I was going to spend my kid-free time today being uber-productive by clearing some of the umpteen dozen shows off of my DVR, but since I am still seriously lagging in the Top Mommy Blog rankings, I decided to go ahead and sit down and bang out the second part of my US Airways horror story. (That was a subtle hint by the way, but in case you didn't get it, go ahead and click on that brown button on the top right hand side over there that says "Vote For Me On Top Mommy Blogs." Once their site comes up, you're done.)
So where was I? Oh yeah, I had FINALLY made it to Huntsville and my dad had his surgery and things were going fairly well for him -- I mean, as well as can be expected after they crack your chest open and mess around with your heart for more than 3 hours. He was in a room, awake and talking, and even was walking some of the laps around the floor like his doctor wanted. He wasn't bouncing back like he was 25 or anything, but since he's 66, no one really expected him to. So on Sunday morning, I got up to go and visit with him and my mother-in-law was going to pick me up from the hospital to take me to the airport around 10:15 for my flight that left at about 12:45.
That part of the plan went amazingly well and she even took me out to breakfast before getting me to the Huntsville "International" Airport ("International" because it is only international in that you can get to an actual international airport from there). I got to the airport, went through security, and still had an hour to spare. While waiting at the gate, I was called to the counter for a new boarding pass. They just changed my seat -- no big deal. And then 15 minutes before the plane boarded, I got called to the counter again -- another seat change. This was nothing to get upset about, I was still on the flight and it wasn't like I was being moved out of first class or anything, just moved around. When it came time to board the plane, I was in the last "Zone" to be seated. By the time it was my turn to board, all of the over head bins were full and I had to send my bag below the plane. A little annoying? Yes, but no big deal since I had a 3 hour scheduled lay-over in Charlotte (a PLANNED one this time). When I finally do go to board the plane, I was met with a foul, fishy odor. It was nauseating and all I could think was how much fun it was going to be to ride in that for the next hour and a half.
Once we landed in Charlotte, I was told that my bag would be waiting for me on the sky bridge. So I got off of the plane and I waited. I waited, and I waited. Then they told me to get off of the sky bridge because they had to load the next flight's passengers onto the plane. They said that I should go and stand by the counter and they would bring me my bag. Finally, after the entire plane was reloaded, this guy walks up from the tarmac and gives me my bag. Also annoying, but its not like I really had anything better to do and I still had about 2 1/2 hours until my flight home was scheduled to depart. I walked around the airport, bought a new book since I had read the 4 I brought with me already, and found my gate for my flight home. After I got all comfy, plugged in my phone, and opened my book, I was approached by the gate agent who asked me to move so that the gate area could be cleaned. I was a little taken aback, because I could not imagine the process of cleaning that require me to move completely out of the gate area. So I said "Can't they just clean around me? It's what I do with my kids all of the time, I lift my feet for the vacuum and everything." Well, he didn't like that. He pursed his lips and reiterated that I would need to move and take all of my belongings with me. (Sigh) I found another gate to sit in -- right across from that one and saw this little bitty woman push a vacuum through there for about 5 minutes and then walk away. I wanted to go back over there and take up my perch again just to spite that idiot who had made me move, but I was afraid that he might bump me from my flight or something so I stayed put.
Finally, it was time for my flight. I got to actually take my bag onto the plane myself, but once again I was in the very last row of seats, by the window, and my seat was THE most uncomfortable one I have ever been in. I do not know if it was the fact that it didn't recline or what, but sitting in it made me feel like I had been caned across the back in a North Korean prison camp. I know it wasn't just me either because the 2 gentlemen sitting next to me had the same feeling. Once the plane had been filled to capacity, the captain came over the loud speaker and told us to make ourselves comfortable....because there was "a maintenance issue with the plane" and we were going to be sitting here at the gate for about 2 hours. A collective groan went up from the passengers. It was hot. It was crowded. And I was sitting in the most uncomfortable row of the plane. I called my husband and relayed the message about the delay -- this posed a problem for us since I was supposed to have landed at 7:49, when he and the kids would pick me up, we'd drive home, and then get the kids into bed at least close to their bedtime at 8:30. Now we were looking at a 10:30 bedtime. On a school night. Crap.
