Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Flight From...

Well let's just say it wasn't from heaven. We had an absolutely wonderful visit in Dallas with Matt's family. It was so much fun to introduce Madison & Avery to more aunts, uncles & cousins - and of course, another great-grandmother. Visiting with 2 little ones to take care of was definitely more work than vacation, but definitely worth the visit. (I'll post pictures soon) And then we flew home...

Talk about a nightmare. Other than a crash landing & catching swine flu, almost everything that could go wrong did. The day started at 5AM - packing up suitcases & kids, heading the airport. We got there only a little later than I'd planned, but it turned out we should've planned a lot more time to check in because the lines were ridiculous. I was getting nervous about making the flight but after rushing to our gate, our flight wasn't even boarding yet. In fact, the plane wasn't even at the gate. That morning there were severe storms over Dallas -- the ONLY place in the country that morning with stormy weather. So after a weather delay and a delay not having the plane at the gate for some reason, they finally started boarding.

As we neared the end of the ramp going down to the plane, people started walked back toward us! "U-turn," one of the men said. There was something leaking on the plane and they had to wait for maintenance to come - apparently they thought it would be better for everyone to wait off the plane. So after another wait, we again were told to board. I think we finally took off from Dallas an hour & a half late.

The flight from Dallas to JFK was around 3 1/2 hours. Oy vey, with a newborn & almost 2 year old. (I should note that our flights going down to Dallas were totally smooth, on time & even early, and the girls did exceptionally well. Restless but no screaming fits.) The girls also did very well on the flight to NY -- though I think it was harder on Madison than Avery. Avery slept almost the whole time in Matt's arms. Matt & I were each in different rows (since there is only one extra oxygen mask per row & we each had a lap infant). The Lord was gracious to us though and the seat beside me ended up being empty, so Madison actually had her own seat rather than sitting on my lap for over 3 hours. Madison didn't nap other than a quick 15 minutes, but watching the little dvd player kept her occupied much of the time.

We knew after our delays that we would miss our connection unless the connecting flight had also been delayed. We got into JFK about 15 minutes after our flight was supposed to have departed. It turned out the gate we came into was right next to the gate we were supposed to depart from! And the board even said it was 'Boarding'! However, upon going to the customer service desk we were told that, in fact, the gate was already closed & we could not get on the plane. We were rebooked on the next (& last) flight of the day into Rochester -- which was 5 hours later. While we were hopeful this meant we'd actually make it home & not get stuck overnight in an airport, we cringed knowing it would be a loooonnng day for the kids.

We found a section of empty seats near an electric outlet so we could plug in the dvd player and plant Madison in front of it. She was sooo restless but she just wouldn't nap. She looked like a drunkard - staggering, falling down, bloodshot eyes. Plus she'd come down with a cold while in TX, so she was coughing & sneezing & her eyes were watering. We felt so bad for her.

We moved our kids & bags closer to our gate when it was nearing time to board. The status said our plane was "at gate", so we expected to board in no time. And then the departure time changed. I went up to the desk and asked what the updated status was. I was told we should be boarding anytime - they were just finishing cleaning the plane from the previous flight. And then the departure time changed again - each time 15 or 20 minutes later. I was getting sick to my stomach thinking we might not get home. At this point both girls were way past their bedtime and both were melting down. What would we do about cribs, carseats & diapers if we were stuck in the airport or had to go to a hotel? I went back to the counter & again asked for an update. I was told everything was ready to go on the plane, they were just waiting for the first officer -- and he was here, somewhere, they just couldn't find him. (!) Um, excuse me? You can't find him? Yes, they'd been paging him but couldn't find him. I asked, "So what happens if you don't find him?" "Oh he's here," I was assured. Craziness.

