Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Georgia on My Mind

If you will recall, I always have an adventurous time when I fly (If you missed these tales, just peruse the posts labeled "Flying").  Last month I had a meeting in Grand Rapids, & this trip was no exception...

I have a friend, Beth, who lives near Chicago who also would be attending the meeting, so I decided to fly to Chicago, stay with her for a day, then we'd drive down together for the meeting.  Another member of our meeting squad, Alicia, recently moved to BC, & we encouraged her to join us for our mini road trip, but she couldn't make it work.

I flew out to Chicago  Monday afternoon.  A straight shot, one flight, no problem.  We spent the next morning thrift shopping, & enjoying some delicious donuts.  My friend Allison used to live in PEI & now lives within a few miles of Beth, so Beth & I decided to go visit her for coffee that afternoon.  While we were there Beth keep getting texts from a number she didn't recognize.  After we left Allison's, she checked the messages, & they were from Alicia.  Her flight was delayed, then cancelled, & the airline wanted to fly her through Chicago, have her stay in a hotel overnight, then fly down to Grand Rapids.  The three of us decided a better, & more fun course of action would be for us to pick her up in Chicago, & she could drive down with us the next day.  Sometimes flight problems end up better than planned!

After our meetings, it was time to head home.  My flight plan was Grand Rapids-Atlanta-Calgary-Vancouver. I decided since I was travelling alone that I'd offer to be bumped.  I figured with 3 flights my chances were pretty good.

The first bump in the day was the security line.  I have NEXUS, so I can go through the Trusted Traveller line in the airport, but I have had it twice now in Grand Rapids that they do not view NEXUS as the same as TSA Pre-check, so I had to go through the regular line.  (I have since discovered when you're checking in online you have to enter your NEXUS number as the "Known Flyer Number", then I can use the quick line.  It's like they try to make it difficult!)  Now, whenever I go to the States, I usually stock up on some of the candies & foods that I can't get in Canada.  I had to take all the food out of my bags.  Apparently I forgot to remove the box of Suzy-Qs from my suitcase, so they had to open the suitcase, open the box & check them.  Then I had the joy of repacking them all.

When I got to Atlanta I went to the counter for my flight to Calgary which was scheduled for 5pm. They were over booked but didn't seem all that concerned about it.  There were several people in line trying to get seats on the flight.  There was a couple that the man had a seat, but the woman didn't, there was a lady trying to get tot Calgary for a transplant, & a few others. So when I got to the ticket agent I said, "I'd be willing to give up my seat."

The agent said, "You're volunteering?"

Me: "Sure, I'm not in a rush."

Agent: "Would you need a hotel?"

Me: "I don't think so."  I figured I'd maybe get a morning flight, but it's a lot of hassle to leave the airport & try to get a morning shuttle back in time for the flight.  I could handle a night in the airport.

The boarded all the other passengers & the ticket agent said, "Ok, see you tomorrow!"

Me: "What is my new flight info?"

Agent: "Same time, same place."

Me: "Oh... could I get some food vouchers?"

Agent: "I should be able to get you some.  Hang on."

He got on the phone to whoever deems people worthy of food vouchers, & he keep saying, "She volunteered."  Apparently, since I had not used the word "Bumped", & the airline had not asked for people to be "Bumped" I was just a kind soul who bequeathed her seat to a lady so she could fly with her husband...  The airline deemed me unworthy of food for my troubles.

The agent took pity on me & said, "Come with me."

So, I followed him a short way down the hall, to an ATM, where he took $20 out of his own account & gave it to me.

So, I had 24 hours to wait in the airport, & $20 American dollars!

I wandered around a bit, decided to have dinner at TGI Fridays (why NOT have a long leisurely supper, it's not like I was rushed for time!), then found a Delta customer service desk & attempted to become their new best friend.  Since it was still more than 12 hours before my flight, I had not been given a boarding pass, & no one could print me one since there was not a WetJet desk inside the terminal.  If I wanted to talk to WestJet personnel, I could leave the security area & go to the main area of the terminal, but I didn't want to get stuck outside of the area where the amenities were, & have to deal with re-entry, especially since I had no boarding pass.  It looked like I'd have to take some lessons from Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal".

I spoke with a few Delta agents, & they told me that since the ticket was WestJet, they couldn't rebook me on any other flights, only a WestJet person could.  Since I have a Canadian cell phone, they let me use one of their phones & call the WestJet helpline.  I spoke with a very pleasant man who tried in vain to help me, but since my flight was booked through a travel agent, even WestJet couldn't release my ticket to another airline.  He could rebook me on other flights, but the only way from Atlanta to Vancouver involved more stops than the one I had in Calgary, therefore it would cost the airline more to transfer me, so he was powerless.

He asked me, "How did you get yourself into this position?"

I said, "Apparently I 'volunteered' to give up my seat instead of being asked to be 'bumped'."

Agent: "Oh I'm sorry to hear that.  You sound like a very nice person though!"

Me: "Thanks!  Would you like to reward my kindness bu getting me out of here sooner than tomorrow at 5pm?"

Agent: "I would like to, but there's unfortunately nothing I can do."

