Perhaps it was doomed from the start. Late last week, I was in a meeting where I found out that I would have to travel from Pittsburgh to Calgary on Tuesday night (leaving at 7:30pm EST arriving at 2:30am EST) attend meetings all day in Calgary, then return Wednesday night (actually Thursday morning, leaving at 2:27am EST returning at 10:30am EST).
The saga starts on Tuesday, March 1. Blizzard in Pittsburgh. I get to the airport at 6:15pm (Sheila and Jessica dropped me off). I go to the ticket agent, who informs me that the Pittsburgh to Toronto leg is cancelled. GREAT! They could put me on a flight that would go via Las Vegas, getting to Calgary at 3:54am local time (this would be 5:54am EST). I said
I don't think so!
They told me there was a Northwest flight they could get me on via Minneapolis/St.Paul. This was acceptable... off to the Northwest agent.
I get to the Northwest desk, the time is now 6:26pm. The lady informs me that the flight leaves at 6:45pm, I can't make it. I told her that I only have carry on, so she issues a ticket and tells me to hurry. I rush to the security check point (where I am 'randomly' selected for additional security screening).
Fortunately, the flight boards 10 minutes late. I grab a bowl of grease (disguised as noodles) from Wok and Roll en route to the gate. I board the plane (DC9)... and sit... and sit. We sit in the plane (doors shut) for 30 minutes, then the captain announces:
We're just having some routine maintenance, we'll be on our way shortly.
30 minutes later, we finally push off from the gate... it will be close making my connection now, I'll have about 30 minutes to spare. Most people on the plane seem anxious and angry, it occurs to me now that this may be the original DC9... the chairs are no more than metal rods and posts poking into my body from every angle.
The plane taxis along the runway... seemingly forever (are we driving there or flying?). Then, we stop to 'de-ice'. This takes about 30 minutes (great... excellent. They couldn't do this while they performed the maintenance). Okay, finally we are in the air... based on timing, we should land about when my plane departs. I just hope that plane is late too.
I work on the plane, I have a lot of preparation to do for the meetings. Finally, the Captain comes on to announce that we will be landing in Minneapolis at 9:10pm local time (my flight leaves at 9:18pm). When we finally do land, and get to the gate, it is 9:20pm. As we taxi, the flight attendent announces:
all passengers with exception of (two people who were named) please report to gate C4 to see the agent.
I know what this means... no flight for me.
The agent was a nice lady. She informs me that they have put me in a hotel (Ramada Thunderbird Inn), have a meal voucher for the hotel restaurant, and have scheduled me on a flight tomorrow to Calgary (leaves at 11:58am, arrives in Calgary at 2:54pm local time). By the time I could get to the office in Calgary, it would be about time to turn around and go back to the airport. I ask the agent to put me on a flight back to Pittsburgh instead, it is scheduled to leave at 7:45am.
After wandering around (lost) in the airport, I finally find the shuttle to the hotel (when I arrive, I realize it doesn't really deserve the term hotel, more like hovel). Conveniently enough, the hotel restaurant is closed, so much for a meal, I get a 5:30 wake up call and head off to bed.
I wake up, shave and dress then head on the shuttle to the airport. I stand in the long line for security where I am again randomly selected for additional security screening (I begin to get suspicious that this may not be so random... I must look suspect). I stop at Starbucks for a nice breakfast consisting of a Soy Cappucino, then head to the gate. They have wireless at the airport, so I decide to connect so that I can send my documents to Calgary for the meetings I will be missing. Unfortunately, every attempt I make to create a logon id fails (the logon ids all seemed to be in use), I abort the mission and decide to read instead.
The plane boards on time. It is a new Bombardier Canadair jet... much nicer than the DC9 yesterday. The flight is uneventful and comfortable. I return to Pittsburgh, and get to the office just after noon. The saga is over. I spend the afternoon recounting the story to unbelieving coworkers. ("No Way!" they would remark over and over). I then dial in to some of the meetings that I should have been physically at.
I contacted the travel agent when I returned to the office. She then contacted the airline (Air Canada) who informed her that there would be no refund for the outbound flights to Calgary, since it was cancelled for mechanical reasons rather than weather (yeah, this makes sense). I would get a 'credit' for the return flights from Calgary (that I didn't take since I never arrived). I also get dinged for the hotel that I never got to in Calgary since I cancelled after 6pm and it was guarenteed on a credit card. I didn't, however, get charged for the rental car that I didn't use, so that was a real bonus.