Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Tribulations of Travel



Well, I haven't been around this poor little blog for 20 days! Is anybody still hanging around? Now, granted, 10 of those days I was running around back and forth to California for a couple of blogging events, so I guess my creative juices weren't flowing much the other 10.

I got to go to my first blog conference ever in San Francisco - more specifically a food blog conference. I didn't sleep well the night before to begin with because I had to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight, which means I had to get up about 3:30 in the morning, so I started out my San Francisco journey already exhausted.

From day one, start to finish, there was so much going on, that there was barely breathing time in between. Kind of sensing that, I didn't even bother with bringing a laptop with me, and as it turns out, I'm glad I didn't because it would have only been extra weight to lug around for no reason. As a conference attendee, there seriously wasn't a free second (or maybe it was enough leftover energy) to blog anyway, without sacrificing something, you know ... like sleep. I'll be blogging more about the conference experience over at Deep South Dish soon as I can collect my thoughts, so if you're interested in that kind of thing, stay tuned to check it out. I flew Delta in and out and back and, except for having to change planes in Atlanta due to a mechanical issue, it was otherwise uneventful for the most part.

Was home only for a few days when I had another flight out to Fresno, California to be able to experience both the harvest and production of pomegranates for POM Wonderful's fresh and juice divisions. That was a busy, but much more relaxed trip, and extremely interesting, so I'll be posting about that over at DSD soon also.

The trip home from Fresno however was a literal nightmare.

The airport there is tiny and apparently there is exactly one plane for the (not Delta) airline I was on, that flies back and forth between Fresno and Dallas all day long. After spending the entire morning on Saturday out in the heat in the orchards, several of us were dropped off at the airport around noon. After getting our boarding passes, going through security, and waiting nearly 2 hours for the flight time, we boarded and got everything stowed, only to have the pilot notify us that there was a gauge issue with the plane and they were waiting for a mechanic to come check it out. Trouble is? They have no on-site mechanic at the Fresno airport, and the on-call guy was at least an hour away.

So we deplane and sit in the terminal another nearly 2 hours, when they call us back for boarding. We get boarded, stowed and actually take off and are well into the flight when the pilot comes on, tells us there is a temperature issue in the tail of the aircraft and that we will have to return to the Fresno airport. Oh yeah. And don't be alarmed by the emergency vehicles on the ground - that's just standard procedure. Okay. After landing, we sat on the tarmac while some truck with a thermal reader checked the tail to make sure that we weren't on fire or something before we could safely return to the terminal.

So we deplane again, where we are handed a slip of paper with an 800 number that apparently we are supposed to call to try to arrange for a new way home. Trouble is, without an "official cancellation" of the flight we were on, the customer service people could not do much about rescheduling us. In fact, the people at the 800 number actually thought the flight was still in the air!

I collected my luggage and decided to go ahead and get into the ticket line with all of the other passengers while making my third call to that 800 number. I finally got somebody who, instead of saying without an official cancellation they could not help me, was willing to take the time to put me on hold and investigate and find out what was going on. It was hours later as I was sitting in the terminal waiting for my new 8:00 p.m. flight out of Fresno a full 6 HOURS after I was supposed to fly out - along with the original crew from the original flight who were also waiting - when I overheard the pilot receive a call and tell the flight crew that the flight was (finally) "officially canceled." What a fiasco!

Typically in this kind of situation, the airline puts you up in some crappy hotel overnight so you can catch a flight out the next day. Trouble is there were no available flights out the next day since they were all already sold out!!  Remember, there is apparently only one plane that flies back and forth between Dallas and Fresno all day long.  So, even if I had spent the night in Fresno, I would have actually had to stay in Fresno another night too, until Monday, and then still would have had to stay overnight in Dallas Monday night since I would also miss my rescheduled connection from Dallas to Gulfport and all other flights for that leg were already all sold out on Monday! Geez Louise.

Fortunately, the agent found me a way out, but it was not going to be pleasant. I ended up having to hang around the Fresno airport until 8:00 p.m. (remember I got there at noon), to catch a flight to Los Angeles, where I had to layoff until 12:45 a.m. Sunday to catch a red-eye to Dallas, arriving there at 5:30 a.m., where I could connect to my rescheduled (from the first gauge issue) 11:00 a.m. flight back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Thank goodness I was smart enough to get in the ticket line while trying to get help on that 800 number in Fresno, because several people in line ahead of me who gave up on the 800 number call, were told that flight to L.A. was sold out. I literally must have gotten the last seat on that L.A. flight.

I arrived at my home airport, a full 24 hours after I was originally supposed to originally be there, meaning yes, there was no sleeping for that full 24 period (ever tried to nap upright in an airport terminal seat while clutching your carry-on bag so that it stays in your "possession" at all times?) plus I had already been up since 5:30 a.m. the morning before and spent the morning in the hot sun of the orchards.  And my luggage? After all of that, and after charging me almost $50 for my one bag to travel round trip, I received my crushed luggage with a broken zipper and one of the legs busted off. Needless to say, as soon as I have enough energy to channel back my anger, I'll be writing a letter to this (not Delta) airline.

I won't even begin to go into the mess that I came home to, except to say that I was both exhausted and furious and I sure let my husband know how I felt. It took me a couple of days to recover from this entire experience and let me tell you, while I had a great time, and both trips were fun and educational experiences, there's certainly something to that saying, there is no place like home.

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5 comments:

  1. You poor girl. Wow. I hate flying, and that would have put me over the top!

    I can't wait to hear about your trip though. I was just telling my husband that I want to go to Blogher Food next year. :)

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  2. Welcome Home Mary...Not my cup of tea at this stage of the game. I have lost all desire to get on board a plane. And I cannot imagine what my house would look like with my 2 boys and DH at the helm...I wouldn't be a happy camper eaither...It does sound rather fun and adventurous, but for me not worth the trip with all the aggreavation and such...You are a trooper...and we will benefit from your exhaustion when you share your findings...We thank you for that. I hope the next one you go on will be smoother coming and going.

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  3. Welcome back Mary. I'm glad all these problems were found out before your plane was out too far. You're home safe and sound. I live in LA and I know the airport is NOT the most comfy place to wait. those seats are like rocks! I used to travel quite a bit when I did research projects, now im happy to only fly out of LA only a few times a year.

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  4. What an experience eh? Well, like Cyndy says, I was happy to have gotten off the plane right away and not have had some major issue happen way on halfway to Dallas because apparently that plane was broken. Everything happens for a reason right?

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  5. Well at least you were in the USA. Red had to ride the tube in London at 5am with his entire apartment crammed into 3 suit cases. Of course no one offered to help. He had to strap one to his chest. Then he had to unpack at the airport in order to level out the weight. Not to mention customs, the money exchanges, and just being an American.

    Welcome home! Can't wait to read about the conference.

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