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how to fly home in twenty-six hours or less

or, the reverse chronology of my vacation starting with the most ridiculous trip ever

I’m a fairly seasoned traveler. I’ve experienced my share of late flights, lost luggage, and frantically running to the gate while praying that your slip-on shoes don’t go flying off ahead of you. I’ve navigated labyrinthine airports and illogically labeled gates and spent more than one night trying to coax some measure of comfort out of unforgiving terminal furniture (which gives me perspective enough to say that Charles de Gaulle Airport is the worst).

So keep all of that in mind when I say that my most recent travel…mishap…is beyond anything I have experienced before, and while the airline has since made their amends with a travel voucher I have compiled the series of events for both my own reference and for your enjoyment. Because this totally happened.

 Saturday

12:30pm: Arrive at the airport a little over an hour before our scheduled take-off from Boston, heading to Dallas where I’ll catch my connecting flight to Austin. Having flown out of Logan numerous times, I know it can be pretty busy and I am slightly worried that I’m cutting it too close to the flight.

Hindsight says: hahahahahaHAHAHAHAHA

12:50pm: We’re due to start boarding, but the previous flight’s passengers have only just begun disembarking the plane. We assume it’s just a minor delay on their end, cutting things tight for those of us with connecting flights, but what can you do? Air travel is a fickle beast.

There is no communication from the airline reps.

1:25pm: We should have already taken off. After continued silence from the airline representatives at the desk, the screen behind them changes to show the delayed takeoff: 2:20pm.

2:00pm: We still haven’t boarded our flight. There is no communication from the airline reps.

Passengers who have been watching the windows say that they’re working on the plane’s landing gear (front wheel) and it doesn’t look like they’ll be done anytime soon. Someone claims to have seen “black stuff” pouring out of the front wheel area when the plane landed.

Status 1

2:20pm: Another change on the board shows another delay. We’ll now be taking off at 3:30pm.

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2:55pm: We still haven’t boarded. There is still no communication from the airline reps. Passengers who have actually gone up to get answers say the employees are being evasive, but the general gist of it is that they do not have the equipment on-hand to repair the landing gear. There are some sources saying that the equipment will need to be flown in from elsewhere.

Now the board changes to show the latest delay:

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3:30pm: Another delay. We’re taking off at 8pm and my connecting flight from Dallas to Austin, having been bumped several times already, has been rescheduled for Sunday morning.

(All FB posts are in CST, though events happened in EST. Hence the time discrepancies.)

(All FB posts are in CST, though events happened in EST. Hence the time discrepancies.)

With these new travel changes in mind, I get in line to ask about vouchers for food and/or a hotel room.

It’s a very, VERY long line.

Status 3

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I cannot emphasize this enough: the reps were not saying anything. No announcements, no explanations. N-o-t-h-i-n-g. Just twice having us come right up to the time of boarding and only notifying us of the changes by updating the screen behind the counter. They seemed nice enough, but the sense that we were in limbo was incredibly frustrating.

4:35pm: I’ve been in line for an hour. I’m still half a dozen people from the front. The board changes again…

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Within ten minutes, I’ve spoken to a rep and they’ve got a group of us on a new flight leaving Boston at 7:15pm. I’ll still be spending the night in Dallas, but at least I’ll be closer to home. I’m choosing to view this as progress. We’re given vouchers for dinner, so I feed and caffeinate myself before settling in for another wait. Throughout all of this, my family continues to be amazing.

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6:30pm: A storm rolls through, and grounds us until 8:30.

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Status 4

7:30pm: The fire alarm starts flashing. No one does anything. There are no announcements. The lights continue to flash for at least 10 minutes.

7:50pm: The screen reads that our flight (which should start boarding at any moment) is still ‘on time’ but it becomes clear that’s probably not happening.

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8pm: the board changes. Flight cancelled.

Word among the passengers is that our bags have already departed for Dallas, and while that turns out not to be true, the damage is done. People are angry. There is no announcement from the airline reps.

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Several looong minutes pass. Rumor has it that our flight has “no crew.” Then we hear, from one of the reps standing near edge of the crowd, that we’re not leaving because the pilot is too tired to fly. Oh, and don’t forget the part where they sent another plane on to Dallas with 27 empty seats because there were more than 27 of us (and an airline would never make arbitrary decisions about seating spare passengers). One passenger expresses his anger very loudly and rudely, and is escorted out of the airport. We also hear from the rep that, while the fire alarms is activated, the PA system doesn’t work. My brain is almost too tired to process any more ridiculous information, but that still doesn’t explain the lack of announcements FOR THE PAST SEVEN HOURS.

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Status 5

8:40pm: Over eight hours after arriving at the airport – I learn that I do have my bag, and a hotel room for the night, and a flight to Dallas at 7am. My connection to Austin will have me home around 2pm. I grab my bags and wait for a shuttle to the hotel. By the time I settle in, it’s well after 10pm.

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Status 6

Sunday

5am: After a glorious four hours of sleep, I’m back on a shuttle to the airport. With my airline-provided food voucher I get a coffee and a yogurt cup, and I hope that this is the last time I have to settle into these horrid terminal chairs.

6:30am: By the time I finally board the plane, I’ve been in Boston for 18 hours. To the travelers with whom I have harrowed this past day together, I exchanged brief waves and tired nods. I’ve never been so happy to be cramped onto a plane.

10:30am (CST): Dallas, at long last.

I find myself glad for the slightly longer layover, because the DFW Airport is laid out like some bizarre infinity symbol and I have to take a train to get to my correct terminal and also…

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…what is this thing? Is that a castle?

12:30pm: This is it. It’s actually happening.

Status 7

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2:30pm: I arrive home, greet my cats, and drop face-first into my bed to sleep for the next 18 hours. HA!

I’m glad to be home to my space and my girls, but the fridge is empty and I’ve got to get things together before the workweek begins, so I venture out to the store where the kind and friendly cashier asks,

“So how was your weekend?”