Escape from New York

I’ll start this by saying I’ve been very, very fortunate when it comes to airline travel.  The sum total of my interesting flight/delay stories amounts to:

1. A night spent in a very comfortable Mississauga hotel when I missed a connecting flight due to weather in Toronto

2. A lost bag transiting through Boston which promptly found its way home to me within 12 hours

3. Having to travel with only a plastic Ziploc bag back from Brussels after a terrorist plot was uncovered while we were in Europe – the one that started the whole 3-1-1 garbage we live with today

4. Having to sit in a plane on the tarmac in Toronto due to a storm passing through (but, truth be told, I was in first class, so really, it was like I was at a bar for a couple of hours)

(Interesting note: for all of the crap Air Canada takes, 3 of the above were with our beloved national carrier, and to this day, I still feel better flying AC than any other airline.  They seem to handle the bad stuff better than other airlines.)

My travel karma has been good, and I hope it stays that way.

Our trip home from New York started innocently enough.  While waiting at JFK, we noticed that everything outside stopped moving for about 30 minutes.  A large series of storms were moving up the Atlantic coast and put a stop to airline operations until the danger passed through NYC.  That same storm had played more havoc on flight schedules for other eastern airports.

As departure time approaches, there’s a massive crunch at our gate.  Hundreds and hundreds of people are huddled around a desk trying to figure out what’s going on.  Flights are being cancelled and departures are being pushed back and there’s *NO* communication taking place between the American Airlines agents and anyone looking for information.

Our departure time of 6:55 passes and the departure board keeps updating our boarding time by 10 minutes every 10 minutes.  Around 10:30, we get word our flight is cancelled.  We grab a courtesy phone, rebook for the next day and make off in search of our bags.  While Jodi waits for luggage, I’m on my iPhone booking a hotel for the night and heading back upstairs to pick up tickets for tomorrow (now on Delta).  Back downstairs and no luggage to be found.  We get conflicting news from AA agents but find out that there won’t be anymore bags being put out tonight.  We’re told our luggage will find its way home eventually (um, ok).

At this point, I lose any care for my luggage and seek out a taxi line.  Everyone else who’s been cancelled has done the same so it’s about a 45 minute wait.  Eventually, we get a cab – he’s got no idea how to get to our hotel – but we make it eventually.  We just beat a bus full of cancelled people to the front desk, but they have no record of our reservation.   Some polite encouragement, and we’ve got a room for the night (the gentleman beside me took a different tact and screamed at the hotel clerk – he and his wife ended up in a room with a single bed – we got a reasonable room with two Queen Beds – score one for the good guys).  By now its past 2am, and supper consists of the gluten-free stuff we could find on our way out of the airport – stale carrot/celery sticks, an energy bar, and some cheese and grapes.  The whole night had an “Amazing Race” like quality to it.   Jodi and I handled the curve balls well as a team and won the race to the hotel in my mind 🙂

Fast forward to next day – we’re back at JFK early all fueled up on a Hampton Inn breakfast (well, I am, Jodi is left with yogurt and a banana as the only things not containing wheat).  We kill some time doing some duty free shopping (I actually find a great watch and a couple nice bottles to bring back) and stop for lunch and a drink:

We get on our flight home (somehow my duty free purchases didn’t find their way to the gate so I strike out on a great new watch and tequila) and everything is going well until we’re into our descent into Halifax.  I casually mention that it feels we’re in a steep/fast descent and as we’re approaching the airport there are massive flashes of light out the window.  My first thought was the wing was on fire.  It was lightning – you could feel the plane start to shake.  Luckily, we were only a minute off the ground.  Landing was pretty routine, but within 200 feet of our gate, the plane comes to a dead stop.  The airport had ceased all its ground operations due to the severe weather and electrical storm.  Our flight touched down at 9:30 and we’re not moving again until around 1:15am.  The Delta flight attendant is amazing throughout – there’s coffee, drinks and food for everyone.  After a long wait getting through customs, we wait in line to fill out missing bag forms before they’ll let us out of the secured customs area.  My Dad (bless his soul), was waiting the whole time at the airport for us tonight (and was waiting up the previous night as well). 

PS – Two days later, our luggage arrives.  All of our stuff is in tact, but my bag has had it’s frame bent and Delta is claiming no responsibility (boo!).   Final tally: 38 hours to make the trip from our original NY hotel to our front door; 1 broken piece of luggage, 2 missed bottles of duty free liquor, about $400 in extra travel expenses and a reminder of why I will try to travel without checked bags ever again 🙂 

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