Friday, June 26, 2015

American Airlines and the Goofiest "Flight" I've Ever Been On

Last Tuesday (6/16) I booked a flight from Chicago - O'Hare to Baltimore for Saturday (6/20). Yes, sure, I waited until the last minute, but I got a reasonable price and I wanted to visit my relatives in Pennsylvania, so I bit the bullet and put in my credit card information.

Things went well in Chicago. The plane itself didn't get in until we were supposed to be boarding, but boarding went fine, takeoff went fine, and then...

...well, we just started flying in circles. There was "weather" in the DC/Baltimore area and all the airports were shut down, but we were running out of fuel.

So we landed in Greensboro, NC at exactly the same time we were supposed to get to Baltimore, right around 8pm. I texted my cousin, who was supposed to pick me up, and told her I was going to be late (this did her no good, of course, since she had just arrived at the Baltimore airport to pick my ass up).

My timeline, as recorded by my various freaked out text messages.

8:00pm - Stuck in Greensboro because storms in the DC area have closed all the airports. They let us deplane, but we have to stay in the terminal. Most of us had been counting on eating on arrival and nothing in the Greensboro airport is open. Security guy assures there are no vending machines even.  Bright side: This is the cleanest airport I've ever seen in my life.

Starving people cry at this giant ad right outside our gate.
8:35 pm - No updates yet.

9:00 pm - Gate agent passes out bottles of water.

9:10 pm - Gate agent begins spreading a rumor that  we're going to leave at 9:45 and then the flight will be another hour or so, getting us to Baltimore around 11 pm.
My cousin informs me that there are still major thunderstorms with lightning in Baltimore. She's canceling our hotel reservation for the night and going to get us a hotel room by the airport.

9:45 pm comes and goes with no fucking word from the gate agent.

10:39 pm - Flight is cancelled because the pilot is timed out.  We get back on the plane to get our carry-on luggage.

Rumors start circulating that they'll put us up in a hotel and get us on a flight in the morning. Others suggest we'll get a bus to take us the rest of the way. In the meantime, a gate agent puts out snacks (fig newtons, popcorn, and some weird trail mix thing) that are gone before everyone gets some.  Hungry people cry.

They send us to the ticket counter to figure out arrangements.
10:54 pm,  - An announcement is made that some combination of buses and shuttles have been ordered and we'll all "get to" ride to Baltimore. A promise is made to see to food. Hotel vouchers are a no go since the original cancellation was because of weather.

We all troop down to the baggage claim to get our checked luggage.
Luggage comes, I take out my contacts, and we find the bathroom and the VENDING MACHINES THAT SECURITY GUY ASSURED US WERE NOT IN THE AIRPORT. I bought some Chex Mix and it was the most delicious mixture of rye chips and pretzels a girl could hope for.
The smart people gather up at the Alamo rental car line and rent cars. In retrospect, I wish I had just pooled some money with a few other folks in the line and did this.  If only all traveling could be done with the wisdom of hindsight.

Midnight - American Airlines guy tells us the buses would be another 15 - 20 minutes.

12:23 am - American Airlines guy tell us the buses need to get gas and will take more time. All us passengers are one big unhappy family now. We start to really admire the airport art.
1:15 am - Stupid shuttles get there. Now, let me tell you. These were not BUSES. They were the courtesy shuttles that hotels frequently have that get passengers from the airport to hotels. They were not meant for long distance travel. Our shuttle didn't have air conditioning or head rests and we jammed ten passengers and a driver into that van.

1:19 am - Our van is loaded up.

Drivers go into the airport...

...still in the airport...

1:39 am - We actually leave.

2:39 am - First stop. Drivers go into gas station for twenty minutes. All passengers stay in shuttles.

.... (imagine this to represent me trying to sleep in the stupid, uncomfortable van, stopping every hour and a half for rest areas, and basically wanting to be able to teleport more than I ever have before in my entire life)

8:10 am - Arrive at Baltimore airport.

Notes: I just wish I had been told the truth. If I knew there were vending machines, but they were outside the security zone, I would have been understanding. If they had told us the vans would take three hours to get to the airport, we could have just gotten a car. If the drivers hadn't stopped four times for rest breaks, we could have cut an hour off our arrival time. I don't know. It wasn't fun and I'm never flying American again.

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