Exasperating airline trip

Laugh Tracks in the Dust

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A word of warning. The purpose of this column is not humor. The purpose of this column is to vent about the most exasperating airline flight of my long life. The only humor in my recent flying experience is that it wuz a comedy of errors.

I pretty much swore off airline travel two decades ago with the advent of the Travel Security Administration’s necessary, but frustrating, pat downs and near strip searches that passengers have to endure just to get on an airplane.

But, a strong desire to attend a grand-daughter’s wedding near Knoxville, Tenn., necessitated that Nevah and I fly, rather than drive for the trip. At 81, driving 2,000 miles seemed like too much to deal with comfortably. Plus, our nearby daughter wuz traveling with us to the wedding and she agreed to deal with the ticketing and keep Nevah and I on track.

Now, before launching into the following diatribe about air travel, let me admit up front that, in a way, it’s my own fault. That’s becuz when we were planning the trip, I insisted that the flight originate at the new MHK airport in Manhattan, Kan. At the time, it seemed like a logical decision because Manhattan’s airport is only 20 miles away, compared to a 300-mile round trip to the new KCI airport in Kansas City. The tickets were reasonably higher compared to the expense of a KC trip, plus long-term parking at KCI.

Manhattan’s airport is served by American Airlines affiliate American Eagle which has flights to Dallas-Ft. Worth airport (DFW) and, after a couple-hour layover, American Airlines (AA) flies non-stop to Knoxville. Little did we know that our hair-pulling flight experience would start before we even got started.

Here’s the story: Our planned flight wuz to leave MHK around 2:30 p.m., so we picked up our daughter around 1 p.m. But, before we could leave Riley, our daughter got an email informing us that our American Eagle plane wouldn’t be ready to board until about 4:30. So, we turned around, went home and waited an hour and a half before restarting to MHK.

After going through a minimally intrusive minor league TSA inspection, we loitered in the MHK terminal before boarding our flight to DFW. Although the one-hour flight was uneventful, alas, we arrived at B-terminal in DFW just in time to learn that our scheduled flight to Knoxville had left a few minutes earlier.

Ah, but the friendly and efficient folks at American Airlines assured us that we could conveniently reschedule to another Knoxville flight departing in just three hours in Terminal B. But, we were informed that our status now was as standby passengers hoping that three seats would be available on the rescheduled flight. However, after another long walk to the designated gate, we were informed that only two standby seats were currently available and that the new flight would depart from Terminal A, not Terminal B.

So, after a half-mile trek and a cattle-car ride on the oh-so-efficient Skylink automated elevated rail system, we ate three tasty evening meals, at a cost of $75, and headed for our new departure gate. There the AA ticketing folks gave us the news that the new flight had seven standby seats and that we were at the head of the standby list. Good news under the circumstances, but that state of affairs would not last long.

After waiting at the departure gate until it was near 11 p.m., we at last got standby clearance and started to board. You can’t guess what happened next? Our daughter and most of the passengers boarded the plane, but just as Nevah and I were to show our boarding passes to the boarding agent, he curtly informed us that “this plane ain’t flying nowhere. The flight’s been cancelled. We will deboard this plane.”

So, it took 15 minutes for all the passengers, including our daughter, to deboard the plane. Then the friendly AA folks informed us there would be no more flights to Knoxville that night and we would be given vouchers for “free” overnight accommodations at an undisclosed hotel or motel. You’d be correct if you think my blood-pressure was going up at this time. Ah, but there’s more — much more.

After standing in a “folding line” at least 100 yards long for a half hour for our hotel vouchers, the efficient AA folks announced that another plane had been miraculously discovered and would board at another Terminal A gate shortly after midnight. So, we joined the passenger stampede to the new gate, only to be greeted with the news from AA that the new plane would depart from Terminal C, not A.

This necessitated another long walk to the Skylink rail system where we discovered that the escalators had been shut down at 11 p.m. and most of the restrooms closed. So, we waited to take the elevator. In the cattle car Skylink this time, we got the full 20-minute tour of all six of DFW’s terminals — A through F.

But, we eventually arrived at Terminal C. After another wait, we cleared for boarding and trudged to our seats. Two-hours later we arrived at Knoxville where we had a long-walk and long wait for our baggage. But, thankfully, our bags arrived just as our Tennessee daughter arrived to transport us to her home. We finally laid down our heads at her home at 4:30 a.m.

Short version of the story: A flight that was to take 6 hours actually took around 14. Thanks for all the memories American Airlines.

Looking back, the most exasperating thing about the trip is that AA never once tried to tell us why the planes were delayed. If it wuz mechanical failure, the delay wuz understandable. But it could have been terrorists, a drunk or drugged pilot, bad weather. Who knows? We were left in the dark and that is irritating.

Gladly, I can report that our granddaughters wedding was a beautiful event and we now have a fine specimen of a new grandson-in-law. We spent a fine three days in Tennessee with family.

And, our reverse flight on AA and American Eagle was uneventful. But, we had enuf bad events on the flight out to last us a lifetime. I will think more than twice before I schedule another airline trip.

My words of wisdom for this week, don’t fly when you can drive, walk or crawl — or stay home. Have a good ‘un.

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