Friday, February 5, 2016

A day at the (Washington, D.C.) airport

I met a lot of interesting people yesterday:

These included:

An electricity consultant,
A biologist who works on scientific learning models for elementary schools,
A man, with his wife, who was trying to visit his 93-year-old mother,
A businessman who had just lost $4,000 in billing hours, and
A woman who was mad as hell.

We were stuck for almost seven hours in Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., where United Airlines flight 3783 was scheduled to take us to Pittsburgh at 12:22 p.m.

I heard upon arriving at the gate at 11 a.m. that the flight was delayed due to mechanical problems on the plane coming from Norfolk. The plane had taken off but turned around. The estimated arrival time kept being pushed back by the hour. About 3:30, the flight was canceled.

We streamed over to customer relations. The next flight out, at 5:30 p.m., was full. We could get on the one after that, at 10:10 p.m., which sounded like a very bad idea, or get the shuttle to the other airport (Reagan) and get a 5:15 on American. Doris, the agent, was punching in the information that would get some of us onto that plane when our flight was reinstated after another plane came from somewhere to get us out of there.

We rushed back to the gate. Now, the plane needed a crew. A nice looking pilot stopped to talk to someone. One of my new friends said maybe he could take us. We talked about how much worse it was for the people who were stranded in airports overnight around Christmas. Still, that didn't make our own little purgatory any less annoying.

You might wonder what I was doing in that airport. I used to be able to take US Air directly from Bradley to Pittsburgh to visit my friend Emily, but after US Air merged with American and Pittsburgh lost its hub, you can't do that anymore. So I flew out of Bradley at 10:15, expecting to make the connection and get to Pittsburgh at 1:50 p.m. Washington seems out of the way, but actually, it is only a 45 minute flight.

There is a certain camaraderie in these situations – up to a point. I did a little chair yoga and some stretching, read my book and the newspaper, and talked to my new friends as we circled around the boarding area. One woman spread out her sweatshirt and fell asleep on the floor. Someone said they should give us a voucher for lunch, but this was not forthcoming.

Luckily I had decided in the morning that rather than spending $20 on bad airport food, I would make a sandwich and bring some snacks. That easy banana bread recipe that I have been making has been great; I make it with a little less sugar, throw it in the freezer, and it's ready to grab and go.

At 5:15, applause rang out when the  announcement came that the plane was ready and had a fresh crew. Meanwhile, passengers for that 5:30 plane were arriving. More chaos ensued when we tired people from the earlier flight and the relaxed newcomers for the 5:30 were told to line up together and walk out the same door to the two planes awaiting us. Someone said, Make sure you get on the right plane! They didn't make it easy.

I walked down the passageway and went to the first door, marked flight 3783. A Delta rep shooed me and the others down to the next door.

Once on the plane, we got a laugh out of that.

They even had the signs were reversed.

The pilot apologized for the "wee delay."

I am always happy to see Emily, my friend since the 7th grade, but I was especially happy yesterday.

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