Sunday, February 07, 2010

Snowcalypse Stories (Part I)

It's about noon last Thursday last week, Left Coast time (I was working in San Diego) when I began to receive texts from family and friends in the DC area. "Dude!" said one of them, "you better hurry back home: major snow storm is supposed to start on Friday afternoon!"

"Feh!" I thought to myself (I was in a meeting when the texts began to arrive. "My flight is supposed to arrive at BWI at 8 PM tomorrow."

Some nimble Blackberrying later, I have assessed the fact that everyone West of West Virginia is expecting "anywhere from 3-5 feet of snow." Blackberry Ops also tells me that airlines have begun to cancel flights on Friday evening.

Multiple calls to multiple airlines revels that the airline industry is still unable to cope with bad weather and that if I want to return home on Thursday night, instead of leaving as scheduled on Friday morning, I'm gonna shell about about $600 to Continental for a one way ticket back to DC area.

And the price gouging continues. As I search Expedia, prices change before my eyes as they rocked upwards. Someone suggests the red eye flight from LAX to Dulles on Virgin America. "It's only $99," says the suggester.

I check Virgin America online. He is right, that flight is $99 every night - but tonight, for some reason, it has jumped into price hyperspace and it's $552 one way. The next night is back to $99.

In the end, I book a flight on US Airways (rotten airline) out of San Diego to Phoenix and a flight on Delta (perhaps rottener) from Phoenix to Detroit and then from Detroit to Baltimore. I'm out about $450 for a one way ticket.

In San Diego I check in but US Airways can't issue me the Delta tickets. They suggest that I drop by the Delta counter to see why. I do, and they can't issue me the tickets either - and they have no idea why not, bust ask that I go to the departure gate to get my delta tickets once I land in Phoenix. I remind them that it is odd that in 2010 a major airline, running on a 2010 computer system, can't know why tickets for a flight can't be issued to the passenger checking in another airport.

There's an air of desperation as the US Airways flight boards with East bound passengers trying to beat the storm as they head back home. At around 6:45PM on Thursday night, we depart.

A few hours later we land in Phoenix, only to find out that the only way to get to the Delta flights is to take a bus to another terminal and then to check in (again) and go through security (again). Is Phoenix Airport the only American airport that hasn't figured out how to transport passengers between terminals without re-adding them to the TSA line for a second time?

Three hours later, at midnight we take off and head for Detroit. I am exhausted but I can't sleep on airplanes except for the 39 seconds when the drink cart is next to me and so they pass me by.

We land in Detroit and I have recall that I've never been a fan of this very long airport, in which some Pointdexter architect designed so that all gates are in one long, very long row. We manage to land in one end somewhere in Michigan, and have to walk all the way to the other end of the terminal, which must be somewhere near the Canadian border.

When all of us (by now a herd of BWI-bound passengers have banded together) arrive there, we find out that the gate has been changed to the other side of the terminal. This time I note the monorail inside the terminal - running above us like a toy train - and take it back to where we had landed originally. "It was good exercise," I said to myself of the long march from gate A78 to A21 and now back to A75.

We depart on time, and land at BWI at 8:30AM. The gunmetal skies tell a story as I arrive home around 10AM.

I'm running on fumes and debate going to the backyard and gathering some wood in case the power goes out and we need to use the fireplace for heat. But I am running on fumes and decide to sleep a little first, and then re-consider going out to the back and gathering some firewood.

It's a bad decision.

More tomorrow as we find out what happened when the snow came and the electricity went.