Feb 232007

Kansas City AirportI have not been posting for the past week, but hope to get back to a more regular schedule.

Last week I’d traveled to Pittsburgh for meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. I was nervous about getting home from the time we landed after seeing the ground at the airport was already covered with snow. However, despite it snowing most of Tuesday afternoon, and on and off Wednesday, the roads didn’t seem to be bad. There was some rain that mixed in from time to time.

To get the latest possible return flight, I was taking a flight that had a change of planes in Charlotte. The problem was I only had about 35 minutes to make the second leg, and I’d specifically missed this same flight before. Because of the bad weather, we did wrap up our business earlier than planned, so we made our way to the airport where I got on the direct flight to Tampa.

Weather was straining the system, and the flight to Charlotte was eventually canceled. My flight was originally due out around 6pm. US Airways started the usual thing of delaying the flight 30 minutes at a time. Surprisingly, this delay was not weather related, but the plane was stuck in Boston with a mechanical problem (sound familiar).

By 9:30, the plane was still at the gate in Boston, so they had decided to use a plane already in Pittsburgh. The problem they were facing was this was the week before President’s Day weekend, and all the flights on Thursday and Friday were booked solid, so they knew it would be disaster to cancel this flight. (I mean you couldn’t seat on a plane going to any airport anywhere in Florida.) The flight crew was due in on a flight from Washington, but that flight was eventually canceled.

Finally they announced they had found a captain at the airport with some “legal time” left. They had a first officer coming from home, and a cabin crew coming from Washington. Of course, given the failure of the earlier flight to get out of D.C., I held out no hope that we’d get out of Pittsburgh.

Indeed, I was correct. at 11:15pm, they finally figured out that by the time the flight crew from D.C. got there (there was a claim they were in the air), the captain they had was going to run out of time before the cabin crew got there. So the flight was canceled. To his credit, a US Airways Supervisor got there, and was as apologetic as he could be, and was also honest about the lack of available flights. Now remember, while our delays were compounded by weather, the primary delay was the result of mechanical problems, putting more responsibility on the airline.

For those of you that love to self-book your flights on-line, here’s why I use our travel agent. I got in the quickly forming customer service line, and got on the phone to the 24 hour emergency call center for the travel agency. The lady there got me on a mid-west flight to Kansas City the next morning at 7:10am. From there, I’d be flying to Tampa. While speaking with her, I overheard the customer service people trying to find hotel rooms. Apparently they were running out. I got the travel agency to book me a room at the airport Marriott.  

I had to stay in line to get the US Airways person to endorse my ticket over to Midwest, and that seemed to take forever. Once I was outside for ground transportation, the hotel shuttles had quit running, and cabs were coming by at the rate of about one every 10 minutes. I finally got to the hotel at 1:30. Keep in mind, my outbound flight started at 7:10, which meant I had to get up around 4:45am….it was short night in a $250 hotel room (but worth it to be able to shower, brush my teeth, and change clothes).

It’s another long story, but Jim Wood and I nearly got stranded in Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago on the Thursday before President’s Day weekend. We only got home by flying to Atlanta, renting a car, and driving overnight. So I’ve set a new personal policy. There will be no flying by John Masters the week before President’s Day weekend. Apparently everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line comes to Florida that weekend.

The next morning, I was sweating making the very short 40 minute connection in Kansas City, as we had to de-ice and taxi all over the Pittsburgh airport. (I think we might have driven that plane downtown and back.) We had a new cabin crew of Midwest, so the flight attendant didn’t know it, but was kind enough to find out for me, that the plane I was on was the plane used for the Tampa flight, so even though we were running late, the Tampa flight definitely wasn’t leaving until we got there.

Midwest is a great airline. There planes are configured with the seats two and two rather than the usual three and three, and all the seats are leather. As nice as that was, it was the Midwest people that made it great. The Cabin Crew on both flights was excellent, and someone was waiting on me at the gate in Kansas City to get me my boarding pass to turn around and get back on the plane.

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