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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Well, there were more phone calls from work on Saturday and Sunday, filled with words like “emergency,” and things like “ASAP.” For reasons I’ll cover later, there really isn’t much I can do about this.

Anyhow, we had a lovely time in Champaign-Urbana; lots of good visiting with Chris and Mel, good food, good times, and so forth. The trip down was plain but nice — good weather and lots of nice hawk spotting. Their house is lovely, and it makes us very jealous — this east coast stuff is for the birds in that regard. But, then, I’ve bitched about real estate enough in the past.

I don’t mean to overshadow all of this, because it was a very pleasant weekend. I’ll probably post a little later about some of the more pleasant aspects, or at least some things that made me laugh, but there’s this thing called travel. See, travel has this magical power of taking something called a vacation and making you forget all of the good stuff. We left Champaign around 13:00 this afternoon, made a reasonable trip to ORD, getting there about 50 minutes before our flight. We tried to use the automated check-in machine, and it told us there was an error, and we’d have to see an agent.

Swell.

So we get in a nice long queue, and after 15 minutes are told that our flight was cancelled. Apparently there is some rain and “some low clouds” that are causing problems. The fuck you say? Aren’t these pilots trained to handle rain and clouds and adverse weather? I’m sure there are forces at play that I do not understand as a common traveler.

Anyhow, we’re told the next flight (leaving about an hour later) is booked full (but not at all overbooked), but we’ll be put on standby. Because I have AAirpass, we get put at the front of the queue, only behind the platinum members. This meant we would probably make it on the plane. For reasons I’ll get to, in fact, it would have, if American Airlines hadn’t fucked us.

So we proceeded to follow this flight around through six different gates, until it got to the point that it was delayed later than the second flight for which we were put on (this time with actual tickets, rather than standby). So, figuring we’d rather the sure bet, we go to the second flight, and follow it around through three more gates, as it keeps rotating. About the time the standby flight would have been allowing us to board as standby passengers, Sarah checked with the ticket counter and asked if that flight was leaving as listed. They told her both flights had not yet arrived, and there was no eta. Ok. No point in going anywhere, as we still had another hour before it was time to board our confirmed flight (which by this point was pushed back two hours from its original time). About two minutes later Sarah noticed a gate change on the monitor, and sure enough they announced we were to go back to the other concourse. Gate change sixteen or so; I lose count. It’s a small blessing we only had to change concourses twice.

On the way we hear “last boarding call for White Plains 4016.” The fuck? That’s our standby flight, for which the equipment hadn’t arrived. We’re twenty gates away, but we start running. Due to my lack of health and carrying the luggage, I start wheezing and have to slow to a power walk about halfway there. We get to the gate and the last standby slot just filled up. The lady at the counter is like “I’m sorry, this man got the last slot.” “We were told the flight wasn’t here yet at the other gate, or else we would have been here, since we were at the front of the queue.” “I have been calling for standby for a while.” “Obviously you were not calling very hard, since we would have heard by now.” “Well, I called gate G1 as well.” “Yes, that would have been helpful, since that was six fucking gates ago.” By this time Sarah is telling me to settle down. She’s right of course, but I’m no longer in a good state of mind. I already had an unpleasant encounter with a Subway in central Illinois that took seven minutes to make a salad and then got to keep it after another ten minutes without being able to pay for it. Anyhow, at that point the lady had to leave the counter, and I had to walk away, and that was probably for the best. I don’t want to get us kicked out of ORD for belligerence (well, I sort of did by this point), so I go off to blog this entry instead. No easy free wireless at the airport, however, so the posting will come later.

Anyhow, we’re now ready for our second flight, about eight hours after we were supposed to leave. It’s above freezing, the weather isn’t that bad, it’s the middle of February (it’s not a huge travel weekend, unless I’m missing something), what the fuck is American’s problem? The even more insulting factor is that we see all of the partner airlines are in good shape. I just don’t get it. We looked at LaGuardia, but it was just as delayed/cancelled/standby-filled. The only other option provided involved flying to Pittsburgh, then Boston, then White Plains, leaving around 10. I’m confident we would have made it into New York by Wednesday.

I don’t get why airlines have to keep lying to passengers. Why do they have to tell us made-up times that aren’t realistic? The whole practice of casually shifting the flight time back 20-30 minutes every 20-30 minutes is insulting to our intelligence. At one point, Sarah was talking to the captain on the standby flight, and he said effectively that he wasn’t flying this plane, which had arrived from HPN, to XNA instead; he was going to board the HPN passengers and turn back around. They started boarding the plane to this end, only to cancel the boarding and switch him to XNA. What’s the problem with this company?

As of 9:00, our last possible flight out was scheduled for 10:10; Sarah found out that the equipment hadn’t yet left Ohio. Sure, there’s a chance the plane could have made it from Ohio to here, land, get cleaned, and take off and maybe get us home by 2AM. I suppose in theory I could enjoy my job and be able to enjoy a day off without being disturbed by the office too. While I’m at it, I’d like a chance to win the lottery. Because I’ve whined enough, I’ll say that this did not work out either, but we did make it home Monday, eventually.

Like I say, beyond the hassles of work, it was a great weekend; it was so nice to see everybody again, and though it was frenzied and brief, I was really glad we had the opportunity to do this before leaving the country till 2006. I don’t see why the airlines — and American Airlines in specific — feels it necessary to fuck up the entire pleasant experience. I don’t understand why when you book travel there is no guarantee of travel; you’re buying into a chance at transit, if the stars are aligned. I wish there was an airline that decided it was going to pay its passengers if they got fucked. Obviously, with these mammoth companies all going bankrupt because they don’t have any clue how to run a business, this would just be more ruinous; it’s a dirty shame. From this point forward, I’m tempted to just take an extra three days off for any continental travel and just make a road trip out of it. The pain and frustration isn’t worth it.

Usually I’m patient in travel, and I’m willing to roll with the delays and insanity; it’s not like this sort of thing is new to me. I guess I’m losing my patience. That’s kind of sad.