Friday, February 22, 2013

Meltdown at 37,000 Feet

Allow me to begin this blog post by saying that, although the experience I'm about to convey was extremely stressful for me, I am thankful that I did make it home safely. Exhausted, aggravated and sore, but safe. Gotta give Delta props for that. Given the choice though, I would not fly Delta again. Here's why...

Smiling upon arrival in Austin.
Earlier this month, Bob and I traveled to Austin, Texas for TCEA. The trip didn't begin quite so great. Not only was I selected to be body scanned, I also had the privilege of being patted down by one of TSA's finest, had my palms swabbed for explosive residue AND had my backpack searched upon boarding. Now, the image to the right was taken that morning. Do I look even remotely suspicious? I'm 5'2" and was carrying a Hurley backpack for goodness sake! I appreciate TSA keeping me safe, but I felt a little violated. Yeesh!

Both flights TO Austin were smooth and pleasant. No delays...no problems. As I've mentioned before, I love traveling for work, but it is completely exhausting. By the end of the week, I was SO ready to just get back home to my family. Now, when I initially noticed that we had a 35-minute window to connect in Atlanta that we were REALLY pushing our luck, but I knew that flights usually arrived quite a bit earlier than scheduled, so I wasn't overly concerned. Our flight was scheduled to leave Austin at 4:45 p.m. When I checked the flight status on Delta.com around noon, it indicated a 20 minute delay. Uh-oh! :/ But, the next time I checked, it stated that the flight was on time. OK, I thought, we're in business. 

Once again, I was body scanned at the airport (lucky me), but no pat-down this go-round. At 4:00, our plane was at the the gate, so I was not worried at all. BUT...it took the crew 45 minutes to get the passengers off of the plane. ??? We didn't start boarding until almost 5:00 and our flight ended up leaving around 5:25. The hope of making our connection was fading fast, but the pilot said that our flight time was one hour and 38 minutes, so maybe...just maybe we'd make it. The New York-based flight crew on that flight was horrible. I'm not sure I saw any of them smile. The crew member who did the safety demonstration (no back-of-the-seat TVs on this ancient plane that was probably older than me) barely spoke English. I wouldn't have known what to do in an emergency if my life depended on it. (I prayed that my life wouldn't depend on it!) Then, they completely skipped our row when the served drinks (and at that point, I could've REALLY used a $7 one!). 

My anxiety only escalated when Bob logged on to Delta.com through the in-flight internet. When he entered his information, the system told him that we were screwed. OK, it didn't actually say, "You're screwed", but it did indicate that a delay in our travel schedule would result in our missing our next flight and recommended that we look for an alternative flight. There were two later flights that evening from ATL to FLL. The first was full. The second (arriving at 1 a.m.) had three seats left. Bob asked if I wanted him to book seats for us on that flight. I asked if it meant that we'd have to give up our seats on the flight we may (or may not) catch and he said "yes". Ugh! I didn't want to give up hope. I still wanted to try and catch our flight. I wanted to get home! I asked him what would happen if we missed our flight and didn't get on either later flight and he told me that the next available flight to FLL out of ATL was at 11 a.m. the next day! At which point, my emotional dam burst. I just sat in my seat and cried (and prayed A LOT). Thank the Lord Bob has a wife and three daughters and can handle tears! 

Good choice of  footwear, but suspicious looking backpack
So, our next flight was scheduled to leave at 8:20 from Gate B2. Our plane landed shortly after 8:00. My heart was racing. Then, we sat on the runway for several minutes in traffic!  By this point, my adrenaline is flooding my system and I know that if I don't burn it, I was going to have a panic attack for sure. Finally, at 8:10, we were at the gate - Gate T-14. Now, keep in mind, ATL is the busiest and largest airports in the world. Naturally, our next flight couldn't be in the same concourse, or even the NEXT concourse over...that would be too convenient. Bob had to get our equipment out of the overhead bins, so he told me to just make a run for it (what a guy!). As soon as the door opened, I did just that.