So finally we hear announced "Flight 6222 to Rochester now boarding..." and we gather up all our armloads of stuff, pick up the baby which wakes her up & makes her scream, and we get in line... only to be told 'No, no, we're not boarding Rochester yet, get out of line.' "But it was just announced," people were saying - still they acted like 'no, no, not yet'. So we sat back down & tried to quiet Avery. Again. After another wait we again heard the announcement to board and really got on the plane this time. I was so emotionally shot at this point and after all the delays, still not convinced we'd actually get out of there that night. Sure enough, after getting loaded on the plane, we heard the person behind us call the flight attendant and inform them half of their seat belt was missing. So because of that, we couldn't take off and had to wait for maintenance to first of all come & check it out, then see if they could even find another seat belt section. If they couldn't, they'd have to bump someone from the flight or not depart. At that point I just starting sobbing. I was so tired & stressed & sick to my stomach with the fear that we would not be able to leave. It was after 9PM by then. (We were originally supposed to depart by 2:30PM.)

They finally got the seat belt fixed. Matt said, "See? It's OK; we'll be leaving any minute." And yet we continued to sit there, and sit there. We watched other planes parked beside us load up & depart... and we sat there. Finally the pilot came on saying they had had another problem, this time with the cabin's a/c, but maintenance had fixed it and we'd be on our way. After a long time waiting in the takeoff line, it was our turn, and we were in the air. I just kept crying though, thinking every turn in the air was us turning around to go back with another problem. (I have had that happen before - turned around after an engine went out & had an 'emergency landing') Matt kept reassuring me we weren't going back though - that despite all the turns, we were still climbing, not going back down.

We got in to Rochester sometime around 11:30PM -- over 7 hours after we were supposed to. We went down to claim our luggage... and to top of the nightmarish experience, our luggage wasn't there. We waited for a while with a few others who also could not find their luggage, but there was no airline representative there to get information and, despite being told they would come down soon, we finally decided we could not & would not wait any longer. We were all too exhausted & we needed to get everyone home & to bed. The luggage issue would have to be dealt with later.

On the drive home, I called Delta and was told, "Your luggage is there. It's been there since 4:20PM." (!) I was like, "That's impossible!" Then I realized, no, it wasn't... While they wouldn't let us on our scheduled flight out of JFK, they obviously kept the plane there long enough to get our luggage on. UGGGGH!! So we had to drive to the airport the next day to pick our stuff up. At least it was there though, and not lost somewhere over the Great Plains. :-P

So that's the story, in all its horrific detail. Needless to say, after that, both Matt & I are swearing off flying for the next 10 years. :-P


Laura said...

OH MAN!!!! You guys are brave. And I'm so sorry all that happened. What a DAY!!! UGH! I think I would swear off of flying too!!!!

Niecey said...

You deserve some sort of award for getting through all that. I can't believe they loaded your luggage on that plane but wouldn't let you board it! That's like the final kick in the stomach when you're already down.

I'm all for road trippin' it. We have tons of flying nightmare stories of our own. But Road trippin' has always been fun.

Jennifer said... THATS a story! I know it must have been a horrific experience with two kids under the age of two!!! I'm just glad your home safely...and without swine flu!!!

Kinsleys4 said...

I used to like flying - now you can almost bet it won't go smoothly and you'll end the day stressed & crying. :-P Yeah I think we're going to stay on the ground for trips in the near future. Our trip to RI this past fall was sooo fun & relaxing. We had our own vehicle & could leave whenever we wanted, were on our own time table. We'll stick with that!

Sarah M. said...

Ugh, nightmare is about the right word. That was horrible! I am so sorry for you guys! And I thought the fact that Lauren didn't want to sit on my lap for 5 hours (not a single empty seat) nor watch her DVD was tough. Eeks. Thank God Matt was with you... can you imagine being alone with a toddler and that happening. (shudder) I hate connections and I hate traveling alone with a child. So glad you're home safe and sound.

Horrible Delta not to deliver your bags for you. United does...

May you all get rest and peace this weekend!

Kinsleys4 said...

Yeah a lady in JFK thought I was by myself with the 2 girls one time when Matt went to use the bathroom. She literally let out a sigh of relief when he came back and said, "Phew! I'm glad he's with you! I was trying to figure out how you were doing this yourself!"

Yeah funny thing on the delivering bags... I was told they could only do that if you filled out a claim at the airport & had a claim number... except there was no representative there to make a claim WITH! Frustrating. But, all in all, I had decided it would be worth having to make the drive back to the airport to go home when we did & get an extra 1/2 hour of sleep.