So I went back to talk to the Delta ladies& they kindly gave me a blanket, a travel kit with toiletries, & told me where the area with the comfortable chairs was.  I headed that direction, since it was now 10pm, & I wanted to get a good spot.  The area I'd been told about had big wide cushioned seats that were moveable & didn't have armrests.  I maneuvered 2 chairs so I had comfy couch I could stretch out on.  I had my laptop with me, so I found a movie to watch & settled in for the night.  I managed to sleep quite well, despite the location of my accomodations.  About halfway through the night another traveller left their little couch/bed, & left behind a blanket & a pillow.  I snuck over & claimed them.  When I awoke in the morning I was very confused trying to figure out what had happened to the extra blanket & the pillow... Turns out, that was just a dream, there was no extra blanket or pillow, but perhaps I slept better since I believed I was warm & comfortable!

In the morning I made my way to McDonalds for a delicious Egg McMuffin, the breakfast of champions!  I still had 7 hours until my flight, so I decided to look for souvenirs & see if anything really got my attention...

Did you know there's a train in the Atlanta airport?

Did you know there's a moving walkway in the basement of the Atlanta airport?

Did you know one section of the basement is made to look and SOUND like a jungle in the Atlanta airport?

Did you know there are 7 concourses in the Atlanta airport?

Do you know the Concourses are labeled T, A, B, C, D, E, F?

I made it to every concourse except T.  I decided to leave something for next time.

I rode the train from one end to the other, around the end of the line (where you are supposed to get off, but I didn't feel like it).

I walked over 12 km (7miles) in the 24 hours I was in the Atlanta airport.

I ate at PF Chang's for the first time in my life while I was in the Atlanta airport.

I was given a free glass of champagne at PF Chang's while I was in the Atlanta airport!

I discovered I don't like champagne when I was at PF Chang's while I was in the Atlanta airport!

I discovered champagne is not improved by having Dr Pepper added to it when I was at PF Chang's while I was in the Atlanta airport!

I visited several souvenir shops, & found many different shirts...

Should I get a "Georgia" shirt?  No, I can't really say that I have seen much of Georgia.

Should I get an "Atlanta" shirt?  No, I haven't seen much of Atlanta either.

Then I found the souvenir I needed...

A hoodie, with the Atlanta airport code!

As I wandered around the airport I realized I had been in the airport too long.  I was beginning to get amused by the strangest things...

"No, YOU thart!"
Why did they choose to do the lettering colouring that way?  It made no sense to me...

It was getting closer to my departure time, so I headed off to my gate.  It was the same group of agents as the day before.  The $20 man said, "Are you finally going home?"

Me: "I'm going to try!"

Agent:" Well, the flight's pretty full, who knows, you could get another day here!"

Me: "Only if it's worth my while!"

Agent: "You should have waited about 10 minutes yesterday.  We would have asked people to be bumped & you could have been compensated."

Me: "NOW you tell me!"

Agent: "Yeah, when you volunteer you get nothing.  You got to be BUMPED!"

Amazingly they did not have more guests than seats, so I managed to make my way onto the flight.  I even got a window seat!

In Calgary we had to go through customs, & after that you exit into the main area of the terminal, & you have to go back through security to get your next flight.  I was in the "Trusted Travelers" line (I had read through all the rules during my stay in Atlanta, so I knew where to put int information in when I checked in).  I was waiting behind a mom with a crying toddler who was having some trouble getting all their stuff put on the table because of all the tears & sadness the child was bringing on her journey.  A man lined up behind me, & then a security agent came up with a woman in a wheelchair beside me, & the wheelchair lady's entourage.  The man behind me decided he had waited long enough, said, "excuse me," & pushed past until he was behind the crying toddler.

Now, remember, I had been in airports for about 30 hours at this point, so I may have been a little snippier than usual. I said, "We're all in line here."

Man: "Well, I was ahead of you."

Me: "No, you weren't, but by all means, go right ahead."

Man: "You came with the wheelchair."

Me: "No, I was here before them, waiting, but I'll go after you."

Man: "Oh, I thought you were with them."

Me: "I'm not."

Man: "Well, you can go ahead of me."

Me: "Thank you!"

After that I got through security, made it to my gate & on my flight without incident.  The only other issue with the flight was that apparently, everyone likes to take a carry-on suitcase now, since checked luggage costs money to take along.  However, there is not enough room for everyone's carry-ons, so they offer to check your luggage to your final destination at the gate, but it ends up on the carousel & you can't pick it up at the gate at the other end of your flight anymore.  I was very thankful to have not checked my luggage though while I was in Atlanta, since I could then change into clean clothes (I could have put my PJs on for the night, but I figured that was a step too far).  But in Calgary not enough people wanted their luggage gate checked, so the last 6 people's luggage didn't fit, & they had to take their suitcases all the way back to the agent for a tag to get checked, so our flight was about 20 minutes late.  The pilot even offered to give them "employee" tags so they could be picked up at the gate, & we could leave on time, but the agent wouldn't allow it.

So, I made it home, one day later than planned, but with lots of stories!  I still can't figure out why Chad is so averse to flying with me. It's always so exciting!

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