Friday, February 18, 2011

PA Trip, Part 1 (aka I begin to experience premature graying).

We look better than we felt, I promise.

I’ve been hesitant to blog about our recent PA trip because of the fiasco we had getting there and getting back. Have you ever gone on “vacation,” only to return more tired than when you left?

The plan was to fly out of Pensacola on a Saturday morning around 7 am CST. We were supposed to make connections in Atlanta and Detroit before finally arriving in Erie at 3 pm EST. June’s baptism was scheduled for the following morning.

We made the flight out of Pensacola, caught the connection in Atlanta where we met up with June’s godfather, Rhett, and had a smooth trip into Detroit. Lucy and June were so well-behaved that I couldn’t believe it.

After we boarded our flight for Erie, however, the proverbial s*%t hit the fan. Although the weather wasn’t great (picture snow and wind), we were second in line to be de-iced, and were still scheduled to take off on time. We pushed away from the gate, moved behind another plane at the de-icers, and waited.

And waited. And waited. Finally the pilot announced that we were being delayed because visibility was low. Still, he said, we’d make it out. Thank goodness for two things: breastfeeding and carrying-on our *huge* bag of cloth diapers. At least I didn’t have to worry about my kids being hungry or wet!

We waited some more- about another hour more.

Pilot comes back on and announces that our flight has been canceled. No worries- we’ll be back at the gate shortly and can rebook flights.

We wait another hour. Pilot announces that we’re waiting for a gate to become available. It seems that after we pushed back, another plane parked at our gate. The entire time we were waiting to be de-iced, other planes were landing and filling up the other gates. There was nowhere for us to park. Still, he said, we’d be back soon. According to new FAA policy, they have 3 hours from scheduled departure time to either take off or return to the gate. Otherwise, the airline has to pay the FAA a hefty fine- $20,000+ per traveler.

Guess what? Delta’s gonna have to pay up.

We ended up being on the plane for over 4 hours. They never were able to get a gate for us- ended up bringing out a ladder and having us climb down and then hike it across the taxiway. That’s right- I carried my 8 week old down an icy metal ladder and ran across the taxiway with a blanket over her head. Did I mention that it was like 10 degrees, windy, and snowing?

After we made it back inside we joined the hundreds of other people in line waiting to be rebooked. Rhett and I both got on the phone with Delta while we waited. He got through first and managed to snag seats for us on a flight to Buffalo later that night.

Hallelujah, I thought. Even with a 1 ½ hour drive from Buffalo we’d make it to Erie that night.

We rounded up our stuff, made it to our new terminal, got dinner for ourselves and the girls, and settled down with books and other trinkets with which to entertain Lucy. It was our saving grace that the girls were so well-behaved the entire time. A few hours later, we boarded our new flight. Carry-ons stowed, seatbelts fastened, we joked and laughed about how terrible the trip had been so far. We heard the engines spin up and were ready to go.

Just then the *new* pilot comes on the line. Our flight’s been canceled- the Buffalo airport has shut down because of the weather.

That, my friends, is when I lost it.

We once again went back into the terminal. I overheard someone say that it was a 4 ½ hour drive to Erie from Detroit, and that got my head spinning. It was about 8:00 pm in Detroit, and if we rented a car, surely we could make it home in time.

Problem is, the weather in Detroit was too bad to contemplate a nighttime drive with two babies in tow, and, besides, we had checked our carseats, along with all our clothing.

As much as it pains me to say this, I gotta give Delta credit here. They comped us a *very* nice hotel room, gave us free car seats, and put the notice in to have our luggage pulled- a process that, we were told, could take upwards of 6 hours. I watched the girls inside while Brett and Rhett stood outside waiting on the shuttle to the hotel. We finally made it onboard, got to the hotel (where Lucy finally had a breakdown after a VERY long day), and settled in. Well, Rhett and I did. Brett headed off to rent a car and wait for our luggage to show up.

Apparently once the order is put in, you HAVE to be there when your luggage hits the wheel. If you’re not, it gets put back in storage, and it could take ANOTHER 4-6 hours to get it back.

Brett had $50 ready to pay off an airline employee to pull our bags personally, but- miracle of miracles- made it back to the airport just in time to see our bags (and carseats) emerge at the claim area. How he managed 3 large suitcases, a smaller one, and 2 carseats, I’ll never know. He made it back to the hotel at around 11 pm.

We finally fell asleep and caught a few hours of rest. At 5:15 sharp the next morning, I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, prepped and nursed the girls, and packed the car. We were driving away from Detroit by 6:00, made it to Erie at 10:30, and had an hour to recoup and get into our Sunday best.

And yes, June Elizabeth Nolan was baptized as planned.


Oh, and I almost forgot the best part!

Because rental car shops are individually-owned, it’s darn-near-impossible to rent a car one-way. If we wanted to rent a car in Detroit on Sunday and leave it in Erie the next day, we’d be charged $1,500 for a one-way rental. For $225, we could rent in Detroit, drive to Erie, keep the car all week, then turn it back in at Detroit. So that’s what we did- altered our return flight to leave from Detroit instead of Erie. That meant another 4 ½ hour car ride- joy.


Jenny said...

Oh my. I never want to fly anywhere, ever. I think Delta should have to pay several thousand bucks to each passenger who had to climb down a ladder, too. Extra for ones carrying babies.

Ed and Elizabeth said...

Wow. I never want to travel again. That was the most miserable story ever. Hopefully the rest of your trip was enjoyable. I'm glad everyone was safe and sound.

Emily said...

Elizabeth- it was. That's why I hadn't gotten around to blogging about our trip yet- it took me this long to decompress enough to actually write about it. Now that it's out of the way, though, I feel like I can write about the fun parts of the trip.
Yeah, I don't think we're ever flying again. Hence the talk of a minivan!

Beth said...

Oh. My. I could feel my blood pressure rising just while reading this. That is insane. It sounds like you guys handled things amazingly well.

Denise said...

I have to agree with everyone else... The absolute horridness of even imagining myself in a similar situation brought my blood pressure up... I cannot believe it. What really gets me is that if you were told UPFRONT that any of this were a possibility, you would have and could have planned differently. But the way airlines work, they basically lie to you and give you the "just another few minutes, an hour at most" crap and leave you without any kind of way out until it's way way way too late.

I have had only one absolutely horrible experience in an airport with the airlines and canceled flights. Sure, I've had plenty canceled, but only one where it was like this. Fortunately, I was ALONE, but it was while I was headed to San Antonio for an IUI to try for a baby where I feared my whole cycle would be canceled because of missing my appt (after getting bunches of bloodwork and being on ovulation drugs for a few days). The mercy in it all was the Delta ALSO did the right thing in the end. Refunding me $150 in cash and sending a $100 travel voucher to try to cover some of the expenses I incurred (hotel,rental car) from their stupidity.

Anyway, decompress. Writing about it is probably cathartic.

Kasey said...

This is completely off topic, except to say I am seriously rethinking every flying with a baby in the winter. I've been following your blog for awhile, and I am expecting my fist in July. I seem to remember you did a post awhile back about the books that you would recommend on natural childbirth, but I can't seem to find it. I'm delivering in a hospital but taking a birth class in May from a nurse who used to work there and focuses on unmedicated birth. I would like to have additional resources, and thought reading up on it would be nice. Could you repost or email me the list of books? Thanks, Kasey
kaseykakes (at) gmail (dot) com