Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Big Easy.....Part I Departure or Debacle?

Greetings and Happy New Year.  I have to say that really I never feel like a new year has rolled in it just feels like the same old same old.  Except that it takes me a while to write the proper year.  I am always writing the old year for a few weeks at least.

I thought I would share some  of my/our New Orleans (the Big Easy) adventures with you.   If you remember from earlier blogs I was off to NOLA with 2 friends for a stress and family free Xmas.  First Off the departure which in itself proved to be more complicated and debacle like than I had anticipated. With all my infinite travel wisdom I convinced my friends and myself that we keep our flight path to the west and south to ensure we avoided any weather delays such as snow storms etc.  Therefore we all had flights flying into Dallas Fort Worth were we were all to meet, greet and jet off to New Orleans... Little did I know...

I thought the only travel problems we would encounter would be busy airports.  Not so much.  When I got to the Vancouver Airport I breezed through security, there was basically no lines, and I thought this trip is off to a great start!  30 minutes outside of Dallas we were told that there was a backup of air planes trying to land so we would be circling overhead for ~40 mins.  Then we were told we couldn't circle for that long because we didn't have enough fuel (hello!) so we were being diverted to San Antonio, where we would refuel and be off again to Dallas.  Little did I know that a snow storm was raging in Dallas bringing with it the first snow in something like 80 + years to the city and the airport!

When we landed in San Antonio I checked my cell phone for messages because I was meeting my 2 friends in Dallas and didn't know their flight status.  I had a message from one of my friends so I called her back only to discover she was stuck in Portland, Oregon and our airline told her she couldn't get to New Orleans until 11:05 pm the following day - Christmas Day.  Thankfully she had family that was actually home in Portland who she was able to stay with. but it meant that she was missing a whole day of our trip. The saga was only beginning... 

When I finally arrived in Dallas it seemed to take forever to deplane, now after spending an extra 2 hours on the plane, with other angry travelers I was ready to get off the plane.  However, we just sat there waiting to be let off.  After 15 mins we were told that the door was having mechanical problems and couldn't be opened!  After about 30 mins and 4 people working on the door it finally opened and we were let out en-mass into the airport without any information about connecting, delayed or canceled flights.  So at 1 hour past my scheduled connection departure time I was told to go to gate D38 just down the corridor because there was a flight leaving for New Orleans.  I had no idea where my other friend was and actually thought she had made our connecting flight scheduled at 9pm.  You know I really hate it when airline agents pass the buck I mean could you just be honest.  Really is it that hard?  After I ran to gate D38 I was met with a lovely surprise NOT!  There was already a wait list of 70+ people trying to get onto the last departing flight of the day to New Orleans.  And I or my friend were not even on the list!

I couldn't get a single agent to help me either get on the wait list or even explain to me what was going on.  So I finally grabbed an agent because I had seen a man on  my flight from Vancouver to Dallas being escorted onto the New Orleans flight.  Now I have to admit that I was rather upset having received no help and no information so I took charge and grabbed for the agent and demanded to know what was going on?  How come that man got on the flight  what were my chances?  Only to be told that the man getting on was blind and therefore considered a priority.  Did I feel like an ass?  You betcha however,  after awaiting for another hour in a line that was going nowhere I wasn't feeling like such as ass!  Then I heard someone call my name and discovered it was my friend from Calgary.  Which was a relief because I at least now I knew where all our party members were.  What truly sucked was that after waiting in line for hours and running to other gate agents and back again to ours waiting in line it wasn't until 1 o'clock in the morning we finally got some help/information.

Well I don't know about help but we were told we were on the "wait list" but we couldn't get confirmed seats on a flight until 7 pm December 25th.  Which meant that we had to spend a total of 21 hours in the airport if we weren't lucky enough to get a hotel room.  Oh the joy.  And just when we accepted our delayed start to New Orleans Xmas hodown. We discovered that both hotels at the airport were sold out and that due to the weather and road conditions no traffic was coming to or leaving the airport.  But wait it gets better.  We were know searching for cots and blankets provided by the airport only to discover that they had run out.  That's right people run out!  I mean how is it possible for an airport of that size to run out of cots and blankets...yet it happened.

Again we accepted our fate and went in search of food for our Xmas eve/Xmas dinner only to discover that our only choice was the vending machine.  We each consumed a bag of Doritos and Ruffle sour cream and cheddar chips and a bottle of water.  I attempted to eat 1 really bad oatmeal cookie before realizing it was gross and had to be tossed. - so no Xmas pudding for us.  We attempted to sleep but the floor, cold and hard didn't exactly provide the best sleep and the worst part was that someone near us was snoring.  Now we weren't mad that he was snoring but that he was able to get to sleep on his nice cot with a stack of blankets.  The blankets were important because in the event of the snow storm no one had actually thought to either turn down or off the airport air-conditioning....and it was freezing...ahh good times!

After a sleepless night, a breakfast of champions at Mickey D's and some time in a nice warm sunny spot we made it to the gate for the first flight of the day (Dec. 25) to New Orleans.  Which you would think would be at like oh I don't know 8 am but no it wasn't scheduled to leave until 11:55 am!  When we got to the gate we were 3rd in line.  Only to discover that the couple in front of us who were in the same position had discovered that there names had been completely removed from the magical wait list that we had all been put on the night before.

It wasn't looking good folks!  We were definitely not liking our odds.  But the guy told us if they didn't get on the 11:55am flight he was going to make a BIG scene! We said we would be right there with him...quietly in the background supporting him and his rantings.  Thankfully we got a really nice agent who managed to get us all (everyone who had spent the night) on that flight.  By the way the agent had also spent the night at the airport sleeping in a chair in a staff break room.  Which was why she explained she was wearing a Santa hat!  I believe she felt our pain and tried extra hard to get us seats on that flight!

We finally arrived in New Orleans at 3:30 Dec. 25th only 16 hours past our original arrival time.  Our friend made it to New Orleans at 9:30pm 22 hours past her original departure time.  It was a bit of a bummer losing a whole day of our trip but really it could have been way worse and we were all just happy to be at our destination, drinking alcoholic bevies and looking forward to the next 6 days in the Big Easy hoping that that was the only hiccup we would encounter...

stay tuned for further NOLA highlights and adventures!

Food For Thought
I did not fully understand the dread term "terminal illness" until I saw Heathrow for myself.  ~Dennis Potter, 1978

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