United: We Wait

The below recorded events are 100% true. I wish that some parts were embellished or fictionalized but they aren’t. This is the story of how it took 27 hours to get to Knoxville, Tennessee from New Jersey. Please put your computer in the upright and locked position and enjoy knowing this is not your story:

5 Airports, 2 Flights

It all began at 2pm on a stormy Sunday afternoon in central Jersey. 8 co-workers left the office in 3 vehicles loaded to the gills with luggage and conference materials to catch a flight out of Philadelphia. Upon checking in, we quickly learned that the aforementioned thunderstorms were creating massive backups getting in or out of Newark. We would be missing our connecting flight to TN (set back #1). We quickly regrouped and decided that we could still catch our flight out of Newark if we drove to the train station. At this point, it was closing in on 4pm and our connection at Newark leaves at 7pm.

Finally back to our cars with all of our luggage, the two cars set off right away. Another, low on gas, had to take a pit stop to fill up, costing what would be precious minutes later on.

Racing to get through the city as the Philli’s game was getting out, our car was the first to arrive at the station with only 4 minutes to spare before the train arrived. Car #2 got on the platform just 1 minute before the train pulled in to the station. We piled onto the train and collapsed into our seats. Car #3 did not make it. They would have to wait for the next train.

Once on the train, there was nothing else we could do but wait to get to the airport. We were happy to find out that our departing flight had been delayed 45 minutes giving us a little extra time to get through security.

We arrive at Newark. Rush to check bags. Rush to security. Wait 15 minutes in line shuffling forward. Get moved to another security line. “You are in the wrong terminal. You need to be at terminal A, not C.” Race back to the tram (time is ticking by! Setback #2). Compare license photos with co-worker. Have boarding pass folded around license. Get off the tram at Terminal A.

WHERE IS MY LICENSE?! I just had it in my hand! All I am holding is my lonely boarding pass. Admittedly cursing under my breath.

The door is still open, check our compartment. Not there. Check again. Ask the lady still in there, she doesn’t see anything. It has vaporized, for all I know – it has been raptured, it is gone (Set back #3).

Join co-workers in the security line and looking completely defeated, tell them I lost my license. Out of sheer disbelief  we start laughing. We cannot believe this has happened. Luckily they TSA agent was calm, jolly and helpful. He said not to worry.

Arriving at the checkpoint they asked to see anything with my name on it. In the end, my identity was verified by the following plastic cards: Credit Card, Debit Card, Health Insurance Card, Student ID and, I am not joking, my STARBUCKS GOLD CARD!

We got through the security and made a bee line for sustenance and quickly collapsed at our gate to wait for our flight to board.

Car #3 made it to the gate and we were all reunited! However, the flight ended up being delayed for a total of 3 1/2 hours. Finally, at 10:30 they started boarding. We all sighed with relief as we queued up to board the plane.

As my ticket was scanned and a little, ominous red light flashed on their scanner. “Sorry, you do not have a seat please step aside and we will assist you after the flight has boarded” (set back #4).  Three other co-workers were also bumped off the flight. Baffled, we quickly spoke with the chosen ones of our group who would be going on to Knoxville as we would be missing the set up for the conference we were running.

It turns out, the 55 passenger plane that should have arrived in Newark never came in so they had to use the 35 passenger plane that was available. They asked for volunteers to give up their seats and had to bump us off the fight because there were not enough seats available.

Finally, around 12:30, the United Customer service professional had booked the four of us on a flight leaving at 9am the following morning out of La Guardia connecting at Dulles and finally arriving in Knoxville. With our flight, hotel, food and taxi vouchers we headed to the airport hotel to get whatever rest we could. (I got maybe 3 hours that night.)

Newark, NJ @ 5:30am

Bright and early, we arrived back at Newark to get a taxi to La Guardia, 50 min away. Let’s just say our driver was fully committed to getting us to La Guardia so that we could make our flight.

You will remember that the 9/11 flights left out of La Guardia. Security is no joke there. I was nervous about getting through security without my license. I showed all that I had, including the Starbucks gold card with my name on it. The TSA agent was understanding but had to personally escorted me through security. The ordeal ended with a frisking by one of the female TSA agents. It doesn’t matter how much they explain what they are doing is just straight up awkward to be frisked.

Rejoining my three fellow travelers, we found coffee and pastries and sleepily awaited our flight to DC, which actually left on-time!

We arrived at Dulles after a good bought of turbulence on the landing (side note: I am an anxious flier). We thought that it would be smooth sailing today after yesterday being so ridiculous. Well, we were wrong!

The plane that was to take us to Knoxville, was delayed and when it finally did arrive, they had to deal with maintenance issues. Then, they had to delay even longer as they were waiting for a part for the plane. Here is a snapshot of the maintenance (or sunbathing?).

We waited 3 hours. Finally, they put us on a different plane (set back #5).

We arrived in Knoxville around 5:30pm and made it to the conference opening session just as it was starting at 7pm. We were introduced and asked to stand up in front of 350 people. I’ll be honest, the last thing I wanted to do at that point, wearing the same clothes as the day before and traveling for 27 hours, was be in front of 350 people! Luckily this group of folks are awesome and it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

The ending to my day was like something out of a movie. After 27 hours of travel and 3 hours of sleep, it is an understatement to say that I was exhausted. When the opening session ended at 9pm, I went to find my luggage that had arrived the day before on the original flight. Trying to find my way around campus I was tired, disoriented and kind of lost. Then, it started to rain, hard. Inside I felt like a toddler who is so tired all they can do is throw a fit. I finally ran into some student from campus who helped me get to where I needed to go. With the help of the staff from the host campus I found my things and they drove me to my room. I felt unhinged and not myself at all.

I awoke the next day rested, in clean clothes and finally feeling myself again. It is amazing what sleep and a shower can do for your mood! I was even looking forward to the dining hall coffee!

Carson-Newman College, TN

I was really proud of my fellow travelers for keeping it together amidst such frustrating circumstances. We pulled together to keep our spirits up. We got through it all with laughter, donuts and a “just keep swimming” motto.

Here we are back in Newark after the Conference:

Exit Buddies!

At the end of the day, we got to where we needed to go and arrived safely. Thanks (but no thanks) to United airlines for this harrowing tale. I am not exactly in a rush to use the flight voucher they gave me. I will need a little time to recover before flying with them again.

You may now move about your afternoon.

Advertisements