The Crazy Flight: All I Wanted To Do Was Get to SXSW

Some of you may have already seen this post, as it was a note on my Facebook page from about a year ago. Nevertheless, I figured it’d be a good re-post here, because I wanted to start the blog off on a fun note….

United_Airlines_-_N771UA_-_Flickr_-_skinnylawyer
All I wanted to do was get to Texas for SXSW…
So, I had a flight from Boston to Houston, with a layover in DC.

First, I Have to Actually Find My Flight at Logan

I head out of the house early…. 3 hours before my flight. I NEVER leave that early, but for some reason I’m being good today. I get on the shuttle and tell the driver I’m flying United. He takes me to Terminal C, then he gets unsure and tells me to wait a second – they just made the Continental in Terminal A United as well (merger just went through) – so he double checks, but the United flight to DC is in Terminal C, so I’m good… or so I think.

I try to login, but the Kiosk can’t find me – I go up to the counter – the lady can’t find me in the system either. “Are you flying to Dulles or Reagan?” I check my itinerary from Orbitz – “Reagan”. “Oh, that’s US Airways in Terminal B”. “Umm… ok.” I look at my Orbitz itinerary again, no mention of US Airways anywhere – everything says United. But, whatever….

I trek across the parking garage over to the other terminal. I get there and I’m not in US Airways system either – “You have to go down there to US Airways Shuttle”. Ok, third ticket counter and finally they find me in the system… so eventually I get to my gate. Still almost 2 hours early.

“What the hell? You can do that?”

I send out a couple emails, get on the plane, fall asleep; everything is going well. I wake up and we’re out on the runway – across from Constitution Beach about to take off…. And this guy from near the front of the plane gets up and walks back to the toilet. All heads turn around and watch him walk back, I’m thinking “wait.. you can do that? Go to the toilet right as the plane is about to take off?”

No, you can’t. They flash the seatbelt sign along with the beeping noise. I guess he doesn’t get the memo – or it’s too late – he’s already in the toilet. They flash the seatbelt sign and do the beeping noise again. He stays in the toilet. Now, the pilot announces over the intercom “We’re clear to take off if we could please have all of the passengers return to their seats, we could be in the air shortly. We can’t take off until everybody is in their seats.” Heads turn around and look toward the bathroom in the back – we know who they’re talking to. Still no response or acknowledgement from this guy though.

The flight attendant gets up and walks to the bathroom and knocks on the door. From inside the bathroom the guy yells out “Don’t Fuck With Me!!!” I’m thinking “what the hell? You can’t just yell that at flight attendants – especially on flights to DC of all places.” Eventually, the guy comes out of the restroom and gets in the flight attendant’s face pointing at her like an MLB Manager yelling at an Umpire for a bad call, “what is your name?!? what is your name?!?” He’s yelling at her. She’s trying to be calm, but gets a little sterner (obviously), “Sir, if you could please just return to your seat. RETURN TO YOUR SEAT SIR.” It’s a crazy sight to see… but the guy does go back to his seat.

This, on a runway in Boston

Next thing you know we’re back at the gate and the pilot makes an announcement, “we have a gentleman that’s going to have to deplane and as soon as that happens we’ll be on our way.” The flight attendant is still in the back of the plane, she hasn’t moved. The guy is still sitting down in his seat – he doesn’t look back, but he reaches his hand back and throws his middle finger in the air – and it’s clear who it’s directed to – the flight attendant.

Two Air Marshalls come on the plane and go up to guy and escort him off. The whole back of the plane claps (because we’re the ones who witnessed the whole thing). The flight attendant has to give her statement; they have to remove the guy’s luggage from below. The whole thing takes quite some time actually. Now, I’m starting to hope I don’t miss my connecting flight in DC.

Eventually, we get off of the ground. The rest of the flight is normal. We get to DC and it’s raining a bit – which means a little bit of turbulence… which always happens when I fly to DC. The most turbulent flight I’d ever been on was a flight from DC when I was in 6th grade – I think everybody on that flight vomited. That’s how bad it was. I was also once stranded on the runway in DC for 5 hours due to rain. But, the rain this time isn’t that bad – minor turbulence is all.

