to the ticket counter. I do remember on the way back apologizing to the cleaning lady who was mopping the floor in my running path for almost knocking her down.

I get to the ticket counter and I am still light headed and my legs are really not happy with me. The agents tell me that I am on standby for a flight later that night and have an assigned seat for a Tuesday morning flight. I tell them that is not good enough. They send me to the wall of phones saying that they might be able to get me on another airline. I sit on the floor while on hold letting them work their magic. I finally end up on a US Airways flight that leaves in an hour. So they do the paperwork I need and send me on to gate D-21. When I leave the counter, all of the folks who were on my flight had caught up to me and were trying to get their flights fixed - so at least my run got me ahead of them.

After standing in line for a while at the gate, I finally see the ticket agent only to find out that no one has communicated to him what is going on and he was afraid he just gave my seat away. Good news is that I still had a seat, bad news is that Delta did not give me the correct paperwork. At least there is a ticket counter a few gates down, so I stand in that line for a while and I am still a bit light headed. I get to the Delta counter and the supervisor tells the agent what to do, despite the fact the agent said she did something different last night. I go back to the US Airways counter and wait in line and guess what, I still do not have what I need. BTW, they are now boarding my flight. So I run back to ticket counter jumping a row of bench seats like OJ did in that commercial and I cut the entire line, before there was an attempt to kill me I turned around and said “they told me to come to the front of the line if there was a problem, and they messed up so here I am.” This time the Delta ticket agent did what her gut told her to do in the first place and walked it over to the US Airways counter. He checks everything off and I asked if I had time to go the restroom - I did.

So I get on the flight and I had a pleasant flight home. Except that US Airways no long gives out free pretzels and peanuts and I was not in the mood to buy a meal on the plane.

Here is the biggest surprise of all, my luggage made it with me. Even better, my roommate was down the road waiting for my call so he could pick me up.

I was very glad to be back in AZ.

As for the rest of the gang, it looks like Dawn will start driving this way on Friday. The girls will fly from their grandmother’s in Atlanta a few weeks later.

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