A few days ago I wrote about all the airline add-ons that we are now subjected to. Today I would like to add a sequel to the nightmare we experienced last week. Let’s face it- flying in today’s environment IS NOT FUN! It turns a holiday or a business trip into a stress related experience compared to your worst nightmare dream. My return flight home, I’m sure is no different than many others, because the entire atmosphere of airport travel seems hectic to everyone. I will reluctantly share my last 24 hour experience trying to recover from heart surgery, and experiencing the worst of the worst travel episodes of my life.
It all started in Houston as my wife and I prepared to be at the airport in ample time to catch our connecting flight to Atlanta. We had allowed for plenty of time to be at the airport and even have a chance to grab a decent breakfast. The day started with disorientation on my part because I couldn’t find my car in the parking garage. The hotel parking was confusing and we had switched several times so when it came to leave I could not find my car on 6 levels. We had to ask the hotel staff to find our car for us which they did but it delayed us by about 1/2 hour. No problem! I kept trying to convince my wife that we were still on time to make our flight. The next thing that set the stage for failure was the fact that my GPS would not locate the satellites and therefore I had no clue which direction we should head to get to the airport. I guess I’m like most males that are too stubborn to stop and ask for the right directions. Consequently, we finally got it to work and found that we were 5 miles in the wrong direction. No problem honey- we have plenty of time to make the flight! It’s a good thing that we needed gas for the rental car otherwise I would have been further from the airport.
By now the stress level was increasing for both of us and one thing you don’t want to do is let on that you are stressed also. One person is acceptable but if both are stressed then sparks start to fly. Thank God for the man that invented the GPS because it was a lifesaver to navigate to the rental car agency area. We grabbed the shuttle back to the airport and were comfortable that we still had 1 hour before the flight would leave.
THIS IS WHEN THE WHOLE PLAN FELL APART! We are dealing with a very busy airport that has an over capacity amount of passengers to satisfy. The lines are long and require patience to deal with the delays. Now it was starting to worry me because it took almost 1/2 hour to get to the counter to check the bags. No problem, I kept saying, as we finally checked one bag and got our boarding passes. On to the security gates now to find a line of people that would fill a subway tunnel. No worries mates, I must keep a positive attitude. We will make it. Now it is our turn to check at the security gate only to find out that the ticket agent had not given my wife her assigned seating assignment. Now it is critical with time because we are about to miss our flight. I run back to the agent, get my wife’s pass, run back to the security gate to meet again the subway filled security area. I manage to gain entrance ahead of all the other passengers and rush toward the security gates. No sweat hun- we still have time to make it. Now the hammer falls when the xray machine finds some medicine and liquids that my wife had put into the wrong luggage. They want us now to leave about $300.00 worth of liquids and medicine OR I could go back and check the bag onto the next flight to Atlanta. I had no choice at this point and decided to go back and check my bag. Guess what ?- now the lines at the check in counter are even longer than before. I was able to plead for forgiveness and passengers allowed me to bust into the front of the line. Pay another luggage fee (ugh) and head back to the security area. (now the two bags are on different flights and we are getting on a different one.) By this time the flight doors were closed and we missed our connection.
It is not like it used to be when you could re-book on another flight or find open seating on another plane. In today’s world the flights are over booked and the fees to change are outrageous. We were told that all the flights are delayed because of weather and that all flights are overbooked. Our chances of getting a standby flight was near impossible. The only possibility was a late night flight getting into Atlanta at 1 AM. That would be a 12 hour delay. I was told that we could confirm a flight on the next days flights for $325.00. Add to this another nights stay in Houston. Back to the ticket counter we go, yes again we wait in line, and find out that there is a possibility to get on a flight at 8:15 PM to Atlanta. No promise or hopes, however, to make a connecting flight to Minneapolis. Let’s wait around and see if we can get on any stand by flights was the decision.
Finally a break—-the gate agent was able to get us standby passes on the 2 PM flight to Atlanta. Not trying to be ungrateful BUT the seats we got were 31 d and e. For those not aware these are the absolutely worst seats on the plane. They are the last seats that cannot be laid back at all. I’m 6 foot 4 inches tall with legs like Wilt Chamberlain. I was able to position my legs in one pattern that had to stay that way for 3 hours. I notified the man in front of me that if he put his seat back that it would cause a hip dysplastic condition for me. By this time my wife is becoming irritable, tired, and cranky. Can’t understand why!
At last we arrive in Atlanta- only to find that the airport is basically shut down with flight delays due to storms. Go to customer service and see if they can re-route you on a different plane, I was told. When we got to the service area we found at least 300 people waiting in a line that would make the DISNEY WORLD lines look small. The problem was that each customer had to make rescheduled arrangements and that takes about 10 to 15 minutes for each passenger. They realized a problem and opened a separate area to deal with the overflow or aggravated customers. Two hours later I was able to make a connecting flight to Minneapolis the next day at 10 AM. The good news was that we would get some rest, have a good meal, and face the next day a lot fresher. The bad news was that we now have our bags on two different flights that have already been sent to Minneapolis. No problem honey- take it in stride, take it easy, no worries. We get assigned to our hotel and look forward to a good nights sleep. The sage doesn’t stop here however. The room that we were assigned to was a handicap room that they had sprayed with some sort of fragrance that was destined to make my wife and I sick. It smelled like a cheap perfume that was sprayed over offensive body odor. I called the front desk in order to get reassigned to a different room. NO SUCH LUCK- ALL ROOMS ARE BOOKED. By now the few strands of patience we had had disappeared and we were totally stressed. Not a good scenario for a recovering heart patient to experience. I told my wife to tie another knot in the rope and hang on. I will go to the front desk and get us a toothbrush and toothpaste. Here comes the next add-on- sir if you want a comb it will cost you $3.95. (mind you it was a plastic .25 comb.) This was the last straw. My relaxing evening turned into tears and frustration. We survived the evening, got a few hours sleep and are facing the Saturday security lines at the Atlanta airport this morning. They warned us that it would be a very busy day today because of the delays. They were right. We made it to the gate and now have to wait 2 1/2 hours for our flight. You see- I didn’t want to be late and miss another flight- that would be total disaster!
Gosh it’s fun to fly- can’t wait to do it again.