Friday, February 19, 2010

The Terminal

Today is a travel day... but it feels mostly like a sit around the terminal waiting kind of day. Our plane this morning had a mechanical problem, so they backed it away from the loading area in Tucson and brought in another one to fly us to Phoenix. Unfortunately when we finally got to Phoenix, our connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale had left without us... and when we picked up our new boarding passes, they had us leaving 8 hours later! Urrrrgghh!

That is the Bad News. Now for the Good News. Phoenix is a friendly airport that gives everyone free WiFi internet connection... totally awesome. I had no idea that we were about to have a Tom Hanks airport experience. 8 hours is a lot less traumatic than 8 months or whatever it was for him. Howbeit, we did get to be passively connected to airport life here a little.

A young man with a bouquet of red roses came and sat down next to me. He was going to see his girlfriend this weekend, and hoped to reverse a failing relationship. Meanwhile, a lady about our age was frantically trying to find her husband before the plane left without him. First she had him paged on the local area intercom. No show. Then she had him paged on the entire airport intercom. This covers all the concourses... of which I counted at least eight. Still no show. Meanwhile another lady who had curled up and fallen asleep next to where Shirley was sitting and was about to miss her plane. Fortunately she woke up just in the nick of time and made it thru the gate. It made me wonder how often that people fall asleep and miss their plane?

Again the lady asked to have her husband paged. Time was running out. The check-in lady made her final boarding call. The desperate lady inquired at check-in about when the next flight to Cabo would leave, if they missed this one. She wasn't happy with the answer. She went back to the concourse and looked hopefully for her husband one last time... and with excitement exclaimed, "He's coming!" When we got to see her husband we surmised that he was likely whiling away some time in the Jackaroo Watering Hole, or the Fox Sports Bar, oblivious of the flight that he was about to miss.

About 3:00 PM I took my turn to go for a walk around and Shirley stayed with the computers and bags. This is one beautiful airport. It took me 45 minutes to walk every concourse... and what a lot of damage one could do in here with a credit card. There are opportunities to buy just about anything here. It felt more like a shopping center than an airport!

And if you like Starbucks, this place is like heaven. It seems like the rule here is that you can have another Starbucks franchise as soon as you cannot see the last one you were just at. I didn’t make an exact count, but there is more than 10 in the concourse area. And who knows how many are in the public side of the airport.

When I got back Shirley went for a nice long walk. I fanaticised about going to the California Pizza Factory for a romantic dinner.

But when she came back we had to hurry... we did not want to miss our plane to Ft Lauderdale! And since the CPF was too far away, we copped out and went next door to the Pizza Hut and bought a salad and a Margarita Pizza.

The rolling walkways here are truly awesome. Shirley took this great photo, so I just had to include it in this blog post. I didn’t get a shot of the huge round concrete columns that look like they will support a monorail to speed passengers around the airport and get them to their connecting flights faster. What a novel idea!

When we went to check in before boarding we both suspected a problem. There was nobody at the gate we were to leave from. So Shirley went to look at the TV monitors and maybe talk to someone at Customer Service. Very quickly she discovered that we would not be leaving at 6 PM tonight. We were to be routed thru Charlotte and the boarding pass we had in hand was to catch the plane in Charlotte to go to Ft. Lauderdale. They never gave us the complete routing in the first place. Now things were just beginning to get fun!

Shirley went into customer service to see what could be done to get things straightened up... and while she was standing there waiting her turn she overheard a couple of other people with screw ups and saw customers in tears. So, when it was her turn the stage was already set for disaster.

I was not there at first with Shirley and when she did not come back right away I called her on the cel phone to find out what had happened. On my own I had talked to the agent at the boarding desk where I thought we would be boarding, and he let me in on a little secret... that there was no plane leaving from here to Ft. Lauderdale tonight at all.

So, we were in a bind to get some kind of connections to get to Ft. Lauderdale before the cruise ship leaves tomorrow afternoon. The lady in customer service got into problem solving mode and within five or ten minutes had worked out a new routing. We leave Phoenix at midnight tonight, and get into Charlotte around 5:30 AM EST... a true red eye special. Then about 8:00 we leave for Ft. Lauderdale arriving about 10 AM.

Then there is that nice Marriott hotel reservation that we had for tonight. Shirley called and to cancel our hotel... but they said, “Sorry! Too late. You must cancel by noon on the day of arrival.” They had no time to hear her story of our problems. At lunch time today we still expected we would be there sometime tonight.

So we feel like real winners tonight.

Then I got to wondering what had happened to our luggage? Where was it now? With such a small window of time between when we arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and when we get onto the cruise ship, if the luggage was lost somewhere, I could see us boarding the ship with nothing but the clothes on our backs... and no way for us to get the suitcases once we leave for the open sea. What a wonderful thought.

So I asked Shirley to go and see what she could discover regarding the whereabouts of our luggage. When she told the luggage people our plight they were very gracious and nice to her. So they checked in their computer and told her that the luggage was already in Ft. Lauderdale waiting there for us.

That was interesting. Our luggage made it to the connecting flight but we were told that the flight had already left. Fact was we likely could have made it to the plane except we were told when we inquired what gate to go to that the plane had already left. The luggage guys said that their computer said we had arrived ten minutes before our connecting flight left. So, we likely could have made it if we had any encouragement to try.

It will be interesting to see how US Airways responds when we send them our formal complaint. Shirley went to customer service again after we found we could not get any refund for the hotel tonight. I thought that it might be hard to get any cash compensation, but they certainly could give us a complimentary flight for the screwup. The lady, Shaleeyah, gave us an address where we could submit a formal complaint, and we would have to await their response.

I already have the name for the book, "Dear US Airways." And hopefully I can sell the movie rights to Tom Hanks or some producer in Hollywood.

Needless to say, when we finally get to the cruise ship... or if we finally get to the cruise ship, I doubt anyone will more happy to be there. How many days will we sleep once we get onto the ship?

Hopefully we will be on board tomorrow and we will have good wireless internet on the ship... and I can send a brief message to say that equilibrium has been restored to this part of the planet and all is well. So tune in tomorrow, same time, as the saga unfolds.

1 comment:

  1. Well told, Pa. What a day! You will deserve the relaxation of the cruise even more so now!! Happy travels from here on out. xo