A Comedy of Air-rors

Greetings from COVIDland. I flew here to St. Louis Wednesday for my cousin's wedding Saturday...or tried to, anyhow. 

I had a 3:30 pm American Airlines flight from Santiago to Miami on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours during which to eat and knock out some emails before shutting off my work email, and a MIA-STL flight that landed just before midnight. We arrived in the Miami area at the same time as a severe storm system, though, and started circling because MIA shut down for what would become a 2-hour stretch (ALERT: BAD IDEA). Eventually we were diverted to West Palm Beach to refuel.

I've never seen that status on the AA app before!

Fifteen other planes had done likewise, and we experienced a "maintenance discrepancy" to boot. After hours on the tarmac, the captain announced we weren't going back to Miami. MIA was open, but there were 25-30 planes waiting for gates. The flight was cancelled. 

 I spent 45 min. on hold with customer service while waiting to deplane before resigning myself to talking with a human when we landed. My fellow passengers and I were made to believe there'd be gate agents on the flip side of immigration, baggage claim, and customs, since we'd all need rebooking assistance. Not so. Finally, a frazzled-looking AA employee breezed through handing out cards with a different customer service number on them; I called and got to a human almost right away. She was kind and helpful and, miracle of miracles, put me on a flight the next morning: PBI > PHL > STL, departing at 7 am (actually 8:15 as it was already delayed). Satisfied with that, I headed to the ticket counter to see about a hotel voucher.

There was one employee working and a line of maybe six of us. By the time I reached the front, there were three employees and 15 or so customers. My agent would be happy to print me a voucher, he said, if there were any rooms available. The frazzled woman from above called Holiday Inn to reserve 50 more, but AA couldn't issue vouchers until IT loaded them into the system.  

I stepped out of line to wait - and find a bathroom and a vending machine dinner (breakfast?) at 1:23 am. 

Finally, the agent walked over to where I was sitting on the floor, and handed me a hotel voucher AND a taxi voucher to get there. THIS was the taxi line. 

It never did advance before an agent I hadn't yet had any dealing with pulled me out of line to go and join a small group of others also headed to the Holiday Inn on a shuttle the airline had hired for that purpose. We didn't all fit; I went on the 2nd trip. 

Can you read the bedside clock? It says 2:43 am. It's slow. It was closer to 3:15 am. Basically, I took a 2 hr. nap and showered before heading back to the airport. 

My delayed morning flight to Philadelphia left right "on time" but even so, I wasn't going to have any issues catching my 1 pm flight out of Philly that got to St. Louis at 2:30 pm - plenty of time for another nap/shower before the 5 pm wedding rehearsal, which I was involved in as a reader. Boarding time came and went, though...until it came to light that we were missing a flight attendant and couldn't begin the boarding process until she arrived - from Indianapolis, where she hadn't taken off yet. The estimated departure time on the screen maddeningly kept getting pushed back by about 10 min. at a time - to the current time, so I knew it was a lie every time until it read 4:30 pm. I boarded the plane thinking we'd arrive at 6:11 pm. I'd change at the airport and while I'd miss the rehearsal itself, I could head straight to the rehearsal dinner. 

No such luck. Just as we were set to take off, a storm system moved into the area quicker than expected and PHI shut down all west and southbound departures. Even once all flightpaths had reopened, we'd have to circumvent the system and would need to top off the aircraft's fuel levels in order to do so...back to the gate. 

The journey was a comedy of errors that I didn't find funny in the least. It doesn't take more than a few posts to know I travel often for work, but this is without a doubt my worst travel nightmare and makes getting to Chicago for Beautiful Feet in October look like a cakewalk. In the end, I landed in St. Louis around 9:30 pm, scarfed down the sandwich my parents packed me for the car ride to their house, was in bed by 10:15, and slept nearly 12 hours. I woke up refreshed and ready for a fun day with family, some of whom had also had an Odyssey getting here from the East Coast. I'll save photos from playing tourist with them as well as well as my cousin and his new bride's joyous union before God, family, and friends for another post.  

I AM thankful for the small joys of my 36+ hours of travel, like the mom + 13 mo. old seated next to me from PHL > STL, and for the graciousness of the entire wedding party, who weren't upset at all by my absence and instead reassured me that none of the delays were my fault. Air travel, especially international air travel, is a bit of a hot mess right now, but it calls for a shift in perspective: you are, after all, "sitting in a chair in the sky" (comedian Louis CK - slightly offkey and only quoted for the aptness of this particular bit)!

Until next time, blessings in Christ!