A Race Against The Clock in DC

Then as we were landing I felt lucky to be flying into Reagan – got an amazing view of Georgetown’s campus and then of the Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol – I felt like I just got a whole tour of DC in a 5 minute plane landing. I guess I don’t have to go back to DC anytime soon – which is good, because who in their right mind really ever wants to go to DC?

Anyway, now I’m wondering what my chances are of making my connecting flight to Houston. I look at the time: its 7:18, my flight leaves at 7:30… 12 minutes?!? I doubt I can make it. I walk through the airport and I can’t even find Gate 11 – so I go up to the US Airways help desk. Since this is US Airways and my next flight is actually United, she can’t even check to see if the plane is still here or not, much less book me another flight – “You either need to go to your gate, which is in Terminal A, meaning you’ll have to leave this terminal and go through security again anyway, or you can leave this terminal and go upstairs to the ticket desk.” Either way, I have to leave the terminal, so I do.

I’m walking to Terminal A and I figure I might as well go upstairs to the ticket counter since its right here. I’m waiting in line and the lady behind the counter is chatting to some guy and she says to me “you can check in using the Kiosk, sir.” I flash my ticket and say “I missed my flight.” “Oh okay, well somebody will be right with you.” 10 minutes go by… she’s still talking, “you can just check in using the Kiosk sir” she says to me again, like she’s impatient because I’m standing there. What the hell? I don’t have time for this. I decide to go to the gate.

I go through security and there’s no line at all. I get to the gate – and there’s nobody there. Nobody working there, nobody sitting there waiting for a flight – nothing. All three of the United gates – nobody around at all – it’s like a ghost town… and it’s not even 8pm. This is just odd… I walk over to one of the Delta gates, “I know you work for Delta and all, but why is nobody at any of the United gates.” She smiles, “Yeah…. I have no idea why there’s nobody at the United gates. Like you said I work for Delta.”

Reagan Airport: United Terminal, at 8pm

I explain to her what’s going on and her suggestion is I should probably go back up to the United ticket counter again. So, I do that… and this time the lady helps me.

I explain to her the situation and she calls it in, she also tells me that my flight is still there – that I haven’t missed it. “There’s nobody at the gate.” “Oh… well, we could put you on a 10:05 flight to Houston out of Dulles, but we’re not paying for the cab fare – it’s either at your expense or you can see if US Airways will give you a voucher for it, because it was their flight that was late and caused you to miss your connecting flight – not ours.”

So, she calls US Airways and then tells me I’m better off just going down there but in the meantime, she’ll book the ticket for me. So, I walk down to the other end of all of the ticket counters and tell US Airways what’s going on – that there’s another United flight at Dulles, but United says US Airways would have to give me a voucher for the cab ride. She says, “Okay, I can do that, let me go check with my supervisor.”

She goes to check and 5 minutes later she comes out shaking her head, “There’s not enough time. Per FDA regulations you have to be there and checked in at least 45 minutes before the flight leaves. So you would have to be there by 9:15.” I look at my watch, its 8:18; “You don’t think I could get to Dulles in an hour? Remember, I have no luggage, only this carry on.”

“You have a good point” she says, “let me go see.”

And, she goes back to check with her supervisor again. About 5 more minutes go by and this time she comes out with the taxi voucher in hand and fills it out right in front of me and tells me to take it downstairs to the taxi counter and they’ll get a cab for me. Ok. I take the voucher and I’m about to leave and she says, “oh, wait, I need to print you your ticket” So, I stop and she prints a couple of things for me – one says Flight Itinerary and I assume the other is my boarding pass and then she tells me that I need to hurry and to tell the cab driver to “go fast”. So, I take all my stuff and head to the elevator.

