As I walked through the airport, I looked to my left and saw a pigeon walking alongside me as if he was also headed to Gate 26A. Unlike me, he didn’t have any carry-on luggage or a boarding pass, but we both seemed to share the same confidence that our flights would depart on time. I wanted to tell him, “You don’t need a ticket to fly,” but I was focused on the task at hand, which was to take a work-related trip to Virginia with a short layover in Washington DC.
I took a seat a few feet away from the entrance to the jetway and waited for my boarding time. Minutes later, the customer service agent announced, “We need one person to give up their seat for this flight in exchange for a $700 flight credit and we will also rebook them on the next departing flight.” My intuition told me to take advantage of the opportunity so I could use the flight credit towards a trip to Paris to have French French Toast, but alas, I talked myself out of it. Shortly after, the boarding process for the flight started and I wheeled my luggage down the aisle, threw it in the overhead compartment, and waited in my seat for the flight to depart.
The plane was pushed back from the gate, driven out onto the runway and after a brief pause; the pilot said, “we must return to the gate because of mechanical issues.” When we finally made it back to the gate, there were dozens of upset passengers (and one bird) trying to sort out their flight plans due to the newly cancelled flight. I tried my best to ignore the fact that I could’ve gotten $700 and avoided this entire predicament, and I patiently waited in the Star Alliance Premier line for re-booking. My replacement flight was scheduled for 3:00pm flight with a 1.5 hr layover in DC and I had my fingers crossed that it would depart without any issues.
My new flight took off without any problems and upon arriving to Washington DC, I found out that my next flight was now delayed by “a few.” When I asked the gate agent for more clarification about what “a few” meant he said, “Probably between twenty minutes and three hours.” That answer wasn’t good enough for me, so I forced him to research further. Eventually, he told me, “Your flight is leaving at 9:30pm.” I said, “9:30pm?!?” He responded, “Oh wait… I had it incorrect– your flight is leaving Newark at 9:30pm– it’ll be here around 10:45 and will depart around 11:15pm to take you to Virginia.” Ay Dios Mio– I feel a stress ulcer forming! It was especially comforting when the same gate agent saw me six hours later and said, “Oh, you’re still here??” Nope, I’m in Virginia right now…this is just a mirage!
When my flight finally landed after midnight, I was relieved that this entire journey was finally over, but prayed that I wouldn’t have a similar experience on my return flight in 20 hours. As luck would have it, my experience was almost the same, but the outcome was very different!
I went online to check-in to my flight, but there was no return flight on my ticket itinerary. I eventually went to the airport to sort things out and the airline representative said, “You don’t have to worry about this return flight because it’s not departing anyway. In fact, all flights for the rest of the day are cancelled.” Both my assistant and I dove into a “Get Geremy home today” rescue effort and we searched for every possible option to make it happen. Eventually I decided that I should just rent a car and drive back home.
Since I rented a car when I originally arrived in Virginia, Hertz gave me the option of returning the car to Newark by midnight. To get to New Jersey by midnight meant that I would have to drive approximately 90mph the entire way. When I explained this to the agent, she said “if you return the car after midnight, it would be an additional $250.” I said “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! The car will be there by midnight!” Although I ended up renting a different car from Budget due to a lower cost, I still challenged myself to make the trip last less than the forecasted 7.5 hours.
I retrieved my Dodge Avenger and we hit the road! I hated the first hour and a half of driving, but then I decided that I should enjoy the impromptu road-trip. As I passed by the cows in West Virginia and the calm roads in Pennsylvania, I enjoyed my little journey. After 6 hours and 25 minutes of driving (with one 10 minute stop to take a brief nap), I pulled into my driveway and was happy that my horrible airline experience was over!
The next morning, I drove to the airport to return the rental car and retrieve my car. As I stepped into the rental car building to get my final receipt, I saw my old acquaintance, the pigeon, walking around. I guess his flight was cancelled too! Poor pigeon!