Note: This post was written Friday, June 13, 2014 and posted on Sunday, June 15 after I finally reached my final destination and returned home again.
Guilt is one of my Catholic battle scars that will always stay with me. My Mom turned 70 years old this spring and due to prior commitments, I wasn’t able to attend the surprise party my family planned. As you may recall, they still live in Buffalo and I live in Florida (yeah, I know it should be reversed) and I only see them once or twice a year. The older I get the more I miss spending time with family.
When I told her I had to work on Mother’s Day, I heard disappointment in her voice.
“You have to work on Mother’s Day?”, she gasped the Friday before.
I think she was hoping I was coming up to surprise her. This got my wheels going on planning a trip up north. Because of my work and travel blogging schedule, June was the soonest I could do it and after discussing with my sisters, we selected Father’s Day Weekend.
The Plan Begins to Unravel
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking,” is never a good thing to hear from your captain when sitting on a plane several minutes past your departure time. Especially when it’s the last flight out to make your connection on a Friday night.
“Due to Delta’s corporate policy we’ve been told to hold off departure for an hour,” he said.
Groans rippled through the cabin.
“And the crew is 30 minutes from working their limit so we’re going to put a call in,” he added.
More groans roared because if the plane didn’t depart within those 30 minutes, the flight crew could walk off after 30 minutes meaning the flight wouldn’t depart until the next day. Apparently the Sarasota-Bradenton area doesn’t have a big pool of flight attendants to pull from to replace the original flight crew.
The crew decided to stay (THANK YOU!) and departure was delayed an hour. While we sat, several passengers made phone calls and some opted to depart the plane, which was bad for those of us ready to go because it delayed our push back from the gate. Because we had to wait for passengers to deplane, we missed the window of a storm-free sky to push back. We then had to wait for a thunderstorm to pass so it was safe for the ground crew.
A flight attendant said since this was a corporate directive other flights would be impacted, I rolled the dice my connection from Atlanta to Buffalo would be delayed. After all, three days earlier I was on the same flight and Atlanta had a ground stop. This meant all flights were prohibited from taking off or landing which caused a ripple effect. During that trip, I made my connection because it was also delayed. As for picking up a rental car, that’s a totally different story.
Could I Get a Gold Medal in Airport Terminal Running?
Upon landing in Atlanta, the Delta app informed me my connecting flight was delayed by 20 minutes. I deplaned in the B Gates at 8:55 p.m. and ran like I’ve never run before to the A Gates. I was bumping grandmas, jumping over small children and hip-checking chubby businessmen to reach A27 by 9:15 p.m. Adrenaline was pumping and I was like that former Buffalo Bill in that ’70s rental car television commercial.
I admit, my body needed the exercise and I was feeling the pain but I kept on going. While sprinting the final stretch in my fab Naturalizer BZees, my heart sank.
It was too fricken quiet.
It was 9:05 p.m. and the screen indicated they were boarding First Class – Zone 3 yet there wasn’t anyone around. I looked around the corner and saw the door was closed tight with no way to pry it open.
It was now 9:08 p.m. A female janitor came out and I know it wasn’t her job to assist me but she was concerned and said the door and gate must have closed early. She really was so sweet and kind. I thanked her and went to the next gate where the agent made a phone call.
“That’s all right, you’ve closed the door,” I heard her say to the person on the other line.
“Yeah, the gate’s closed, you need to go to the service desk and speak to someone,” she told me.
I Just Wanted to Cry
About to cry, I looked out the window to see the plane push away from the gate. It was 9:13 p.m. Two minutes sooner than when the new departure time was supposed to be.
I felt like one of those defeated teams eliminated from the Amazing Race because one wrong move changed the game for them. There was one grandma I didn’t kick out of the way. Exiting the train in A Terminal, there were two escalators and I took the one furthest to the right and this is where this older woman plopped down her huge duffel and a rollaboard suitcase. She made it impossible to pass and I knew asking her would have been futile.
Was that my mistake or was there no way to make the connection?
Holding back tears of disappointment because I thought I had the perfect surprise planned, I found the service center where “Mr. Elite SkyMiles Priority” felt the need to cut the line and several passengers – all male, mind you – seemed to bully and begin yelling at the Delta agent. The Delta agent kept his cool even when Mr. Elite SkyMiles Priority got into a verbal scuffle with another passenger waiting in line.
All of us in line were being re-booked on flights for the next day and assigned Atlanta hotels to spend the night. I’m guessing there’s a hierarchy in which Skymiles elite status determines which hotel you’ll stay. Mr. Elite SkyMiles Priority was booked into a Marriott, I was sent to the Holiday Inn Hotel Airport North (I’m a Skymiles member but don’t have elite states; it was a very nice hotel) and a very young soldier was assigned a Quality Inn.
[Sidebar: If you’ve missed your connection in Atlanta, scan your boarding pass at any available scanner, you don’t necessarily need to stand in line to speak with someone. One of the things I appreciate about Delta is they’ll automatically rebook you on another flight, unlike other airlines. If the missed connection is Delta’s, or another airline’s, fault, such as mechanical, “corporate policy,” or something they have control over, they are responsible for picking up the tab on your accommodations. Also ask for meal vouchers. If the delay is due to weather, chances are you’re on your own.]
Delta’s Corporate Policy Gave Me a T-Shirt and Blog Post
After figuring out the chaos of the Hotel Shuttle area of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, I checked into my hotel to decompress and blog.
As I finish purging my thoughts, it’s a minute shy of 11:01 p.m., my scheduled arrival time. I’m struggling to keep my eyes open and trying not to over analyze the day. I’ve rummaged through the SkyTeam overnight kit Delta provided and am ignoring the itching feeling hoping it’s not from bed bugs. (Although, the hotel is very nice and the staff are even nicer.) Did I mention the SkyTeam overnight kit comes with a nifty white T-shirt?
[Sidebar: If you ended spending the night in an airport, ask the airline for an overnight kit. In addition to the T-shirt, the one I received had a toothbrush and toothpaste, razor and shaving cream, basic comb, deodorant, floss picks, cotton balls and cotton swabs, and a little card apologizing for the inconvenience. It did not contain soap, shampoo or undies so be sure you have some in your carry on bag – just in case.]
I could have gotten off the plane in Sarasota to spend the night in my own bed and begin the adventure again tomorrow but then I would have one less travel story to post.