Monday, July 12, 2010

Hell's Angels

Flying from New York City to Detroit is quick, only about an hour in the air. So you can understand how frustrated I would be when I arrived 13.5 hours late. Here's the time-line:

Flight #1: New York to Detroit (Delta): Canceled

I'm thinking, well, stuff happens. Weather, mechanical, best to be careful. Surely, they'll put me and my wife on a later flight since it's mid-afternoon. Wait, what's that? You want to send us the next day? Through Minneapolis, which is several hundred miles past Detroit? And you believe this critical information should be delivered via a robot that doesn't leave a phone number where I can ask follow-up questions? Eventually, I found a phone number and an android who would confess, when bullied, that it had lied about (minimum): 1) there being no other flights that day, and 2) their ability to place me on another airline. Eventually, we were placed on an American flight leaving 75 minutes later. It had a connection in Chicago (again, going past Detroit), but at least we'd only arrive four hours late. Why the flight was canceled remains a mystery.

Flight #2: New York to Chicago (American): Delayed

My attempt to get a meal voucher (since we're missing dinner with our friends) is dismissed with something between indifference and abject hatred. To be expected, but I'm getting a little worried because that 75 minute window between when one flight lands in Chicago and the next flight takes off for Detroit is shrinking. And the delay stretches. And now the best case scenario is that the plane lands 20 minutes after the connecting flight is scheduled to take off, and my wife is weeping on account of not being able to see her friends, and hating to fly, and having to spend the night in Chicago for no good reason.

Flight #3: Chicago to Detroit (American): Delayed

Hooray for this delay! After sprinting through O'Hare with despair in our hearts to catch a connection that had surely already left, we find that the plane is still there and the kind attendants are willing to let us board it, even though boarding is over and the doors are sealed. But wait!

Flight #3: Chicago to Detroit (American): Canceled

Two flights--on two different airlines--canceled in one day, surely this is a personal record. There is no mystery here, though. The flight was canceled for the trivial reason of not having a pilot. Hotel and meal vouchers for all, leading to this exchange:

Me: May I have a meal voucher for my wife, as well.
Attendant: This voucher is for you and your wife.
Me: $10 each?
Attendant: $10 total.

We'll dine like kings in Chicago for $5 each! We'll split a "Chicago-style" dog and bottled water--who are you to ask for more? Later, this conversation happens:

Other passenger: You can use that voucher almost anywhere in the airport.
Me (inside my exploding skull): ALMOST ANYWHERE? Thank God, it's only five hours until our next flight leaves because I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight!

Flight #4: Chicago to Detroit (American): On time

This was a relatively painless flight. They did try to move my wife across the plane but failed. We had a nice time in Michigan.

Flight #5: Detroit to New York (Delta): Lost reservation

We're not in the system. The several confirmation codes I have are meaningless. This is confirmed by the attendant behind the desk. My wife explains most of the bad things that happened, while the attendant makes phone calls and whispers things like "this is strange" and "it's just not there." But wait!

Flight #5: Detroit to New York (Delta): Delayed

We're there, after all. You only have to look capable of crying or screaming for long enough. The flight is about 30 minutes late, but by this point, the delay seems positively generous. When the very, very bumpy flight is over, there are other planes at the gate, but this scarcely matters. We're home, and our hatred of domestic air travel cemented.

Final Stats!

Actual flights: 5
Delayed flights: 3 (remarkable since we only booked 2 flights)
Canceled flights: 2
Lost reservations: 1

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