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Hell Flight


If this isn’t the longest day of my life, it’s at least in the top twenty—probably because it’s more like two days, literally.

Old man winter vented his fury on the New York area yesterday morning, just as I was to return home from visiting my folks: a foot or more of snow in a day. As early as 7am, flights scheduled to land that afternoon had been canceled pretty much across the board, and a lot of train and bus lines were shut down, as well. My flight was among them.

If this were the only problem, I’d just dig in for another day or three with my parents, camp out on the overburdened American Airlines customer service line until I got a much later flight, and wait out the storm. Sadly, that is not an option this year, as I’m also supposed to join the Coscolluela clan in the Philippines, on a flight taking off tomorrow. That schedule would not have left much time to pack and relax between flights even had everything gone to plan, but has become a nightmare now.

Thanks to an early-morning call from Eileene, I rapidly weighed my options, all bad, ultimately settling on an early trip to O’Hare, hoping against hope to get ahead of the crowd and catch an early flight today, fate granting the snow dies down. I got one. (Thanks, Kevin!) It takes me trough a connection in Charlotte, NC, and won’t get to New York until 1:30 this afternoon, and takes me to La Guardia rather than to Newark, but it’s a flight that will allow me to make the Philippines flight, and I’ve got a ticket, rather than merely being placed on standby. Things could have been ever so much worse.

That still leaves me with the vast gulf of time between 10am yesterday and 1:30pm today, plus a hefty hour-and-a-half drive from my folks’ place to O’Hare. A long, long day with no shower, no bed, no proper food, no companionship, and no secure internet access.


I said the situation could have been so much worse. It now is. LaGuardia closed, stranding me in Charlotte. Not only am I no closer to home, but the detour leaves me worse off: Charlotte offers far fewer alternatives than O’Hare, and if everything breaks down and I can’t get to the New York area at all—which seems likely at this point—I can’t (easily) get back to my parents. And now Eileene tells me Newark is accepting flights out of O’Hare. (Postscript: this later proved false.)

Infuriatingly, American seems to have no staff on hand. After dropping off its passengers, my plane promptly loaded a new batch and took off, leaving behind only one service rep, who was so rude as to reply, when I was paged by name to the service desk, “Well, I didn’t call for you.” She also simply turned and walked away as I sought help with my situation: alternative routes, reimbursement for canceled flights, or even some information on my options. Bitch.

Now I’m caught in an airport in a strange city, no friends or family near, due in less than 24 hours to depart Newark, and the airline I’m flying doesn’t even have any staff in evidence.


An hour or two has passed, and a new round of service reps came through. I had to wait through the boarding of some other flight, but this American staffer did what she could. The plan is now to travel via DC to Philadelphia, where Eileene will pick me up—a four-hour round trip for her even in good weather. She has to handle the packing for both of us and is having a thoroughly miserable time at home trying to handle the sudden travel complications while finishing pre-vacation work.

I just want to be home.


I reached DC only to learn that a third flight has been canceled out from under me. The Philadelphia airport is closed. After nearly two straight days of anxiety without sleep, shower, or decent food, I’m having a hard time thinking clearly. Panic is taking over.

In desperation, we’re giving up on the plane tickets. For another $179, Eileene purchased train tickets for me. I will travel from DC directly to Newark airport, there to make the connection to Shanghai on the way to Manila. I am now in the train station, waiting for a 3am departure. So tired. Can’t sleep, for fear of missing the train. There will be no time to return home; I must travel like this to Shanghai. (Honestly, even my arrival at Newark is later than it should be for a comfortable margin of error before a departing international flight.) I calculate that, by the end of the trip, I will have spent over 72 straight hours without bed, shower, or proper food.

There must be more thorough ways to make a person wish not to take a planned vacation than this, but none come to mind.

Postscript: Made the Newark connection, exhausted and a little crazy. The flight took off an hour late, causing us to miss our connection in Shanghai, along with considerable hassling from the officious and quite probably corrupt Chinese airport staff.

I should be thinking the hell of travel continues, but It’s not all bad. Not for me. Being forced to overnight in a hotel means I get a hot shower. And a bed. It’s rather small and hard as a board, but oh, god, it’s a bed…

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