Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

My Photo
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting Home on Delta Wasn't Easy

Last week I detailed how Delta Air Lines compounded their early morning error into a long day of travel uncertainty, stress, and misery.  However, I didn't quite finish that story.  I flew to Houston and back from Raleigh for a ninety minute business meeting.  Sounds simple, but my day began at 4:15 AM, and I got home almost 20 hours later just before midnight.  

At the close of my previous post I had finally managed to get boarding passes straightened out for the two return flights (IAH/ATL and ATL/RDU).  I was prepared to collapse into my seat on the first flight and take a much-needed snooze after imbibing an adult beverage, maybe more than one.

After all, the airplane and crew were in Houston on time and seemed ready to go on time, and we boarded on time.  Just before the door was closed, though, the captain announced there was very rainy weather in Atlanta and a ceiling of 700 feet.  He predicted a "few minutes delay getting to our gate, at worst." 

I didn't believe him for a minute.  Just as my Bombay Sapphire G&T had been served, I tensed up for the umpteenth time that day. My connection time in ATL was less than an hour at best, and I knew from many similar experiences that lots could go wrong and probably would.  I decided to have only the one pre-flight drink and to stay alert.

The ride got extremely bumpy soon after we reached altitude and stayed that way, which didn't surprise me based on the captain's description of the weather.  The flight attendants were told to stay strapped in, so no one got another drink.  Once close to ATL, it took a lot longer to get slotted into the landing sequence than the pilot had been told.  

The ceiling was low all right, almost to the ground by the time we hit the tarmac, giving me my first view of where we were: way, way on the far south side of the airport on the most distant of the new runways.  I knew it would be a long taxi to our gate, and it was, a good 15 minutes of stop-and-go shimmying to cross active runways and to avoid the conga lines of planes queued up all over the rain-drenched airport.

Thank God for  As we shuffled along, I inquired via smartphone about our arrival gate (Delta no longer announces the arrival gate or connecting flight gates as they used to): A9, not too bad a location.  But I groaned upon seeing that my connecting flight was E1, a darn long hike from A9.  And it showed my connecting flight posted on time, too.

By the time we arrived at the gate, I had 15 minutes to make my flight.  I ran all the way down the A concourse to the escalator, dodging the large, lethargic crowds (people wandering around airports always seem to be either confused or in no hurry), then brushed past everyone standing on the down escalator (Americans are notoriously reluctant to walk down escalators even when unburdened by bags), and barely made the "Plane Train" (you'd think the ATL airport authority could have come up with a more clever name).  

Once off the train at E, I bounded up the escalator (causing many heads to turn--no doubt few Americans are ever seen walking, let alone running, UP an escalator unless the law is after them), then sprinted the length of the concourse to the very end to reach E1, arriving just about one minute prior to departure time.  

There, to my astonishment, I found the gate open and welcoming.  They seemed to be holding the plane for me.  Could it be?  Out of breath, but grateful, I profusely thanked the gate agent taking boarding passes for waiting for me.  

"Oh, we are not waiting just for YOU," she drawled, "We're waiting for a LOT of people."  

I should have reaffirmed my gratitude, but I was having trouble recalling many Delta flight connections in the last three decades that have waited on anybody.  Sure, this was the last flight to RDU that night, but that never stopped Delta from leaving me behind before.  

Mainly, though, I felt foolish that I had run like a madman from one end of the airport to the other, only to find that I could have lollygagged along and made my flight without penalty.  Nothing on the Delta screens indicated the plane would wait.  I sullenly boarded in silence.

Oh well, I thought.  I took my seat and kept my trap shut, deciding I was lucky that I made it and should lower my expectations.  I imbibed another Bombay Sapphire G&T and nodded off.  After a bone-shaking ride all the way from Atlanta due to the bad weather, we arrived RDU only about a half hour late, and I got home by midnight.  Despite the manifold trials of travel, I was grateful to have made it out and back again and still be in one piece.


Post a Comment

<< Home