With my 25-lb backpack, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Let me tell you something, I may work out 5-6 days a week, but I am NOT a runner. Fortunately, for some inexplicable reason, I had chosen to wear my Reeboks on the flight. (Normally, I wear slip-on shoes) and my adrenaline was surging. I was trying to run (without passing out) and pay attention to just where the heck I was going. I followed the signs to the tram that would take me to Concourse B. I almost got on the tram going in the opposite direction, but fortunately, God placed an angel in my path who told me I needed to get on the other tram. I made it to Concourse B around 8:15. Then, I looked up at the sign to see where I was - B18!? Seriously?! I have to get to B2?! By now, I'm already tired, but I ran as fast and hard as I could with my backpack (which I seriously considered ditching). Around B10, my lungs were burning, so I slowed down to a walk to catch my breath. Then, I heard someone yell, "Nancy! Why are you WALKING?! COME ON! I've got my computer bag, the projector, and the banner - I can't carry you too!" as Bob (the marathon runner, who is 10 years older than me and just put me to shame), sprinted past me. "I'm coming!" I yelled, "Please tell them to wait for me!"

As we approached the gate, the Delta rep was just beginning to assign seats to people on stand-by. As Bob and I (and three or four other crazed people from our earlier flight) approached the gate, out of breath, she had to tell the people on stand-by that they couldn't get on the plane (that must have stunk!). But, WE MADE IT!

We got settled into our seats about two minutes before the door was closed and locked.  We were seated in an exit row and the flight attendant had to ask if we were capable of assisting passengers in the event of an emergency. I told her that I was so happy to have made the flight, I felt I could handle anything. She replied, "That's what I like to hear! A happy passenger!" and she SMILED. Imagine that - a pleasant flight crew! In spite of the fact that I could swear I tasted blood bubbling up from my lungs, I was confident that everything was going to be okay. Once we were in the air, Bob informed me that the last time he checked later flights before our last plane landed (still not sure we were going to make our connection), every flight was booked until the next afternoon! 

We made it back to Fort Lauderdale a half-hour ahead of schedule! As soon as we got to the baggage carousel, we were paged to report to the Baggage Claim office. Although we had made our flight - our luggage did not. Honestly, at that point, I didn't care. I was just so happy to be home. The Delta representative informed us that our bags were on the next flight, arriving about an hour later and that they would be delivered that night. I was tired, but figured I wanted to get my bag, so I agreed to keep my cell phone on to answer the driver's call for directions (which I was told I was required to answer). I waited until about 12:30 before I finally crashed, figuring my phone would wake me up. It never did, because the driver never called...until 8:45 the next morning. Now, if they had just told me that my bag wouldn't be delivered until the next morning, I would have been fine with that, but they told me that I had to wait for the driver's call the night before. Grrr...

Cali guarding Bob's suitcase until
the driver returned
Naturally, I wasn't home when the driver called the next morning. Delta had given him the wrong address (surprise), transposing two of the numbers of my house number. As I was driving back home, I received an email confirming that my bag had been delivered. I was relieved and ready to unpack and get started on my laundry. Only when I arrived home, it wasn't MY laundry waiting for me - it was Bob's (yes, I had Laundrie's laundry)! They had left the WRONG BAG! Apparently, the Delta Skycap in Austin had mixed up our bags at curbside check-in. By the time I called the driver (thank the Lord he had called my cell phone so I had his number), he was halfway to Palm Beach! He had to turn around and return my bag to me, then turn back around and deliver Bob's bag to him! I'm pretty sure he was as unhappy as I was at that point. When my bag arrived, my luggage ID tag was missing. I'm still not sure whether it was lost at the airport, on one of the flights, or if the delivery driver ripped it off because he felt like a dumbass for leaving me the wrong bag. 

In any event, I was home and so was my bag. I tried to call Delta to complain, but thanks to Winter Storm Nemo (I know, right?) there were "longer than normal hold times." I had been held up by Delta long enough. I was ready to get on with my life. 

Looking at Delta's slogans over they years, I'm not surprised they changed from their 1994 slogan "You'll love the way we fly." Wanna know something funny? Their latest slogan is (wait for it...) "Keep climbing." The unwritten message in that is "You're gonna need to be in great shape for your sprint to catch your connection!"

With Love and Aloha (but not so much for Delta) ~ Nancy

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