Have you read part one of my travel saga yet? If not, go here and catch up – it’s fine. Really. What’s one more tiny delay?
As we stood at the counter, absorbing the reality of the situation, the gate agent called for assistance. She then addressed the crowd behind me and milling about in the waiting area, “The flight has been cancelled! I suggest you fan out and explore the concourse to find other gate agents – they can also help you. I’m not the only one that can help you!”
I wasn’t moving – after all, I was now third in line, after the two men who had come to the counter just ahead of me to investigate the cancellation texts on our phones. The other gate agent arrived and I couldn’t help but overhear as they discussed the rather limited options for reschedules the next day. I attempted to rebook myself by using the link that had been sent along with the text, but the website told me firmly that I was not allowed to do so, as now the date of my travel had passed. Well, yes – now that it was past 1am – my original flight date had passed (no thanks to you)– so why send a cancellation text with a link to rebook if you are not going to let me do so?
My phone vibrated as another text came in – this time from Daughter #1 in Washington DC, who has been suffering from pregnancy insomnia and, knowing that my flight had been perpetually delayed, had checked to see if I had departed yet.
“I was checking on you and saw that those bastards cancelled your flight after stringing you along for hours!!! Can I help?”
I asked her to check for hotels in the area and she tried, but couldn’t find any rooms nearby. Meanwhile, I could hear the gate agent tell the gentlemen in front of me that he was booked on the last morning flight, which was routed through Florida and then Colorado before finally getting into Albuquerque late in the afternoon. The second fellow was being told there were now no available flights out of Baltimore until about 3pm that day.
One of the guys at the counter asked the new gate agent that was helping him they would be compensated for a hotel. She gave him a look and said, “No – there is no compensation for weather related delays or cancellations.” I stepped forward slightly and interjected (I’m rather infamous for doing that sort of thing), “Well, it was only weather related until they took our original plane out of service – now I believe it’s mechanical.” She turned to level “the look” on me, but didn’t say anything. I continued, “The gentleman at that gate told us that the plane was dead – that sounds mechanical to me.”
She nearly scoffed, “I don’t even know what that means. We would never say anything like that.”
I took a deep breath and smiled slightly, “Well, I may have misheard.” I turned to the crowd behind me and raised my voice, “Am I mistaken? Didn’t that fellow say that the plane was dead?” The tired eyes lit up and people straightened their hunched shoulders as they pressed forward and responded emphatically, “Yes!” “That’s exactly what he said!” “He said the plane was dead!!” “Yeah!”
I have to tell you, I felt a little bit like the leader of a peasant revolt – if I could have just replaced the cellphones in their hands with pitchforks and torches, I could have had myself I nice little mob, intent on retribution and justice.
The woman picked up the phone and dialed – I thought for a moment she might have been calling security to deal with my insolence, but instead she spoke quietly into the receiver, “Why was the flight to Albuquerque cancelled?” She listened and then hung up with gusto as she barked at the crowd, “It was weather related – no compensation!”
I still didn’t buy it. Right behind her head was a live weather radar map — with not a trace of green or red to be seen between Baltimore and Albuquerque — but I decided I could write a letter later to someone who had more sense, professionalism, and power than this particular gate agent. She went back to telling the gentleman his limited flight options and my daughter texted again, suggesting that perhaps I should just fly out of Regan airport in DC instead. She gave me two options that were leaving the next morning and offered to drive the 45 minutes to pick me up: “I wasn’t sleeping anyway.” I felt horrible about making my 7 ½ month pregnant daughter drive so far in the middle of the night, but I also did not want to sleep in the Baltimore airport and hang out there for the better part of the next day waiting for a flight. I accepted her offer and the gate agent (not that one, thankfully) made the arrangements.
My daughter and I got back to her apartment in DC about 3:00am. I crashed on the couch and fell immediately asleep – until about 6:30am, when a small voice and a poke at my arm woke me. My granddaughter was standing beside the couch looking at me quizzically, “Grandma Jana – why are you still here?” I took a quick shower while my daughter made arrangements for an Uber to the airport. I then dressed, shoved everything back into my suitcase, and was on my way (with wet hair) in time to make it to the airport at 8am.
Guess what? My 9:00am flight was delayed until 9:40am! And then delayed again! When I asked about my connection in Dallas, the gate agent assured me that, while it would be close, I should make it. I had noticed that there were a several people sleeping on the floor in the waiting area and later found out they were from that same flight in Baltimore! I discovered this as we were standing in line to board the plane (finally!) and I overheard them telling another passenger about the saga and how they had to pay a limousine service to drive them down to DC – for a pretty penny, as you can imagine. They were outraged that they had received no offers of compensation for the extra expense. I turned and joined the conversation (like I do so often), mentioning I also felt that there should have been compensation, as we had been told the original plane was “dead.” As the word came out of my mouth, one of the women touched my arm almost reverently and her husband exclaimed, “That was you!” Apparently, I’m now famous for my act of non-violent protest – I expect a call from the Today show any moment now with a request to interview me.
The flight to Dallas was gloriously uneventful and, when we disembarked, I was rather pleased to see that the connecting flight to Albuquerque had been…you guessed it…delayed. I had time to grab a snack on the way to the gate and, just as I had opened my laptop to watch another episode of Game of Thrones (I was really behind!) the gate agent made the following announcement:
“Folks, it turns out that we are overbooked on this flight and we’re looking for volunteers to be bumped. We’ll give you compensation for the price of your ticket, plus an extra $300 credit for future flights.”
I debated for all of about three seconds: I had already missed the day of work anyway and my boss knew I wasn’t coming in. I hadn’t been compensated in any way for the nightmare of the night before. The next flight out was in less than three hours – and I had three more episodes of Game of Thrones to watch. It seemed like kismet.
I threw my laptop to the seat next to me (thankfully unoccupied at that moment) and practically mowed down an old lady in my haste to get to the counter.
So, in the end, I got caught up on Game of Thrones, made it back to Albuquerque at 4:30pm that day, and I have a nice little credit voucher that I can use to visit DC when Daughter #1 has her baby next month.
The only dilemma that still remains is whether to write that letter to the airline or not. Now that I received some compensation (albeit not for the original incident) should I just let it be? The part of me that attempts to be zen-like tells me to do so – it’s just not worth the time or trouble. However, now that I’m practically the leader of a rebellion, I also feel like I owe it to the masses to write my letter of protest and demand justice (or at least an apology). What do you think? Also, does anyone work in the airline industry? Is there such a phrase as “dead” when referring to a cancelled flight or did that guy just come up with that on his own?