Monday, August 11, 2008

My Day at PHL

So, yesterday was a very interesting day...don't take this as complaining, I really was blessed to get out of that airport yesterday. There were many others that were not able to do that. I've just never had a traveling experience close to that in all my years of travel, so I figured I'd share...since we have a blog.

My flight to Dallas from Philly was supposed to leave at 8:50am. We left the house at 6am and got to the airport around 7am. I went to one of those kiosks to check in since I wasn't checking a bag. Out printed this:

I turn around and there is this really long line at the ticket counter labeled "International check-in." I am sure I looked confused, as the lady behind the counter looked at me and asked what flight I was on. I told her and she said, "Oh that was cancelled." So, I got in line with everyone else. The reason we were told was "missing equipment." I have since learned that "equipment" usually refers to the plane, so I would assume that the plane was missing.

While in line, my brilliant husband who I unfortunately just woke up by calling, told me to call the 800 customer service number. I did and the helpful lady re-booked me on a flight to Miami and then on a later flight from Miami to Dallas, then from Dallas to Waco (there were no seats available at that time on a direct flight from Philly to Dallas). My plan was to get to Miami, have lunch with my parents, and then go home. I had about three hours to kill before my flight to Miami was supposed to take off, so I decided to wander around the airport. Look at all the fun things I found!!!

This is a full-size replica of the Liberty Bell made out of legos (complete with the inscription!):

One of the US Airways football planes (Carolina Panthers):

I saw the Philadelphia Eagles plane at a gate when I got to the airport, but by the time I got to that gate, it was's a picture anyway:

I then decided to sit down in a rocking chair that had a direct view of my gate and work on some projects:
About 11am, I went to the gate and found the flight had been delayed to 12:25, then 1:00, then 1:30pm, then 2:00, then 4:10, then 6:30, then 8:30pm and eventually it was cancelled. While I was waiting, I took this picture:

Think of all of the pairs of feet that have walked this walkway...I know I have at least 25 times...It boggles the mind...amazing.

Around 1pm, the plane that was supposed to take us to Miami arrived, but the airport had closed due to severe weather, so there was no one to attach the little blue cart and pull it into the gate. So, it sat there, with lots of people on it for an hour.

We watched, hoping someone would come, at least to let those poor people off the plane. After an hour, someone did:

After the Miami flight had been delayed to 4:10, I realized I would miss the connection to Dallas from Miami, so I stood in line and called customer service again. While I was on the phone with that representative figuring out my options (I could fly to Chicago, then Dallas; or, I could fly to Memphis and then to Dallas. I told her I'd rather wait for a direct flight to Dallas from Philly, so at least if I was stuck, I was stuck somewhere familiar). No other airlines had seats, while she was checking, a seat opened up on a direct flight to Dallas that was supposed to leave at 5:00, which she said I was confirmed on. She told me to go to the gate and ask for a boarding pass with a seat on it. Every gate in my terminal had a HUGE line of people, all like me, who were stranded and trying to figure things out with ticket agents. It was nuts.

So I got to the counter where my flight was supposed to leave from, and the line was so long I knew I would never be able to get my boarding pass in time to make the flight. I finally walked up to the counter (which I didn't want to do, because it was cutting in front of a bunch of people, but I really wanted to get home and I wouldn't have been able to make that plane if I had stayed in line). The captain of the Philly to Dallas flight saw me and offered to help. After about 15 minutes, they realized that I didn't actually have a confirmed seat. The pilot tried to get me on his flight, but wasn't able to do that. He apologized (this wasn't even his job!) and I was instructed to get in another line that was thankfully shorter. I got up to the desk and tried to explain my day. The lady behind the desk asked me, "Are you Bethany Brown?" I said yes and she said, "I'm so sorry for all you've been through today!" The pilot had told her about the first three cancelled flights, the 800 number representative confirming me on his flight and me not actually getting a seat. She got me (somehow, I really think God intervened here) on a new flight to Dallas that was supposed to leave at 5:45. YAY!

I got on that plane with a bunch of nice other people and even had a window seat (double bonus!). We got to the runway and saw boatloads (would that be planeloads?) of other planes on the runway. The pilot came on and said there were actually 40 planes on the runway waiting to take off and the control tower wouldn't tell him what number we were. While we were in line, this series of really bad thunderstorms came through.
This is kind of a tough picture to decipher. The wing of the plane is coming out to the left, then the runway, a strip of grass, the other runway, and some buildings. The light is the sky, and the dark next to that is the storm. It was nuts (and I grew up in Miami and live in Texas, so I've seen some crazy thunderstorms). At this point, I'm praying that they don't just give up and take us back to the terminal and also that we don't get struck by lightning-being in a metal tube in the storm and all).

Just then, I saw this:

Double rainbow...if you're familiar with the story of Noah, the rainbow was a promise from God. It was awesome & encouraging to see!!!! The whole plane of people were ooh-ing and ah-ing at it. It was really pretty.

After 2 hours or so, the storm passes and we find out we are 5th in line to take off! By this point, I've missed the last flight to Waco from Dallas, but thankfully, Jeff was coming to pick me up in Dallas. The plane took off, people cheered and clapped. The plane landed, people cheered and clapped. Overall, everyone was really friendly and glad to at least get somewhere. It was cool to be with a group of people who, for all the day had brought them, still had a good grip on things and were looking for the bright side.

I got to Dallas, saw Jeff and didn't let go for a while. Then we went back to the car and he handed me a bottle of Dt. Mt. Dew (he's seriously the most thoughtful guy I've ever met). We left the airport for Waco and I actually fell asleep in the car, which I've never been able to do successfully (sorry Jeff!). I got home at 12:30, greeted my kitten, and went to bed. It was a long day.

Here is my collection by the end of the day (after one of the gate agents had taken a couple of my others):

As stressful a day as it was, I did get to see lots of cool things. There was a service man named Jason in the army who was coming back from Iraq for the first time. To see him walk through the doors past security into the waiting arms of his wife, mom, kids and others who had come to greet him was awesome. I admit I teared up thinking how badly I wanted to see Jeff and how this wife probably hadn't seen hers in months, if not a year or more. There were lots of flash bulbs and shouts of "Welcome Home!"

Look at these bubbles, aren't they cool?!
It also made me extremely grateful for all the other times I have traveled and not had any problems.

Many gigantic thank yous go out to the dear friends that got up at 5am to take me to the airport and let me stay with them!! HUGE thank yous also go out to the nice pilot of AA flight #1415 who tried his hardest to get me home, even though it wasn't close to being his job (I gave him a hug- he was awesome). Thanks to the helpful flight attendant, Melissa, and the gate agent who got me home. Thanks to the service men and women who fight for freedom and don't get to see their families for extended periods of time.

I'm also thankful for this guy! (hey, I have to work in an Orbit picture...)


Steve Ballmer said...

good blog people!

kimkitty81 said...

I'm glad you finally made it home okay!

Jennessa said...

wow.... i finally read the trip. I can't believe we missed each other in the airport!

Can't wait to see you when you eventually get back here! :)