I was visiting my parents and friends in Nebraska. The way out was marred by a late plane, such that I had to do a mad dash through the Newark airport to make a connection. You see, one of the downsides to living in Ithaca and having family in Lincoln is that it is currently impossible to travel from one place to the other in less than three flights, because they hook up to different hubs. Two flights can only be done if I have someone with a car to get me to a bigger city.
Anyway, I was booked on the first flight to Chicago out on Wednesday, at 6 AM. At 3 AM, I get a text saying that my plane was delayed until 10:30. I think, 'that can't be right -- what would delay a plane by over four hours?'.
So Mom and I rise at 4 AM, and I tell her about the text, but we decide to make the trip to the airport anyway. Foolishly, I notice that the check-in line is packed, but don't connect the two facts; anyway, I checked in online and have no bags to check. So, Mom sees me off.
Eventually, I figure out they really did mean 10:30 AM and go back down to the desk. I'm not going to say how long it took. The clerk tries her hardest to get me a new flight, but in the end she has to route me through a different airline. And I have a five-hour layover in Philadelphia and wouldn't get back to Ithaca until 10:30 PM. I also find out that 10:30 is because they need a part that isn't in the city of Lincoln, so we have to wait for the first flight from Chicago to arrive and the maintenance crew to repair the plane.
So, I call Mom, since I could at least get a nap out of this, since the plane isn't likely to take off earlier than 10:30. Mom has gone to work at this point, so has to drive back. And, on the way, she offers a suggestion: if a quicker route exists tomorrow, why not take that? More wrangling with the clerk, but I get an itinerary that involves changing airlines but does get me to Ithaca in the mid-afternoon tomorrow with no long layovers. So, home to nap! And to surprise my little brother, who didn't know why I was still here, having slept through the drama (and my return home -- he didn't notice until I came out from the bedroom around 10 AM looking for tea and brunch).
But that's not the end of it, gentle readers. You see I received my boarding passes for the next day, and here I must speculate. There exists some regulation that prevents check in more than 24 hours before a flight: my first flight was within that at the time we changed my flights to Thursday, but the next two weren't. Moreover, they were in the magical land of being on US Airways flights but booked through United. The Chicago to Philadelphia one was even a true code-share -- it counted under both airlines.
I arrive at the airport tomorrow and have an uneventful flight to Chicago. The Chicago gate listings are... confused, but I find the right gate and even ask the US Airways desk clerk if I'm in the right place. She tells me that, since my ticket is from United and has no Boarding Zone, I'll be boarding as Zone 5, the last group.
So, we board, and when she scans my ticket, the computer doesn't recognize it. I step aside and the clerk consults her computer, which tells her that I'm not checked in. She tries to check me in, since obviously I'm present and someone printed me a boarding pass -- normally, this is against FAA regulations to allow a check in less than 30 minutes before takeoff, but maybe there's some latitude for communications errors. Unfortunately, since she's on the US Airways computer network and my ticket was bought through United, she has to call their people to ask them. Meanwhile, everyone is boarded and the plane crew wants to know if they can go ahead and continue their pre-take off procedures. Which means closing the plane doors.
The desk clerk does a quick mental calculation and decides that she can either delay the plane for me -- who knows how long, since United is not picking up the phone -- or reschedule me. She elects to reschedule -- which I don't fault her for, since I imagine her superiors would be cranky about her delaying a flight on her own authority.
Anyway, the next US Airways flight is 2 hours later, enough to make me miss my connection to Ithaca. However, United has a flight in an hour which gets me to Philadelphia in time to keep my existing connection -- and, since it was their screw-up, the clerk has no problem asking them if they can seal me on that. So, the rest of the day was uneventful, aside from a bit of turbulence before landing in Ithaca.
Wait, I did get to hear someone marvel at how small the Chicago-Philadelphia plane was. Since it was probably the biggest plane I'd used that day -- though it was small for a flight between two large cities -- it made me laugh. Not out loud; that would have been rude.