Saturday, February 9, 2008

Why I am not in Birmingham

After a very long day in airports, I am back home and not in Birmingham.

In brief, I was supposed to fly out of Boston at 2 and, after an hour's layover, make a connection in DC for Birmingham at 4:45. I have the beginnings of a cold, but it's not that bad and I'm psyched to go. I took drugs and a multivitamin, left the house at noon, was at Logan before 1 and all checked in. We had snow here this morning, but not that much. I gather the United planes were largely tied up in the big Midwestern snow storm (that's what they told us), and they keep pushing our flight back - 2:25, 2:30, etc.

I ask repeatedly if I will make my connection. I am told not to worry. Even the last time, when the new flight time is posted as 2:40, because "we were taking off shortly, and we'd probably make up time in the air." If I miss my flight, they can put me on a USAir flight out of Dulles that will stop in Charlotte, but then I can make a connecting flight to B'ham. I'd get in at 10:30. I figure, well, that's late, but I'll call my ride and just take a cab to the hotel. Should I buy a ticket? No, don't worry. There are "plenty of seats." We finally board, but of course we have to wait another 10 minutes or so for de-icing (which always creeps me out anyway).

We get into Dulles at about 4:40. While waiting to get off, I ask a flight attendent, who tells me, "Maybe your other flight is late too. It's at Gate A1. Go for it!" I have to take a shuttle to another terminal and then run hell for leather all the way down the A wing to gate A1. Only to find that the B'ham flight leaves from A4. Run back, only to be told I've missed it. (I could see the plane was still there, by the way, but they weren't letting me on.)

At that point I'm not concerned, just sweaty, and go to Customer Service. Maybe there's another flight direct o B'ham that the United gate woman didn't know about! They seemed to be having trouble finding me any flight to B'ham, so I give in and tell them about the USAirways flights - Charlotte at 7:30, then the connecting flight to B'ham, get in at 10:30.

"Well," I am told, "We can get you to Charlotte. But there are no seats on the flight to B'ham. You could go to Charlotte tonight, and we could probably get you to B'ham tomorrow."

We could probably get you to Birmingham tomorrow.

By this point I am literally dripping sweat , I had run through Dulles Airport and had blisters on my feet. (Nice shoes, just not running shoes.) And my cold is really kicking in. Plus, the conference in all day Saturday – and I'm on a morning panel! So I ask the nice Customer Service man if he can just get me home.

There is a 6:35 back to Boston, but that is already full, and I am promised I can have a seat on a 9:30 back to Boston. He prints me out something that looks tickety and when I ask he explains that I definitely have a seat but I can't have a boarding pass. I'd have to get that at the gate. This sounds iffy to me, so I walk to another Customer Service booth and am told that in fact I am on standby for that 9:30 flight and that's the best they can do.

Now, I am sweaty. I am near tears. I beg. Customer Service Guy #2 has pity and cuts me a boarding pass. I go to the D wing to wait, and while telling my husband the news, I look at my new boarding pass and realize it is made out to Michael Simpson. I trot, slowly, back to Customer Service and luckily find the right guy. He says, "They would have let you on anyway." Really? But cuts me a new one. In my real name.

It is, by then, about 5:30. I think, maybe it's worth a shot, and go to the gate for the 6:35 flight, figuring I'll see if they'll put me on that wait list for standby. Just as I get there, they are announcing that the "plane has been downgraded and that while they thought they could take 70 passengers, they are only going to be able to take 50 to Boston."

Okay, then. I go to the gate for the 9:30 flight and camp out for the next four hours, refusing to move. At around 9 p.m., we board, and while telling my story to my seatmate (who had a similar story about United), I repeat the above. The man in front of me turns around, "I'm Michael Simpson. You had my boarding pass?"

A little later, just as we are about to take off, I hear a commotion. A couple a few seats back calls for the flight attendent. I don't hear all of it, but I do hear. "Yes, if it says Orlando, then your luggage is going to Orlando."

My apologies to Margaret and Tammy, and all the other folks at Murder in the Magic City and Murder on the Menu. Maybe I'll make it next year. Always check your documents. And don't fly United.

I'm sitting here, at home, and get a United automated flight update. My flight today from B'ham to Washington/Dulles is supposed to get in at 4:37. How nice of them to tell me! I just checked: it was SUPPOSED to get in at 2:47.
My flight home from Dulles to Boston leaves at 5:05. I wonder if I would have made it?


Linda L. Richards said...

Poop! I wanted to hear about barbecue! (And everything.) Great story though, Clea. (OK: it probably does not seem so now. But give it a couple of days.)

Michael Simpson! (Chortle.)

Clea Simon said...

Truth is, when my husband picked me up he'd made a late night stop at Redbones, our local barbecue, so I don't feel overly deprived! But oy...

"I am Michael Simpson!'

Linda L. Richards said...

Aw: what a sweetie! Now *that's* a good partner, Clea: he knew just what you'd need.

Vicki Lane said...

Quel bummer! What a horror story. You going to try for Malice?

Clea Simon said...

I won't be at Malice, Vicki, because I'll be at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. That is, unless we get stuck in transit. Have a blast, though!

Amy said...

This is why I HATE flying nowadays. I attempted for the 2nd time to make it to Love is Murder (which is in Chicago) from Houston.

Guess what? I never made it. That was the weekend of one of the big snowstorms in the Great Lakes Area and my flight was canceled.

Did I mention that I HATE flying?

Clea Simon said...

you and me both, Amy. You and me both.