Monday, May 30, 2011

Trip from Hell

So, I am finally home.  I was on travel this past week.  I left really early last Sunday morning for training that started at 8am Monday morning.  I had a 6pm flight out of there Friday evening.  I should have gotten home between midnight and 12:30am Saturday morning.
Best laid plans...

We got out of class early Friday, just before lunch.  Probably should have gone right to the airport and tried to get on an earlier flight.  Not sure that it would have made any difference.  And since we can't go back in time, it makes no sense to wonder why.

Nevertheless, I got to the airport in PLENTY of time for my scheduled flight.  As I'm checking my luggage, the soft-spoken lady behind the desk explains to me that my flight to Charlotte is delayed.  I'm like, it's not even supposed to be here for nearly three hours and they already know they're delayed?!  Sounds like plenty of opportunity to make up time to me.  But I don't fly for an international airline, so what do I know?

This soft-spoken lady went on to say that even if the first leg of my flight was only going to be 30 minutes late, it would give me a really short layover in Charlotte.  In fact, she said that it would be 'really tight' for me to get off one flight on Concourse E and make it to my next flight on Concourse B.  She immediately suggested that I change my second flight.

Ugh!  I was already getting home after midnight.  I didn't want to get home any later.  But I didn't want to miss my flight either.  So, I agreed, asking her what the next flight out was.  She said that there was one at 10:10pm...but it was already booked.  I'd be on the stand-by list, but it didn't look like I'd get on that one either.

By this time, I'm wondering how many more flights Charlotte Douglas could possibly have going to Indy on a Friday night.  The answer?  ZERO!  The soft-spoken lady said that she had a confirmed seat for me on a flight out of Charlotte exactly 24 hours after I was originally supposed to fly out there...8:15pm Saturday night!  WHAT?!  They were scheduling me for a 24-hour layover?!  What the heck was I supposed to do in Charlotte for 24 hours?!

I hadn't even checked my luggage and I was already stressed about my trip home.  If I didn't make my connection in North Carolina, it appeared that I wasn't getting home until sometime Saturday night.  So much for my three-day weekend.  (I wonder how I'm supposed to charge this time on my time card?)

I tried not to stress.  I checked my luggage and got my boarding pass.  Then I headed through security and on to my gate...where I found a good 200 people waiting on an airplane from take them back to Charlotte.  Apparently there was a bad storm delaying things in-and-around Charlotte, even putting them on a 'ground stop', which means that none of the ground crew is allowed on the tarmac.

And wouldn't you know it, that same storm made its way up the eastern coast line to DC, putting Dulles on a 'ground stop'.  So, the 4:10 left closer to 6.  The 6:01 left closer to 8.  So, I was definitely going to miss my 8:15 out of Charlotte.  And I'd already been told that I wasn't likely to make it onto the 10:10pm out of Charlotte to Indy.

So, I resigned myself to staying the night in NC.  I headed to baggage claim to grab my suitcase and see about getting a hotel.  Because my baggage was supposed to simply transfer planes in order to get to Indy, it wasn't at baggage claim.  It wasn't lost, just somewhere in the bowels of Charlotte Douglas...and completely unavailable to me.

Okay, so I'd get a hotel WITHOUT my luggage.  I'd still get to take a shower and get a good night's sleep.  Right?  WRONG!

Thanks to the Coca-Cola 600, there were no hotel rooms to be had.  Great!  So, I tried to go back into the airport.  Up to this point, I was dealing with things pretty well, considering.  I'd already been away from home six days in a row.  Another week of training where I learned WAY too much in a five-day span.  A depressive day in there.  And now, a less-than-idea trip home.

Soooo, I learned that I couldn't get back into the airport because my boarding pass had a time that was in the past.  So, I went back to the US Airways desk to get another one.  THIS is where I started to get REALLY annoyed.

It's nearly midnight...the time I was originally supposed to be pulling into Martin County.  I'm in line with five other people.  Not 100, not even 20.  Just five.  And this overweight guy with long hair and a moustache announces that they're closed.

WHAT?!  You have hundreds of stranded passengers here.  Where do you think you're going?!  I told him that I'd never been in this position before, couldn't get a hotel room, and apparently didn't have a flight for 20 hours...I asked him where I was supposed to go.  He pointed at one of the chairs in the lobby and said, "I suggest you pull up a chair and get comfortable.  We'll be back at 4:45AM."   He also got a dig in there about how I should have planned ahead and gotten a hotel room before midnight on a Friday night during a race weekend.  I told him that I wasn't accustomed to having to get a hotel in the city where I was just making a connection flight...then again, I'd never flown US Airways before (which is a lie, but it accomplished my goal of ticking him off).  He went on to tell us that the storms were not their fault and pretty much we weren't his problem.  Talk about some ticked off customers.

So, I pulled up a chair and waited it out.  Hey, at least I had a chair.  Sitting there with two laptops and my purse, I was a little leery about falling asleep in the middle of hundreds of strangers.  Not that it mattered.  All the lights were on.  The carts that drove by all had little beeping sounds to clear pedestrian traffic, not that there was much of that at that time of night.  The vacuuming and buffing was much too loud to sleep through.  And then there were a dozen or so people yelling and cussing about how dissatisfied they were with this airline.

Five and a half hours later, I had a new boarding pass and was heading back into the airport for breakfast.  AND my 8:15pm flight became a 4pm flight.  WooHoo!  With any luck, I could be home by dark!  Also, I was sitting stand-by for the five flights out of Charlotte to Indy before my flight.  I didn't get on the first two, but I got on the third one, leaving NC at 1:15pm.  Praise the Lord!

I referred to my stay at Charlotte Douglas as an incarceration.  But really, I was only there about 15 hours.  Just seemed like days.  Just like my five days of training seemed like a month!  I swear, I was in some strange time-warp all week last week!

At 5:30 Saturday afternoon, I was home!

And lucky me...I don't have to make that trip again for TWO WEEKS!

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