The Misery of Flight: Spring 2017
by John Delach
I have a stock answer to anyone who asks: “What would you do if you won an obscene amount of cash in the Powerball or Mega Millions lotteries?”
I reply, “Don’t ask me what I would do, ask me what I would never do again.”
My answer: “I would never fly commercial again!”
Our flight on March 11 to Las Vegas on Jet Blue Airlines was scheduled for a 4:55 PM departure from JFK with an arrival at 7:52 PM Pacific Standard Time, (10:52 PM EST.) Before we even left our home for a 2 PM pick-up, Jet Blue informed us that departure had been delayed until 6:23. Naturally, we’d already booked our car service so off to JFK we went. Making the best of it, we sat down for an early dinner during which a new Jet Blue alert pushed departure to 6:48. That subsequently became 6:58 and finally 7:30.
There is much to observe in an airline terminal when you have seemingly endless time on your hands. To begin with, security could have been a nightmare. It was jammed with passengers snaking their way through multiple switchbacks that led to inspection stations. Fortunately, we have TSA pre-check so we breezed through. But 95% of the passengers checking in that day did not. Mary Ann pointed out, “Of course they don’t. Look at them; they’re college kids on spring break.”
Being a punctual person, it amazed me how casual late arriving passengers can be. The attendants managing the gate adjacent to our waiting area almost begged passengers by name that “last call” had been announced and that they had to board now. Still, about five minutes later, all four of these passengers chose to make their seemingly relaxed appearance, presented their boarding passes and boarded as if this was the natural way to act. Had that been me, I’d be in the heart center or the psyche ward!
As the afternoon began to darken into evening, a man quietly joined me and sat down in a remote corner off to the side. I didn’t notice him until he placed paper towels on the rug, removed his shoes and placed his stocking feet on the tissues. He quietly recited his evening prayers without any drama or fuss. I afforded him his privacy and he cleaned up and left when he finished.
A short while later, a woman sat down in the boarding area. She was totally absorbed in a loud conversation via her mobile phone until at one point she noticed her surroundings. She abruptly ended the call and asked an attendant what time her flight would leave from that gate. Looking perplexed, he answered, “It has already departed from a different gate.”
Faced with the realization that she had talked her way into missing her flight, her only response was: “When is the next flight?”
Our flight, (would you believe #711,) left shortly after 7:30 and finally arrived in Vegas about 10:15 PST, (1:15 EST.) We collected our three bags; rode the bus to McCarran Airport’s consolidated car rental facility, selected an auto and made it to Hilton’s Elara Hotel by 11:30 PST.
Nearly dead on our feet, we arrived at the hotel only to enter a different world filled with a multitude of young, nubile women on their way out to participate in Vegas’ Saturday night scenes. Heavy make-up and eye liner set the tone as did their platforms and stilettos. They wore competing, revealing and incredibly tight miniscule dresses or micro skirts that screamed, “Look at me.” They quickly yet delicately crammed their bodies into waiting stretch- limos and SUVs that whisked them away into the night. Welcome to Vegas; what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Our stay was considerably less lively, a stay that included two visits to Lake Mead for a cruise a visit to Hoover Dam and a hike along the old rail trail that included walking through five tunnels..
As an aside, on Thursday, I received a notice from American Airlines that a non-stop flight I had reserved for June 10 from Tucson, AZ to JFK had been cancelled and I was being re-routed via Phoenix. My five-hour flight would now take eight hours!
I thought about my new dilemma with American when we returned to McCarran for our flight home. No need to guess, our New York flight was a repeat of 711. Jet Blue #748’s take-off time of 2:10 PM was delayed in increments until 3:35.
I used part of Jet Blue’s problem to work on my American problem and managed to arrange better flights that hopefully will shorten that trip to six hours. I noted to Mary Ann: “You have to admit that things are really screwed up when you spend one airline’s snafu taking care of another airline’s snafu.”
Our fellow passengers were understandably subdued coming off Vegas stays.
As we began to board at 3:25, we received a new electronic notice delaying it until 4:10. This notice was too late to stop the process. Since the staff had commenced boarding, the crew was officially on–the-clock and Jet Blue had no choice but to complete the boarding, clear the gate and park in a penalty box until Air Traffic Control (ATC) released us. The pilot was as frustrated as we passengers and actually announced over the PA: “I’m not kidding, if any of you know someone who is an ATC, call them and see if they can get us out of this mess.”
Flight 748 finally reached JFK at 11:55 PM EDST. As passengers stood and prepared to exit the airplane, the captain had one more surprise: “Ladies and gentlemen, it appears there is a problem with the Jetway. They can’t get it to make contact with the airplane and a repair crew is on its way.”
Twenty-minutes later the hatch finally opened freeing us to go to baggage claim to find our luggage. Thankfully, our driver was waiting but we didn’t reach home until about 1:15.
No mas, por favor, no mas.