Friday, July 17, 2015

Flight Plans

Kansas City to Dallas, Dallas to Albuquerque - that's a pretty simple itinerary, right?  Our oldest grandson, Trey, was here for a visit and I was returning him home.   The Kansas City Airport is so small that checking baggage, clearing security and navigating to your gate takes only a few minutes - so of course we were there ridiculously early.  We wandered the few shops to kill time, then stopped at a sandwich shop.  Trey insisted he wasn't hungry, and since we would arrive in Albuquerque late afternoon and planned to eat soon after, I wasn't concerned.  I put a banana in my bag along with a sandwich and chips and we headed for our gate.

Why are there never enough chairs to hold all the people waiting to board a plane?  Maybe there are, but so many people were using the chairs for hold their bags and laptops, that dozens of people were standing . . . and standing . . . and standing.  The plane coming in was delayed.  So we waited. Not one young person stood to offer an older person a seat.  Not one person offered to remove their items from a seat.  Eventually, Trey and I sat on the floor to eat our lunch.  The boy who wasn't hungry took one bite of my Cuban sandwich and declared it delicious - then proceeded to eat most of it.  We finally boarded the plane about 30 minutes late.

Next stop, Dallas.  I was a little concerned about navigating DFW.  I've flown in and out of there, but never had to change planes on a time schedule.  Especially while keeping track of a 10-year-old.  However, the signs made it easy; the tram made it quick.  We stepped off the tram and followed more signs toward our gate.  And followed . . . and followed . . . down into a windowless, institutional hallway that went on and on.  When we finally reached our gate, we were met with the same seating situation.  No surprise - "Your flight has been delayed because the crew has not arrived yet.  As soon as they get here and complete their safety check, we will begin boarding."  After an hour of standing, we began looking for a place to lean or sit on the floor.  But by then passengers for the NEXT flight were beginning to arrive.  Empty space was becoming hard to find.

In this sub-terrainian wing of DFW, there were no shops, no restaurants or snack bars, no restrooms, and very little air-conditioning.  There were four vending machines, two of which didn't work at all, and two that would dispense SOME of their bounty, but only when exact change was deposited.

The crew arrived and swept past us all without so much as a smile - past the magic doors to the skyway.  We watched jealously.  Barely 5 minutes later, one of the stewardesses - excuse me, "flight attendants" - came sweeping back through the doors, stomping her high-heels, dragging her carry-on like a disobedient puppy. and crying into her cell phone.  Well,this can't be good.  Sure enough:  "Ladies and gentlemen, we are short one member of our crew.  As soon as a replacement can be found, we will begin boarding."  I made the argument that I, for one, could figure out my own seat belt and live without that two-ounce glass of Sprite. The lady at the gate desk wasn't swayed. 

After another hour, the replacement stewardess arrived.  I thought we should applaud her, but only one 80-year-old man joined me.  This group was no fun at all.  We got on the plane about two-and-a-half hours late, but at least we were on our way.  The plane was small - only two seats on each side of the aisle.  "Trey, would you like the window seat?"  "Sure, Grandma!"  
Notice anything missing?
I kid you not!  Obviously the seats were placed closer together than the intended layout for this plane, so the windows did not line up with the seats.  Deep breaths.  Maybe we ARE flying on the Claustrophobia Express, but at least we will soon be flying.  Oh, you optimistic fool!  We sat on that stifling hot, windowless, tube of death in 91 degree heat, with no air-conditioning (they promised it would work when we were air-borne) for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES!  One woman tried to get up to use the restroom and was sternly directed back to her seat because we were about to take off.  Define "about to"!

We arrived at ABQ a full three hours late and without so much as a word of acknowledgement, let alone apology, from the crew or employees.  But - we did arrive safe and relatively sound, so I put it behind me and enjoyed my short visit.  Besides, my return flight was booked on a different airline,and returned through Denver.

My flight from Albuquerque to Denver was on-time and pleasant.  I am familiar enough with DIA that finding my next gate was easy, and seating, food and restrooms were abundant.  There was a slight delay because, once again, the arriving airplane was held up somewhere along the line, but I was comfy and in good spirits, so no problem.  When it came time to board, we filed through the line, scanned our boarding passes and went through the magic door . . . not to a skyway, but to a stairway, leading down to a hallway - a long, institutional, windowless hallway. Deja vu!  This can not be good!

At the end of the hallway, we again formed a single-file line to have our boarding passes checked - like we had mysteriously gained would-be stow-aways in this tunnel.  Beyond the lady checking passes was a door.  Beyond the door was . . . sunlight.  The outdoors.  Where was the skyway?  This was beginning to remind me of a Twilight Zone episode.  I dutifully followed the line into the glaring sunlight and shaded my eyes to look for the plane.  A short walk across the tarmac was a small white plane with faded blue lettering and . . . wait for it . . . propellers!  Oh, HELL no!
Perhaps not the actual plane.

I seriously stepped out of line and debated returning to the terminal to book another flight.  I mean, how expensive could it be?  Surely some airline flew real planes between Denver and KC!  I had a book, I could wait!

Reality, and exhaustion, won out and I climbed the half-dozen steps to the flying casket.  My seat was directly in line with one of the propellers.  Oh good, I would be the first to know when it stopped rotating!  That was the loudest, shakiest flight I've ever been on.  Add to that some turbulence that kept even the stewardesses in their seats, and it was a thoroughly terrifying, stomach-rolling hour.   But, I did make it home - tired and nauseous - but wiser.  Never again will I automatically book the cheapest flight without checking what type of plane they fly.   Never again will I fly American/U.S. Airways.  Never again!  At least until one of the kids needs me.

1 comment:

  1. glad you are home safe and sound and same with your grandson.