Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Twelve Minute Layover

I felt like a character in the movie, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" all day Saturday. I was tired and looking forward to getting home to see my family. It had been a good show, but I was ready to be home.

I had a very early flight out of Las Vegas, so I was up at 4:30. As I checked in my bag, I asked the person behind the counter about the 12 minute layover I had in Newark. Was this going to be possible?

"A twelve minute layover? That's illegal. How did you make these reservations?"

The reservations were made on their very own company website. The problem was, they changed the schedule of the first flight, but did not change the time for the second. A forty-five minute connection, became a twelve minute impossibility. Problem. The next flight to Providence, where my car was parked, was at 9:15 pm......some 6-1/2 hours later. Twelve minutes to run nearly 30 gates away, and hope the plane is still there and accessible for boarding,...... or six-and-a-half hours in the Newark airport.....which sounds better to you??

Back up reservations were made on the later flight, but this was not really an option I was relishing.

On the flight, I asked one of the flight attendants about checking as we got closer to Newark to see if it was going to be possible to make the flight. Nope. Couldn't be done. Check with the agent when I got off the plane.

I tried to maintain a balance between pushing my way off the plane, and not annoying every other person trying to get off that flight. Fortunately I was sitting near the front of the plane. The agent at the gate pointed up the hallway, and said, "Go up to security and take a right." She failed to mention that it was three concourses I had to travel, before I reached security, and then when I took the right, the gate I needed was at the very end of that concourse. I walked and ran as fast as I could, hauling my bag with my laptop, files, jewelry, camera, etc. Laptops may be small, but they are not lightweight.

About halfway down that finally concourse, my legs cramping, and out of breath, I pushed myself, all the while knowing this was a futile chase. Sure enough, I got to the gate, and saw that closed door, and a flight to Jacksonville, FL on the sign. The agent at the gate told me she tried to get the pilot to hold the flight for me, but he wouldn't do it. I had missed the flight by a minute. One lousy minute. Now I had more than six hours to the next flight.

Thus began a two and half hour ordeal to get out of that airport and on my way home.

Back and forth between customer service, and on the phone with the flight insurance people. One hour swallowed up to get a letter from the airline saying, yes, this was their fault. Next stop, baggage claim customer service to try to retrieve my bag. Forty five minutes later, I had my bag.

Then there was the torture they have installed in many airports. Instead of a counter with an agent who can answer your questions, they have these phones with short cords and low volume, to call for ground transport, etc. I tried to call several car rental companies to see if they had a car available. The problem was the phones were placed right next to a place where various announcements were made over the public address system. And the woman making the announcements wanted to make sure all those in the most furthest reaches of the airport could hear her. Problem was, she drowned out every other sound in the vicinity. I finally gave up my futile task, got on my cell phone, with it's dying battery, and called my husband, and got him to get on the computer to see what he could come up with.

Avis rocks! They were friendly, accomodating, and everything you want from a service oriented company. In addition to the letter I will be writing to the airline in question, I will be writing a letter of thanks to Avis. By 5:30 I was on the road in heading for Providence, RI. I got to the Providence airport about 15 minutes after the later plane was schedule to take-off from Newark.

It may seem silly to be working so hard to get out of the airport to get home maybe one hour earlier than I would have been able to get home on the later flight. I guess when I began the process, I never expected it to take sooooo long. And I just needed to be out of the airport. Away from the noise, and chaos. Las Vegas is a loud and chaotic place. I had had enough of the noise, and wanted to be home with my family, and in an environment that would begin to put me back on an even keel. Perhaps four-and-a-half hours sitting cramped in a plane that morning added to my desire to end this trip, no matter what it took. At least in a car, I could listen to the radio, get out and stretch if I needed to, and just feel a bit more in control of my destiny than I was feeling at that moment.

When I got home, the house was dark, but the light was on in my youngest daughter's room. I thought she must have wanted to stay awake till I got home, but feel asleep with the light on. But as I dragged my bags down the walk, I saw her and my husband in the kitchen window. She had woken up from a bad dream. My husband went back to bed, but she and I snuggled together under an afghan. Slowly the terror of the nightmare began to evaporate, and she started to nod off. It felt good to be home, and to be there for my daughter to help her feel safe again.

Pretty soon we were both heading up for bed. Home again. And in my own bed. Hallelujah!

1 comment:

Molly said...

Problems like you have experienced are becoming common place. Every person I have talked with about traveling in the past few months have had very similar experiences, if not moved or cancelled flights then over booking and moving people around like cattle.

I much prefer my car and being in control-to stop at the bill ball of string if I so desire.

I am glad you got home unscathed!