While we were sitting there, ("we" being the group of us in the back of the plane) the flight attendants passed out ice water, we all complained about how horrible this was, and we kept shifting in our seats (turns out that the other rows weren't super comfortable either). A little more than an hour into this 2 hour delay, someone from about the middle of the plane came to the back to ask the flight attendants if we could get off of the plane or if we had to stay here. "Oh no, you can get off of the plane -- just be sure you take your boarding pass with you." WHAT???! They didn't think to mention this when the delay was announced?? Great. Well, we all were pissed that we hadn't known this sooner, but since US Airways requires that you be on-board 10-15 minutes before departure, and since we were in the very back of the plane and people were standing in the aisle, we decided that at that point it wasn't worth it to fight our way off of the plane and stayed put. We should have just gotten off of the plane. At the end of the 2 hour delay, the captain came on again and delivered some bad news. I do not remember his exact words, but it went something like this:
"Well folks, we had to wait our turn for maintenance to come up here to fix the co-pilot's chair because it was a little uncomfortable. After they messed around with it trying to get it fixed, the darn thing broke on us (chuckle, chuckle). Anyways, their gonna try to rustle us up another chair to replace this one, but they said that it is gonna take a minimum of 2 hours and they're gonna need all y'all to get your belongings and get off of the plane while they work on it. Hopefully, this new chair will be comfortable enough for us to get underway in a couple of hours."
What. The. Hell. This guy had said "maintenance issue" and we had all assumed that if we hadn't waited for it to be fixed then we could have crashed into a field somewhere between here and Texas. It was a CHAIR? A chair that was a "little uncomfortable??" And it was the co-pilot's chair. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that the co-pilot does a lot of stuff in-flight, but if his chair was soooooo uncomfortable that he couldn't sit in it for 2 hours to get to Texas, then did he really even HAVE to come?? Couldn't we grab a chair from the gate area and bolt it down real quick just to get there?? So now, instead of a 10:30 bedtime, my kids were looking at a 12:30 bedtime. Great. I called my husband and relayed the bad news. His response was "I am never flying with you. You're luck sucks."
So now we are all getting off of the plane so that they can fix the co-pilot's chair. Everyone is pissed. Several of us go straight to the "Special Services" counter to complain. I can hear them droning on and on about how we will have to take it up with corporate, that there is nothing that they can do, that the address for corporate is on the back of our ticket, blah, blah, blah. Before it is even close to my turn to gripe at the agent behind the counter, I notice the flight board behind them. Our flight has been given a new gate number and it has a new departure time. So I head that way, and find a few of my new friends from the plane already sitting there. I asked them what was going on and they said that they didn't know, they had just seen the changes on the board like I had. I went up to the gate agent, who looked like Chris Farley minus the sense of humor and cool looking hair, and asked if this was, indeed, our flight to Dallas. He barked at me that he did not have any information and to just go sit down and as soon as he knew something, he'd make an announcement. I lingered a moment to stare him down with one of those looks that I normally reserve for children who have used permanent marker on my couch or teachers who have mistreated my kids and retorted with the super intelligent "FINE." through gritted teeth.
Turns out, they had gotten us a different plane -- one that had an acceptable co-pilot's chair apparently -- and we were allowed to board the flight. After it was all said and done, we didn't have an additional 2 hour wait. We only had to wait an hour and 40 minutes before boarding that new flight. But since we were delayed in taking off by the tower and had a strong head-wind the entire flight, we lost more than half an hour anyway. My husband picked me up, with all 4 kids in-tow, at about 11:30 and we drove home and put the kids back to bed. They were, of course, wide awake. They had not seen me since Wednesday morning and this was Sunday night. They all wanted to know how Pa was doing and if he liked the cards and pictures they had sent him. It was after 1:00am before they finally settled down. The 2 oldest were more than an hour late for school the next day and the 2 youngest slept until noon.
I left the hospital at 10:15 that morning. I got to my house after midnight. If I had rented a car and driven myself it would have been cheaper, faster, and more comfortable. But I learned my lesson and I hope that you will all take note of it to save yourselves some stress -- US Airways SUCKS.
By the way, I DID make use of that website on the back of my ticket and sent a letter to corporate complaining about the trip and the way I was treated. They responded by sending me a $75 voucher to fly with them again. This might have been a nice gesture if it were possible to purchase ANY flight from them for $75, but its not. You cannot even upgrade to first class for $75. So they have sent me a voucher that can only be used if I give them more business and spend more money....I don't think so. Their puny restitution of a $75 voucher isn't even 15% of what I paid for this round trip ticket. I am writing a response to them about this. I think I will tell them that they can suck it and that I would rather drive myself or spend extra money to fly another airline than to give them ANY more of my money.