Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

And I'm back in the States again. Pond-hopping is clearly one of my favorite activities, this time for a quick week of Mother's Day festivities and maternal bonding. And yes, I know i was just back here.

The trip this time was an eventful one.

Originally, I was going to book the cheaper, yet lengthier, itinerary on Delta/NW/KLM: Glasgow-Amsterdam, Amsterdam-Detroit, Detroit-BWI. All in the attempts to avoid Dad having to schlep down to Dulles during rushhour on a Thursday evening. Going with Delta would have been annoying with two connections, but on shiny planes that I loved (E190, A330, DC-9 -- though okay, not so much with the love there), with comfortable connection times. A pain in the butt itinerary, but one I was secretly looking forward to.

The other option was the much more sensible, logical, environmentally friendly one: Glasgow-Newark, Newark-BWI. Continental. It's the only year-round schedule Glasgow-USA flight, and typically, when you hop in a taxi at 6:30am, heading for the airport and you tell the driver you're headed for the States when he asks where you're traveling, he'll nod and say knowingly, "Ahhhh, Continental?" That's what happens when your airport only has ONE US-bound flight a day (though right now, Thomas Cook runs charters to Orlando and later in the spring, USAir will start up their Philly service).

So after some shaming from Gabriella about taking the most direct route, I decided no more game-playing, I was doing the quick and easy Continental hop, crossing the ocean in a 757-200 (a plane way too small for a seven hour flight, but that's another story), fitted with PHENOMENAL in-flight entertainement (50 movies, including all five Harry Potters, as well as Back to the Future), two decent meals, and a reasonably friendly crew. Pre-take off? Things seemed peachy.

Too good to be true? Probably is. Because when things seem easy and smooth to start, something's going to go wrong.

Like, a seatbelt sign that the captain leaves on all flight, even through hours of smooth sailing, leading everyone (including Flight Attendants) to ignore it, and it becoming the Seatbelt Sign That Cried Wolf, which then turned slightly problematic when actual turbulence started.

Like, massive thunderstorms in Newark midway through the afternoon as I waited for my 5pm hop to BWI.

Like, the cancelling of said 5pm flight, and bumpage to the 9:45pm flight instead.

Like, every flight out of Terminal A being delayed or cancelled, madness in the terminal, pilots camped out on the ground because there's nowhere for them to sit and no one will give them a seat (I'd personally like my pilots comfortable and rested), and a man having an actual heart attack right next to Starbucks.

Like, my now 9:45pm flight being delayed until 11:50pm.

Like, Continental then being kind and sticking me on an on-time 7:15pm flight to DCA, departing from Terminal C.

Like, me sprinting to Terminal C to try to make the flight, only to find out that while the plane is there, the crew is not, because they're inbound on a flight that's late.

Like, me being sent to customer service by the gate agent because I'm having a very hard time dealing with the fact that by the end of it all, I will have been at Newark for anywhere from nine to twelve hours, when BWI is a mere four hours from it in actuality.

Like, after an hour in the customer service line, the agent taking pity on me, giving me a hotel and food vouchers for the night, and a seat on the first flight out in the morning instead.

It was just a maddening travel day. And while I know none of these things were actually Continental's fault (on the contrary, they were GREAT to me. When's the last time I could say that about a legacy carrier?), it was just so draining. What's worse? The cheaper Delta flight into BWI? Landed on time.

The next morning, after passing out in a king-sized bed at the Holiday Inn - Edison, I was headed back to EWR and Terminal A where my BWI-bound flight was set to depart, only to find that (of course) it had been moved to Terminal C. Back onto AirTrain and a-sprinting went I. 20 minutes later, I was sitting at the gate, free (thanks, Continental!) Starbucks in hand, waiting to board a teeny ERJ-145. From there, it was a smooth 36 minute flight down to BWI, way ahead of schedule.

All of that, nine hours at Newark on Thursday, an overnight, and another hour on Friday, for 36 minutes flying time.

And while, yes, it was all worth it to see the look of surprise on my grandmother, mother, and aunt's faces, next time I'm going with my airplane geeky gut and booking the flight that I want to take, on the planes I want to fly in, rather than go with the on-paper easier option. I'd gladly connect in both Schiphol and Detroit in lieu of setting foot in Newark.

At least my return is a straight shot: Newark-Glasgow. Hopefully, as Mary J. Blige says, with no more drama. And fingers are crossed that all five Harry Potters are still an option!


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