This past holiday I decided to redeem my airline miles and fly back east to visit my family for the holidays. Flying during the holiday season can be a sketchy proposition with bad weather and overcrowded flights so I planned accordingly and flew on less traveled weekdays.
The first part of my trip on Friday December 19 included a flight from Denver to Chicago (O’Hare), a two hour lay-over in Chicago, and a flight from Chicago to Albany, NY. The first leg of my trip was relatively uneventful except that we were 20 minutes late taking off from Denver but we made up the time in the air.
When I got to Chicago I located my next gate which was on the other end of the large airport. I still had time to kill so I opted for lunch and a beer at Chili’s. The restaurant was crowded and since I was by myself the hostess seated me at the bar next to a guy who was wearing a Denver Broncos jersey. I was wearing a Broncos sweatshirt so we struck up a conversation. He had grown up in Colorado but was living in Virginia. He was flying to Kansas City to visit some friends who were Chiefs fans and had bought the Broncos jersey to piss them off. The guy on the other side of him mentioned that he had gone to Colorado State University. He was living in Chicago and was flying to Newark. When I was halfway through my burger the other two guys got calls from the airline informing them their flights had been canceled. I hurriedly choked down the rest of my burger so I could check the board for the status of my flight.
When I got to the board it was lit up like a Christmas tree with numerous flights canceled including mine and a few more that were delayed. I started to panic as didn’t want to be stuck in one of the busiest airports in the country on the busiest travel weekend of the year. I made my way to the end of the long customer service line. The people in front of me and behind me were all trying to get to Pennsylvania and were considering teaming up and renting a car. Driving wasn’t an option for me as it would have been a 16 hour drive on good roads and more snow was predicted for the weekend. I could see the weather radar on the television screen above the desk and New York, Pennsylvania, and western New England were one huge blue blob. When I finally got to the customer service desk over an hour later they informed me that there we two later flights to Albany but they were booked full. I asked them when they could get me a guaranteed seat on a flight and they replied Sunday night. My heart sank and I think the customer service representative noticed because she then asked me if she could fly me somewhere else. I briefly thought about it and responded “New York City, Boston, or Syracuse.” She searched on her computer and told me she could get me on a flight to La Guardia airport (NYC) in half an hour. It took me less than a second to reply “Just do it.”
I made the plane and felt good about my decision. New York City to Albany is basically a long commuter route with regular bus and train service. It was close enough that I could rent a car and drive the 3 hours to Albany or 4 hours to my mom’s house. On the flight I was considering renting a car and driving as soon as we landed. When we made the approach into New York I quickly changed my mind. I could see the fresh snow and didn’t want to be driving strange roads at night during bad weather. We landed safely amid all the snowplows and snow removal equipment and pulled up to the gate. All of the people in a hurry to get nowhere naturally stood up and gathered their belongings. After five or ten minutes the captain informed us that they were having problems moving the jet-way up to the plane so we would be waiting for them to fix it. After thirty minutes he informed us that they had fixed the jet-way so we could finally exit the plane.
By then it was 9:30 pm so I opted to get a hotel room. After I got to the hotel I looked up the bus schedule and decided on a 10:00 bus the next day. Saturday I took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, caught a cab to the bus terminal, rode the bus to the Albany bus terminal, transferred to another bus to take me to Albany airport where I recovered my checked luggage and got picked up by my family.
My adventures were not quite over. On the return trip, when I arrived at Albany airport, I found that there were two flights leaving for Chicago at the same time at adjacent gates. I found that the other flight had been delayed 10 hours. When they started boarding the planes there was much confusion about which plane people were supposed to board (even though the attendants were very clear in their boarding instructions.) We finally boarded the plane and waited. The pilot stated that our flight and the flight next to us were having mechanical problems and that our plane was repaired, but we were waiting for the mechanics, who were working on the other plane, to come over and sign off on our repairs. We finally took off an hour late.
I was only going to have a 40 minute layover in Chicago and with us being an hour late I missed my connection to Denver. Upon arriving in Chicago I found a self –help kiosk and booked a flight to Denver the following morning. I found a hotel room and arrived back in Denver at noon the following day.
I’m glad that I don’t usually fly during in the winter and during the holidays and I’ll think twice before I do it again. FYI the family is doing fine and I will travel east to see them again.