It’s me, Ollie, and I’m here to let you know exactly how that flight home went. Let’s just say that the last airline I flew, despite the checked carry on and little puddle jumper, was 1,000 times better!
Monday morning around 0500, Popeye dropped me off at the little local airport. There really isn’t much to see or do there so the morning went well. While waiting for my plane, I met a lady, Airforce Mom, who was headed to both LAX and DFW airports on the same plane as me. She was a little huffy that her LAX to DFW connection, (later by an hour) had canceled and that American Airlines had bumped her up to the earlier flight. She and I were both nervous to catch the connection as we both had less than 45 minutes to transfer planes from terminal 4. I was even more nervous because I was told that I needed to speak to a gating agenting for my connection’s boarding pass. At the time, I didn’t realize that the priority verification on my ticket indicated a problem. I figured that the airline (American Eagle) that was contracted out by American Airline to take me to LAX couldn’t print their boarding passes.
We boarded the small jet airplane and set out for LAX. I was excited to be sitting in the front of the plane (seat 3 A to be exact) with extra leg room. Yet, that excitement died fairly quickly after the plane launched. A sign on the runway informed the pilot not to turn until he reached the shoreline. Trust me when I say he followed those directions. As soon as we got there we banked hard to the right to fly in the complete opposite direction of our take off. We did it again a few moments later. Both times while gaining altitude. So much for a pleasant start to trip home. It was an hour flight along the Californian coast with the pilot steeply banking back and forth at various times. I read somewhere that California was a difficult place to fly with the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, while multiple planes filled up the airspace. Pilots were required to fly a certain route over tracking beacons so air traffic control could keep track of everyone. I tried not to panic, but the little jets movements were worse than the movements of the little United Airlines prop plane. I wished I was flying in the other direction… on that other plane.
Landing on the runway at LAX was rough. We hit hard and braked hard. Then taxied across multiple runways to a small gate. Terminal 4?- ha! Sure it was labeled terminal 4 but it only held gate 44 a-e. We had to take a shuttle across the tarmac to the real terminal 4. I gasped a few times as the wings of in motion aircraft passed over the top of our shuttle bus. Someone really should fix that.
Upon entering Terminal 4 I booked it to the gate agent for my boarding pass. She snarled, “What do you want?”
“I have a priority verification and need a boarding pass.” I squeaked.
“It’s canceled.” She replied and I felt ill. “Go to customer support. I can’t help you. NEXT!”
Customer support? Can’t help me? But…. I’m in LAX, by myself, with no idea where customer support is. And then there was the woman I rode the plane with. Airforce mom was headed to a closed off area with a look of determination. I followed her. Thank god someone had told her where customer support was. We waited in line together as one after another DFW passengers went up to the counter to get re-booked. A lady whined about getting a window and a middle in an emergency exit row so her and her elderly husband could have more leg room. As the gate agent told the woman the flights were full and they were trying to squeeze the two onto the first available flight out, Airforce mom and I exchanged glances. She rolled her eyes and mouthed “Just be grateful you are on the plane. Never mind where you sit!” I nodded. At that point any flight was better than being stuck in LAX.
My turn with the agent came next. I didn’t even care if I went through DFW, just as long as I arrived at my end destination. I think the agent was grateful I didn’t holler or whine. He booked me on every single flight out of LAX he could find. He confirmed me on the noon flight out and had me listed as priority standby on the 1730 just in case. Obviously my connection home from DFW was going to be gone before I got there so he traded my 1530 DFW ticket with a ticket he issued for later flight home. 0800-noon stuck in the LAX with nothing to do and no outlet to charge things. I was lucky I had plugged in my computer before hand. I figured that time was a good time to update both buoyed up and this blog. Before I settled in for the long haul, I bought a ridiculously overpriced bag of chex mix and a small water- ($5.48, That would never happen back home). I was hungry, but the only thing LAX had available for breakfast was being served out of a small coffee shop with an extensive line.
As soon as I found a suitable place to park myself near my gate (45) and wait out my new layover, my name was called over the PA system. I was to report immediately to a new gate- 49a. I was a bit startled. It was like being called into the principles office. I booked it. The same rude lady at the gate greeted me. “Your leaving.”
I was confused, “I’m leaving?”
She pointed to a sign behind her, “Yes, your leaving now. You were put on standby and we have a seat. Let’s go.”
I wasn’t sure wether to be happy or not. It was time to go. I didn’t even know what time it was or when the plane would make it to DFW. I didn’t even know what the plane number was- let alone where my seat would be. I was told to take the paper and get on the plane. After sneeking a peak at the ticket, I was directed to the middle of the plane. My heart sank a little when I reached the area my seat was in. Every single one was full. I stopped an attendant and asked her where my seat was. Sure enough someone was in the wrong seat. But not really. The person in my seat had a ticket to be there. She was just getting bumped up to first class. I got her seat in coach. (somehow, I don’t think that is fair. If you bump someone up, make sure they are moved BEFORE you issue a standby for that person’s seat… or give the standby the original open seat! I could have had a first class seat, but I guess they auctioned it off and she won) Yet, I was on the plane! And, if I played my cards right I might still have a shot at the 1530 connection home.
Arriving in DFW was like a breath of fresh air. I’m not thrilled with being in Texas, but it’s a lot higher on my list than LA. It was also the center of the country. If you just take away the annoying accent and the incessant need for everything to be huge, you are pretty much left with what we in the midwest call home. Again I scurried to the nearest boarding agent. I asked if I was still on the 1530, but sadly the customer service guy had removed me. The flight was 100% full and even if they put me down for standby, she was sure that I would not be on it. I would have to wait until 1730. Waiting in DFW wasn’t so bad. It took a little while to find a location that would let me log into the internet. I remained busy as I updated blogs and amused friends with the McDonnalds transfer cart (It was like the carts that take handicap people to their next gate, but only this cart took people to the McDonnalds).
1530 finely came and I was on my way- almost. We had to wait, not for the plane, but for the flight attendants. Their connecting flight was delayed. 10 minutes later they showed up and did a safety check. The pilot was impressed by how fast everyone boarded the plane and sat down. He told all of us that because we were so good we were back on schedule. He shouldn’t have told us that because less than 2 minutes later we began a process that made us 30 minutes late.
I’m convinced that someone in both the control tower in DFW and back home hated our pilot. Why? Well, it took more than 20 minutes to taxi from one end of the airport to the other end of the airport to reach our runway. Passengers thought that instead of flying the plane, we might just drive it all the way home. It was insanely long. The pilot even said that it was the longest taxi in his entire career! He apologized profusely. Then, like any good midwesterner tends to do, managed to talk to us for 10-15 more minutes about what the flight would be like and what the conditions back home were. He made sure we all knew that as soon as he got information, we all would be getting information. Honestly, we didn’t need that information.
His information was that we were flying a direct route home at twice the hight a normal plane would fly because there was sever turbulence north of DFW all the way home. We were to remain in our seats if possible and were told to keep the seatbelt tightly fastened. Drinks would be passed out, but if we attained one it would only be the can with no cup or ice, and we had to physically hold on to it until a flight attendant could place it in a trash bag. Even though he wished we would have a smooth flight, he told us it was going to be bad from the start. He was right. It was pretty rough, but we made it. We touched down at home a little after 2030. After the longest taxi from our landing runway (yup, even the air traffic control at home had us on the every last runway), we entered a dark airline corridor. We were THE LAST incoming plane in that whole corridor. It for all intents and purposes was closed. After collecting my “carry on bag” from checked luggage, locating my family and the truck, home was only 1 more hour away. At that point, I didn’t care. Home was home. Nothing else could go wrong.