Friday, March 20, 2015

Travel Day from H-E-Double Toothpicks

Getting to Palm Springs was an adventure. Note to self: NEVER fly US Airways again. My flight out of Fort Lauderdale was scheduled to leave at 6:55 a.m. What are the chances of a delay on an early morning flight, right? The boarding process goes smoothly. The aircraft door is closed ahead of schedule. Looks like it's going to be a smooth flight. Not so fast...

The pilot comes on the intercom to inform us that they are having some trouble with the engine bleed (?), so they are going to try a technique to try and get it working. Five minutes later, he comes on to tell us that it didn't work. A mechanic has been called to take a look at the engine. Ten minutes after that, the pilot informs us that "in looking at the recent history, this plane had this same issue a couple of weeks back. They were able to fix it (temporarily) and it has been flying for nine days without incident." Excuse me? He proceeds to tell us that the mechanics are taking a look at it, but they may be able to [I can't remember exactly what he said, but he meant they were essentially going to jump start the plane] Twenty minutes later, we had been jump started (Oh, joy! Flying a couple thousand miles on a plane with a faulty engine isn't terrifying at all!). We still had to sit on the tarmac waiting for paperwork (I immediately pictured Roz from Monsters, Inc.), leaving an hour behind schedule.

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The flight was pretty uneventful, though I did meet a very nice older gentleman named Jack who chatted me up nearly the entire flight. He kept saying, "I'm just gonna bother you one more time" (about 20 times). ;) He was very sweet. He told me that when he used to fly with his family, the "stewardesses" were never men. He also told me that he doesn't own a computer or a smart phone because he doesn't want to become "sedimentary."
Before I left, he wished me a great trip and told me that I had "my head screwed on the right way," which I thought was adorable. He even apologized for not being able to help me get my bag out of the overhead bin. He was over 80 and had had a stroke a year ago. What a gentleman! If nothing else, at least I made a friend.  

NOT a great choice
We were due to land in Phoenix at 9:44 and my connecting flight was at 10:05 and was supposedly "on time." We landed a little early and I had a glimmer of hope. I knew my connection was in another terminal, but I figured I could easily get there in 20 minutes. How big could Phoenix Airport be? I stood and grabbed my carry-on, thinking I was going to be fine. I wondered why they weren't opening the aircraft door. Then our trusty pilot informed us that there was a little problem...there was no power on the jetway so they couldn't open the door. It would be "just a few more minutes". He also mentioned to the passengers who were supposed to be traveling on to Seattle that they would be getting them a "new plane." Apparently someone in the know realized that subjecting passengers to a flying time bomb was not a good idea.

At 9:55, 10 minutes before my flight was due to leave, I was off the plane. Maybe they would hold the plane. They knew I checked in in Fort Lauderdale. They must know that my flight had been delayed, right? Naturally our flight arrived at a gate midway down the terminal. The map I looked at online made it look like the next terminal was right around the corner. MAYBE IF THE CORNER WAS AT THE EDGE OF A CITY BLOCK. As I reached the end of my terminal and realized how far I had to go, I knew my four-inch wedge sandals weren't going to cut it. 

NOT for bare feet
If you've read my post, Meltdown at 37,000 feet, you know I'm no stranger to this debacle. You also know that I am not a runner. But I ran. I ran like the wind. Completely grossed out at the thought of my bare feet touching the ground where millions of feet from all over the world have walked. My soles crying as I pounded the grated moving walkway. My lungs burning (though I have to say, I think I have a little more stamina than I thought...thank you, Jillan!). I finally make it to the other terminal, only to find the gate area EMPTY. They plane was still there, but had moved away from the jetway. Huffing and puffing, I asked (between gasps of air) the not-so-friendly USAirways employee at the desk if I could please get on the plane. He said, "No." I felt like a deflated balloon.

Fortunately, USAirways had guaranteed me a seat on the next flight out that afternoon. (I had that going for me.) My flight was due to leave out of Gate B15. The Customer Service counter was near Gate B1, so I figured my new gate was down towards the end of the terminal, so I walked some more. At the end of the terminal, I saw B13 and B14. ? I then looked at the signs and realized that B15 was in ANOTHER terminal. Son of a...!!

So I walked BACK to the beginning of the terminal, hoping that B15 was on the other side of the hallway. But NOOOOOOOO, it was yet another city block away. I kept my shoes on and let the moving walkway take me. Of course my new gate was right next to the children's play area where toddlers who had been cooped up on airplanes for hours could let it all out. I tried to zone it all out. Once I caught my breath and realized how very lucky I was to have survived a cross-country trip on a brokedown airplane, I was able to relax a little.

When it came time to board my next flight, the agent said that the flight was oversold and they were looking for someone to take a later flight in exchange for a $200 voucher for future travel on USAirways. My first feeling was guilt...was I the person who caused the flight to be oversold? I thought (for about 10 seconds) about volunteering, but realized that A. they left me behind and I was already going to be two hours late and B. I have NO desire to travel on USAirways again! I prayed that Karma wouldn't bite me in the hiney as I boarded the teeny tiny commuter plane (on the tarmac) for Palm Springs.

My second flight was much better. No mechanical problems. No pilot sharing too much information. A little turbulence (you feel it all in a little plane), but good company again. When we touched down in Palm Springs, I was relieved beyond belief. I thanked God for getting me there safely. I might have even kissed the tarmac if it wouldn't have burned my lips off. I was ready for my next adventure. Hello, Desert! I wonder if I can rent a car and drive home tomorrow. ;)

With Love and Most Thankful Aloha,
Welcome to Palm Springs! Happy to be on the ground!