Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Live blog: After missing flight No. 1, No. 2 is delayed, delayed ...

All the other flights to Orlando are on time, except for mine, which has been delayed three hours and 10 minutes. I'm looking into hopping onto one of those other flights.

8:13 p.m.: I meant to keep the posts about my Washington vacation in chronological order, but this is urgent. I'll post the pleasing stuff later, but first ... THIS JUST IN:

The travel bug has finally bitten me.

And it's not the good bug - the one that chases you, prodding you to see new places, do new things. It's the big honkin' mosquito that bites you on the eyelid, making it absolute that you'll never travel again.

For the most part, I have lucked out with my few air travel experiences. After I interviewed for my job at FLORIDA TODAY, I was stuck in the plane in Orlando and waited about an hour for the weather to clear for my flight to Long Island.

But that was minor. My other flights have been on time and pleasant. I've even enjoyed rather tasty peanuts on a few occasions.

But today, I first missed my flight altogether, then the second flight I booked has been delayed by three hours and 10 minutes.

This story begins in Columbia Heights, D.C., where I was staying during my vacation. I looked at the clock after checking my flight's status (on time), and I had more than two and a half hours to get to the airport, Baltimore-Washington International. But I had never taken public transportation to the airport, so, fearing unreliability, I left with plenty of time to spare. I thought.

The subway ride was fine. The second leg of my Metro ride to the airport was on a bus, the B30 "express" from the Greenbelt, Md., Metro station to the terminal. And that was OK, too. We rumbled over two-lane roads that led through cornfields and by government research facilities. Very scenic.

Then came the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Everything stopped. The cars. The passengers' laughter. My heart.

For an hour, the bus inched along. I arrived at the airport at 4:45 p.m. for my 5:30 p.m. flight. I thought I could make it. But when I arrived at the USA 3000 check-in counter five minutes later, I was told I was five minutes late. I almost cried then and there.

My next plan of attack was to, indeed, cry. But I did it out of public view. My head became very familiar with the inside of the my new luggage.

Then, I wandered the terminal for a half-hour, calling my friends to complain and my boss to say I would be sick - *cough* *cough* - probably until Friday, when the next direct flight to Melbourne was scheduled. I also scoured BWI for a Wi-FI connection, something that is quite lacking here. I sat beside a man who was answering survey questions from an airport worker. I walked away mumbling something about the airport's lack of the Internet.

I finally found it after paying $8 for a 24-hour subscription outside a McDonald's, where my dinner consisted of a cheese-deficient cheeseburger and an overly chocolatey chocolate shake.

I booked a 7:30 p.m. flight with Southwest, only to find out minutes later that it was delayed until 10 p.m. Then, it was delayed until 10:40 p.m. Now, I'm flying into Orlando, not Melbourne, around 1 a.m. And I'm paying $100 more than I did for my round-trip ticket.

This totally bites.

At least I'm flying in business class. It comes with one free cocktail - something to take away the sting, I guess.

8:43 p.m.: I walked up to the Southwest travel agent and asked him if the flight was still scheduled for 10:40 a.m. He pushed a few buttons on his computer, stared at it, flipped on the loudspeaker and said, "Attention, passengers on flight 1921 to Orlando: The departure time is now 11:40, arriving in Orlando at 1:30 a.m." Lightning is crashing everywhere, so it's probably good that we're not leaving.


9:25 p.m.: "All flights are ill-advised," the travel agent just said over the speaker. Tornadoes in northern Virginia might be headed this way. The photo above is of the window directly behind me, as I sit on the floor, with a Southwest airplane beyond.

Lots of people waiting impatiently.

10:16 p.m.: Just got off the phone with an old friend I haven't talked with in a long time. I guess lengthy flight delays are good for something. The people flying to Columbus and Chicago are quite upset; their flights have just been canceled. As of this update, mine is at 12:40 a.m. and is the only flight to Orlando left standing. I guess I chose the right one after all.

10:20 p.m.: Flights are leaving, and it's not raining anymore. That's a good sign.

10:35 p.m.: No change in flight status, though I have been thinking: If the in-flight movie is "The Terminal," I'm going postal.

11:10 p.m.: When his flight to my old stomping grounds, Islip, Long Island, began boarding, a man yelled, "Woo hoo! That's my flight, baby. You'll feel the same when it comes your turn." We all clapped.

11:13 p.m.: I just saw the same people I sat next to on the train this morning while I was in downtown D.C. That was hours before I even thought about heading to the airport, which makes it kind of funny.

11:23 p.m.: 2:10 a.m. with arrival just before 5.

11:32 p.m.: Nap time for Knapptime. I'll let you know how comfy the chairs are.

11:49 p.m.: I always say I'm going to bed, but I never follow through. I just heard something about a flight to Philadelphia. Who would wait so long for that flight? Rent a car and drive. Or take a bus. Something other than stupid air travel.

Looking at the board.

1:21 a.m. Thursday: 3:20 a.m. departure now. I don't even care anymore. I didn't even take that nap.

3:05 a.m.: My cheek has become extremely familiar with the black leather chairs of BWI. One of the most interesting things I have heard while trying to sleep: "There are mice running around everywhere," a flight attendant said. "They said it's normal." Flight time is at 4 a.m.

4:15 a.m.: I lifted off at this time.

6:30 a.m.: Home, sweet Orlando. Never thought I'd say that. SeaWorld and Disney stores are surrounding me at Orlando International, and I'm taking it all in. The flight went without incident, except for that one time the guy next to me tried to use my shoulder as a pillow. I didn't sleep a wink, and I'm still an hour from home. Somehow, I have to find a way there before work at 5 p.m. Rental car? Shuttle? Taxi? Friends? Friends are the cheapest, so I'll try them first.

11 a.m.: I finally made it home after an $80 ride from Melbourne Airport Shuttle, which runs from airport to airport and, for an extra fee, to places in between. My 80 bucks got me great conversation, too. I talked with two fellow passengers from Annapolis, Md., who said they were avid newspaper readers and would rather not see the industry go south. That was the uplifting thing for today.


Anonymous said...

I shouldn't laugh. But it's kind of funny. And I won't be the only one laughing.

Hope you get home in one piece.


Andrew Knapp said...

Yeah, I'm laughing.