Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trying To Get Out of Town

20 inches of snow brought chaos. It is DC after all but then again 20 inches of snow would have brought chaos no matter where it fell.

My problem was that it fell on the day I was to fly out of DC to Springfield.

It occurred to me on Friday that maybe I could take a flight on that day and get out before the snow hit. I called American up. I was told there was a flight at 3pm. I was old there would be $150 change fee and that the difference in the ticket price would be $650. I decided not to switch flights.

Later on Friday I received an automated call from United saying my 8am flight on Saturday had been canceled. I then called American back to re-book my flight. It was around 1:30 when I got through. I was told there was a flight at 3 that I could get on. Of course I didn't have any of my luggage at work so I said no to that. Instead I was booked on an 8:25am flight on Saturday.

I got home on Friday and that when the complications started. Sam got sick. I had to take him to the Friendship Animal clinic. It was his usual problem of having problems with his stomach only this time instead of just throwing up his was leaving deposits on the carpet with blood in them. I decided I couldn't just go without trying to find out what was wrong with him. Thankfully the vet was able to see me in short order. He prescribed the usual medicine along with the special food which I just so happened to have at home. With medicine in hand I headed home just as the snow started. It was an interesting trip home because it had started to snow. I got home gave Sam his medicine and finished packing.

Saturday Snow

The snow hit. I got a call at 2am from American saying my flight had been canceled. I was actually glad about that. This gave me another day to give Sam his medicine and make sure he was on the mend. I also didn't have to struggle to get to the airport only to have to turn around and get back home.

I re-booked my flight to leave at 4:45pm on Sunday

Sunday it was time to deal with the snow. I got up early to shovel. I did the walks and then dug out my car. The sun actually came out and that made things easier. The road actually got down to dry pavement.

After this easy part Sunday got tricky. Here was the problem the airport was not supposed to reopen until 10 am. Then it was noon or later. To further complicate things all the above ground Metro stops were closed which is of course the way I would get to the airport. It didn't make any sense to go to the airport if there were no planes taking off.

I tried just about every news source I could think of to find out when the airport would be open. Didn't find out much of anything. Went to the airport site; it didn't have any updated information. Called the airport and told it would be closed until 6 am on Monday. I called back to confirm that and was told there were conflicting reports about what was going on. Finally got the word it was open. Now how to get there.

The Supper Shuttle was booked. I called couple of cab companies. One was constantly busy the other the phone just rang and rang.

I decided to gather up my stuff and head out and hope for the best. I was very lucky that I walked only about 10 minutes when a cab came along.

Because the sun had come out the roads were in pretty good shape. It was not all that difficult to get to the airport.

Chaos at National Airport
The airport was mobbed with people. There must have been a couple of hundred people at the American counter trying to check in their baggage. I'd decided early on that was carrying everything on. After getting that squared away I thought I was in pretty good shape. I got a boarding pass but didn't have a seat assignment.

I walked around a little and then went through security to my gate.

I got in line around 3. The flight had been delayed to 5:45 now. It took me a while to get a seat assignment because there was only one guy behind the counter. Also there were at least three flights leaving from the gate. There was a flight to Miami, one to Dallas and then the one to Chicago. The one to Miami was moved to another gate and it looked like the Chicago flight was next. Or was it?

The total lack of information from American was incredible. The few times there were announcements you couldn't hear what the guy was saying. Every other carrier around this gate you could hear just find but not American (this was a theme that carried through the night for American at National). Thankfully there people with strong voices who repeated what the guy said otherwise no one would have know what was going on.

Then there were the annoying "updates" from American. I would get a phone call saying that flight 2013 would now be leaving at 5pm. I received that update at 5:02pm. I wasn't the only one getting this most everyone around me was getting something like this too.

A Glimmer of Hope?
A plane had landed at gate 28. People got off the plane and it really did seem like this was going to be our plane. Our plane that would take us to Chicago. But it was not to be. The flight crew was illegal. They hadn't had enough rest or the flight would put them over the number of hours they could fly. Again there was an announcement about this but of once again hardly anyone could hear it.

American was looking for another crew that could fly the plane. By this time there was no chance I was going to get to Chicago on time to get the connection to Springfield. The main thing was to get out of DC. People were saying that flights to Chicago were booked solid until Tuesday or Wednesday.

The wait continued and continued. Finally a time was posted that showed some promise 9:30.

And this time it actually seemed like we would go. But nothing seemed to be simple. There was a change in gates (once again one you could barely hear). There was a mad dash from gate 28 to gate 32.

We were now up against the noise deadline that is imposed at National Airport. Everyone needed to be on the plane by 10. If not the flight would be canceled.

Once again you could barely hear this announcement. First class and mileage plus people were the first to board. It was repeated by the crowd. The crowd urged those people to hurry up an board. Then it was group 1; the group I was in. It seemed like we were really making progress and going to beat the deadline.

But one small problem cropped up. There were 28 rows in this plane. My seat was 30D. Not only had we changed gates, we had changed the type of plane we were on. The seating assignment was not correct. There were two whole rolls that weren't on this plane. There could be up to twelve people who didn't have seats.

I headed back to the agent along with a couple of other people. I repeated to the people on the jet bridge that rows 29 and 30 did not exists. I was more than a little pissed at this point. I thought I came so very close.

I was the first person the agent dealt with. After what seemed forever I finally got a new boarding pass. This one was for first class. I got back on the plane and shoved my suitcase into an overhead bin. Thank goodness for soft side luggage.

The big thing was could we make the deadline. There were still more people who did not have seats. Most but I think not all of them got on the flight. The doors closed. Luggage was loaded and then more luggage. The captain came on and said we'd be leaving shortly. First class was served something to drink. More time passed. First class got served some trail mix. I thought we've got to be going because we're getting served stuff.

Finally Off the Ground
Finally around 10:40 we pulled away from the gate. There was some applause. I was still holding my breath. After all we still weren't in the air. But moments later we were. Cheers and applause from the passengers. We took off heading north along the Potomac. You could look down and see the Mall, the Washington Monument, the White House and the National Christmas Tree. It was beautiful all the more so because we were IN THE AIR.

Next stop Chicago. Getting there took about an hour and 40 minutes. The next thing was getting on a flight for Monday. And that was actually taken care of. We got off the plane went to the gate next to where we got off. They put our names in the computers and told us what flight we were booked on for Monday. They even gave us a boarding pass. They offered a voucher for a hotel with a "special rate" of $69 for the night.

My flight was for 10:15 on Monday. I figured by the time I got to the hotel and unpacked it would be around 1am. I figured I had to be back at the airport no later than 8am. It just didn't make sense to me to go to a hotel. I opted for staying at the airport. Many of the people on my flight with connections opted to do the same. I walked around for awhile. Talked to a couple of the people on my flight. I then found an out of the way spot and got a couple hours of sleep.

Around 5am O'hare started to come to life. I got some breakfast. French toast which was really good. Called people to let them know what had happened and when I would be getting into Springfield. Then I headed to catch my flight.

There was a gate change but it went off without a hitch. You could actually hear the announcements at O'hare. We boarded on time. We took off on time. We landed on time. And I finally made it to Springfield.


Anonymous said...
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Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Well, I don't want your post to only have a spam comment! Plus, your story has my tale of airline woe beat—uh, congratulations?

tom drymon said...

glad you finally made it jason. your tale made me anxious. i hate airports and cannot believe you chose to sleep in one. merry christmas!