Friday, June 29, 2007

Flight from hell!

Yesterday morning I saw a piece on CNN about a "flight from hell" where passengers at JFK had to sit on a plane for 4 hours and a guy took a little camera and asked the pilot "what would you do in this situation" and then interviewed about how horrible it was.

To him I say: HA!

Why? Because I saw the piece at 6 am MST while I was in the Salt Lake City airport, where I spent the night on the floor after missing my connection...because I spent 11 hours on a plane. And only four of them flying.

Yup, in the amount of time it takes to fly to Australia, we got to Salt Lake City, where I missed my connection to California. We sat on the tarmac at PHL for 8 loooooong hours, finally jetting off at 12:30am, from our original 5:25pm departure time. We got to SLC at 3am MST and 5am EST.

So what happened? Well for starters, PHL airport always has delays. Always. The flight coming in couldn't get a gate and it sat on the tarmac for an hour, waiting for an open gate. So we got delayed in setting out...and there appeared to be about 20 planes in front of us. The Delta pilot was good at keeping us very informed and you could hear just a touch of exasperation in his voice when he talked about how air traffic has always been bad at PHL and its just gotten worse.

When we finally got clearance to fly after about three hours of sitting on the tarmac...we all started to clap and cheer!

...but then we didn't have enough fuel to make it. So we went back to the gate to refuel and to let off anyone who didn't feel like sticking it through. Here is what the pilot had to say about that:
"Well folks, you're welcome to get off the plane and try to rebook, but your chances are pretty slim as most of the flights are booked. If you stay with us, we'll get you there but we might have to sit here for awhile. If you're not flying with us...[pause]" at which point my friend and I filled in "you're flying against us!" it was a perfect opportunity.

Then it started to rain. Not just rain, POUR. So we sat and waited for that rain, then it stopped and we were going to go again, but by the time our turn came up, it started to rain AGAIN.

We finally took off at 12:30, though most people were asleep by then. and didn't cheer, we were just so weary. I almost didn't turn off my cell phone again, because I didn't realize we were actually taking off.

The rage in the plane should have been boiling over. I mean, 8 hours? And these are Philadelphians and New Jerseyians, they are not happy people. But the flight attendants were very nice and they kept handing out bottles of water, free snack boxes and cups of apple juice. The pilot would get on the overhead as soon as he knew something. So most of our basic needs were met: food, water, sleep and information. So no one got too angry. It was as ideal as being stuck on a plane for 8 hours could be.

By the time we got to SLC it was 3am local time and 5am by our internal clocks. We got in the long rebooking line, but I knew we were safe. While we were sitting on the tarmac, I called the rebooking line and got us seats on the first flight out the next morning. Others weren't so lucky and had to fly STANDBY after all of that. It was bad. But again no one was too angry. I think we were too tired. We grabbed a few blankets and pillows and set up camp in a terminal, but we couldn't escape the CNN morning show. I did see the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains, which was a beautiful sight I missed. (My first internship was at the Salt Lake Tribune, so I spent a summer living in Salt Lake City. Beautiful place.)

We got on our plane just fine and were relieved to fly over the blighted-looking desert towards California.

Except the final indignity: THEY LOST OUR BAGGAGE. I don't know how it didn't make it on our flight, they had 5 hours in SLC to put it on board. I wasn't angry up until then and then I felt: look, I understood all the other delays, that wasn't anything Delta could have prevented (PHL people however...but that's another story). But losing our bags on top of spending 14 hours on a plane?? ridiculous. They handed us little toilet kits and our bags should be on the 12:51pm flight to Ontario, CA.

Long story short: Our bags made it, we went to Disneyland yesterday and rode Space Mountain TWICE. Can life be any better than Space Mountain? I think not. More on Disney for another time!


TravelinMom said...

Wow! You and everyone on that plane were much more patient than I think I could have been. I can't believe after all that waiting, they lost your bags! I use Global Bag Tags as an extra precaution for things like this.

chonsa_em said...

That's why you need to fly out of EWR.... they're usually fairly slick.

Anyway, I'm glad you got to ride Space Mountain (which is basically the most amazing roller coaster in the world) and hope you are having a great time exploring the dirty Jersey. :-D

(and we should definitely hang out the next time I'm home -- how far are you from the Morris Town/Essex County area??)