Sunday, April 17, 2011

Traveler's hell

I was out in the San Francisco Bay Area all last week, and by yesterday morning I was really ready to get home.

My day started yesterday with a 4AM wake-up for a 6AM flight (I was staying at the SFO Marriott so no need to get up ealier). Weather's good, and I get my rental car returned in short order and get through security with no problem. Delta starts boarding the flight about 35 minutes before scheduled departure, so all's good. I've even got first class upgrades for both legs of the trip (SFO-ATL and ATL-RIC). The trouble started about 10 minutes before scheduled departure when the captain came on the PA and announced that we had to wait for a de-icing crew to come and de-ice us. Shouldn't set us back by more than a few minutes, he says, and that he should be able to make it up en route. That's all well and good, was 55 fucking degrees outside (that's about 13 sodding degrees to my Brit friends). To top it off, there was no evidence of ice, frost or even a little bit of dew ANYWHERE.

That brief wait for the de-icing crew turned into around 45 minutes because -- wait for it -- there was another aircraft ahead of us for de-icing. When the guys finally show up, there's no de-icing truck, just a scissors jack used for loading cargo and a guy standing on it with what looks like a garden hose. He proceeds to sort of nonchalantly spray both wings of our plane, and we're on our way from the gate an hour behind scheduled departure. But hey, I'm not worried...I've got a 2.5 hour layover in Atlanta which has just gotten shorter.

Fast forward 6 hours or so. I've had my drink and a smoke at the Heineken Bar & Grill (Concourse A, upper level at ATL for those who like to drink AND smoke while awaiting connecting flights) and I'm at the gate for my flight to RIC. Boarding is running slightly late because the aircraft got in 5-10 minutes behind schedule (your attention is invited to Saturday's violent weather along the east coast), but we're still looking good for an on time departure. Brats and wheelchairs board, then first class. Just as the first couple of coach passengers are getting on, the gate agent runs down the jetway and on the plane to tell the flight attendant that she had to halt the boarding process. It seems they had the wrong aircraft type loaded in the computer they'd have to reload it and reboard those pax who'd already been boarded. One rather unhappy camper (not me) loses his first class seat during the reshuffle, and we push back from the gate about 50 minutes late and start taxiing to queue up for the runway.

But wait! The captain gets on the PA and says that due to severe weather in the Richmond area they may have to hold us on the ground for a while. No, wait! On second thought, if we can takeoff RIGHT FREAKING NOW! we might beat the weather! So...high speed taxi to the head of the line, hard turn onto the runway, and off we go. I thought I saw the pilots of about 17 airplanes behind us giving us the finger.

A couple glasses of wine later, we're starting the initial descent into Richmond. Did I mention they were forecasting violent weather in the Richmond area? Yes, I believe I did. Our MD-88 proceeds to get tossed about like a kite in a gale, and because that's so much gosh-darned fun, we enter a holding pattern at around 5000 feet just so we can enjoy it a little while longer while the REALLY violent weather clears the area around the airport. Unfortunately, nobody thought to tell the guys who fueled the plane that we'd be stopping at an amusement park so we started running low on fuel. Evidently, this storm had already passed through Raleigh, so off we go to RDU for refueling before heading back to RIC.

In retrospect, I guess I shouldn't complain that after all that, we only arrived 2.5 hours late in Richmond. Scheduled arrival time was 17:02, and we arrived at around 19:30.

1 comment:

Rita said...

Reading that makes me glad that I don't have to travel for work!