Over the New Year I had an opportunity to experience just how vulnerable airline travel is to the weather. I flew from Oakland CA to Washington DC to enjoy friends, family, and the city of Washington DC. The flight is usually about six hours.
However, my flight was about 30 hours.
And it was ONLY that long because I was lucky. Here is the tale.
I left my house in Oakland about 9 am and rolled my suitcase down to the BART train and caught the train to the Oakland Airport. This is a convenient way to go. At the Oakland Airport I was ready to fly about 1 pm, but the flight was delayed an hour because of storms in Dallas. By 2 pm I was on the plane, on the tarmac. By 3 pm I was still on the plane on the tarmac. Then the storm in Dallas was upgraded to a tornado. All flights were canceled by American from Oakland to Dallas and points east.
As I shuttled off the plane, I realize in this new era that I was ON MY OWN. No meal vouchers, no hotel, no nothing. I was given a piece of copy paper with an 800#. When American shuts down its Dallas operation, a piece of paper with an 800# is a cruel joke. You will never get through. So, I collected my luggage and went to check in.
By now it was about 5 pm. It appeared there was an American red eye out of San Francisco at 11 pm, arriving Boston about 7 am, then a flight 8:15 am or 10 am from Boston down to Washington DC. I took it. I got on the BART again and did a leisurely ride over to San Francisco Airport.
It was good that I had plenty of time. The lines were long for the check in to confirm the ticket. About two hours later I had ticket in hand. American was overwhelmed. Travelers were weary.
The 11 pm flight was delayed a little, which made the Boston connection chancy. I arrived at the Boston gate at 8:20 am and the door to the airplane had just closed. I watched the airplane taxi out. Oh well, I would fly down to Washington at 10 a.m. By 10 am, however, my flight to Washington was in peril. Fog had socked in the Washington airport. By 11 am there was still uncertainty. I had been up and en route about 26 hours at this point.
Then a truly sad thing occurred. An adjacent door to the jet ways opened and all the 8:15 people came into the terminal. They had been sitting in the airplane out on the tarmac since 8:15, about three hours. As the fog issue built, they could not fly. So they started to check in for future flights, of which there weren’t many. The planes were small American Eagle planes, with just a few seats. Now, if my 10 a.m. flight was canceled, all the 8:15 people would be ahead of me. Maybe I should just get a hotel in Boston for a couple of days.
But my flight was not canceled. At noon I took off, passing all the 8:15 people milling around in the terminal area. I was lucky. They were not. I doubted they got out of Boston that day. I was reminded how vulnerable we are as travelers to the whims of storms, tornadoes, snow, and fog. I considered myself fortunate that I got from Oakland, CA to Washington DC in only thirty hours.
When I get to Washington, the city has much to offer, at any time of the year I particularly have enjoyed it in the Spring during the Cherry Blossom festival. See my coverage on that.