While I’m getting on the elevator, I hear an announcement, “William Terrible can you please come back to the US Airways ticket counter immediately.” Is that me? Did they just butcher my last name or are they talking to somebody else? I swore it sounded like they said “William Terrible”, plus I’m supposed to be in a hurry – if they are talking to somebody else – I’d really look stupid for going back. I check and make sure I have everything – yeah, I have my ID, I have everything else. I don’t turn back. I go down to get a cab. I get in the cab and tell the driver to take me to Dulles. “How long does it take to get to Dulles by the way?”

“30, 40 minutes”.

I look at the time, it’s exactly 8:30. I’m hoping it takes 30 minutes, because we’re cutting it close now. While we’re driving, I pull out the two things the US Airways lady just printed for me to take a look at my boarding pass and my gate and terminal and all of that. I look at them both, one says “Flight Itinerary: Not To Be Used For Travel”, the other says “E-Receipt: Not To Be Used for Travel”. Neither one of them is a boarding pass. I guess the “William Terrible” call was for me – she realized she hadn’t given me my boarding pass after all. I bet she’s freaking out right now, she authorized a taxi voucher on behalf of US Airways, and I might not even make it on time. Now, I’m starting to feel the time crunch as well – I can’t go straight to security when I get to Dulles – I have to go to yet another ticket counter and print my boarding pass. While the taxi is driving, I know we’re getting close to Dulles and I feel the cab sputter a bit like an old car does when it’s low on gas. I look up and sure enough the cabby’s gauge is on E. “Just what I need” I think to myself, “the taxi to run out of gas on the way to the airport – that’d be the perfect thing to happen right now.”

But, the taxi doesn’t run out of gas and I get to Dulles. The time pressure to get my boarding pass printed and get through security is on, but when I get up to the United ticket counter, the line is just way too long. So I duck under the ropes and just skip everybody. I skip the whole line and nobody says anything to me, so whatever… I got away with it… I go up to one of the kiosks and pretend I don’t know what I’m doing so somebody will come over and help me.

The Final Stretch

Which is exactly what happens: an old guy comes over. I hand him the crap US Airways gave me “US Airways printed this for me at Reagan, but they didn’t print me an actual boarding pass.”

“Ok” he says “Can I see your ID?”

So, I hand him my ID and he goes to punching away on his computer. For the next 10 minutes it seems like he’s pressing buttons, getting confused, and typing my name in again. What the hell is going on now? Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the old guy. I least I’m able to amuse myself at his name – he’s an old, white guy and his name tag reads, I kid you not – Michael Watts. I wish I had a camera to take a picture, because that’s just classic.

Anyway, old man Michael Watts screws and chops me up a boarding pass eventually and says to me, “They had it all messed up but I fixed it.” Ok, cool. I look at the boarding pass – flight leaves at 10:05pm, boards at 9:30pm, and it’s currently 9:20 and I still have to go through security. 9:30 comes and goes and I’m standing in line at security.

Clearly, a different Michael Watts

Eventually, I get through and there’s still a shuttle I have to catch to get to my actual gate – Oh, Dulles! I remember this shuttle actually, Déjà vu, I’ve been on it before, years ago…. When I got stranded on the runway for 5 hours…

So, in a hurry to actually make this flight I’m running through Dulles airport past Five Guys and plenty of other places that I would love to eat at right now because I’m dying of hunger.

What’s the use of being in three airports in one day if I haven’t even been able to eat any airport food? What a waste…
Anyhow I finally get to my gate and they are now “boarding all zones” so I hop in line and get up to the counter, let them scan my newfangled boarding pass and it beeps… REJECTED.

What now? I look at the screen “Invalid Flight.” The lady looks at my boarding pass, “Oh, you’re going to Houston. This flight is to Denver, it was delayed – the Houston fight will board next.” Are you serious? I walk back to the Arrival/Departure screen… Houston: Delayed until 11:19pm. Oh, snap, I still have an hour! After all that….

I welcome the extra hour at Dulles with open arms; it means food and some time to charge my cell phone. And, eventually, I actually do get on my flight and make it to Houston, albeit at 1:30am instead of the originally scheduled 9:38pm, but there is a silver lining to all of this…. At least I had the window seat on both flights! Word to Erykah Badu

[randomtext category=”Post Sigs”]

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