Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Flight of the Phoenix

It’s been two weeks since my return from a fun-filled trip to Sacramento where I visited my two grandsons, ages 6 and almost three. (Oh, and their parents were there, too.) Parenthetically, if you will. Obviously I will, so why shouldn’t you?

Anyway, I boarded my flight to Phoenix (since I can’t fly direct to St. Louis from Sac,) set to take off at 4:10. Everyone was seated, all the carry-ons were stashed properly, and all the electronic devices had been turned off. I was turned off too, but that had more to do with the onion-breath on the person sitting next to me. Honestly, if you pay Southwest an extra $12.50 for early boarding, can’t you make it $15, and guarantee a non-stinky seatmate as part of the deal?

The flight attendant launched into her detailed explanation of how to buckle a seat belt, for those flyers who had just been hatched on the plane, and had never been in a car, van, Six Flags ride, or space shuttle. Hell, rickshaws probably have seat belts these days, but I digress. As usual.

Okay, we heard about seat belts, tray tables, electronic devices, flotation cushions and oxygen masks. We’re all set, and Miss Perky informs us that we are indeed fortunate to be flying today with two of Southwest’s top pilots. Really? They rank them? I wonder how the pilots feel about that… (I know, I touched on this in a recent post, but it’s obviously bugging me. My blog—I get to repeat myself repeat myself if I want to.)

So Fabulous Pilot comes on the air to welcome us aboard, tell us it’s 105° and sunny in Phoenix (multiple redundancies there) and that we’ll be on our way momentarily. Well, he was nearly right. Moments later he’s back on the p.a. to tell us that we’re on hold due to a delay in Phoenix.  “As soon as we have any information about what that is, I’ll let you know.” Fair enough.

Now it’s gotten to be 4:15, we should already be up in the air, but we’re still on the ground physically, and up in the air metaphorically.  Fabulous Pilot returns with the following news. The delay is caused by a sinkhole on the runway in Phoenix. We’re going to be on hold for at least an hour. The passengers are welcome to “de-plane”, and they will keep us advised.

People rush off the plane like lemmings to the cliff’s edge. I decide to go, too, as I’d rather pace than sit. Also, if I’m likely to miss my connection in Phoenix, perhaps I’ll buy a sandwich to take on the plane.

My phone blips with an incoming text message, repeating essentially what the pilot already told us: one hour delay in take-off. While I’m perusing the sandwich array, another text comes in: expected three-hour delay. I make a mad dash for the ticket counter, where approximately a hundred other people are swarming, hoping to make other arrangements.

Luck is on my side. When my turn comes, the agent says he can send me through Las Vegas on a plane leaving in ten minutes. That is, if I’m traveling alone; there’s only one seat left on the plane. I go back on the 4:10 to grab my carry-on while he prints my boarding passes. He tells me he won’t be able to move my luggage, which of course I already figured, but at least I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight, and not on the floor of the Phoenix airport.

Again a stroke of good luck—the gate for my Vegas departure is just two away, and as I board, they close the doors behind me. I get the middle seat in row 5, and neither of my seatmates reek of body odor or offending foods. The gods are truly smiling upon me. Of course, the people in seats 5A and 5C are probably wishing I’d been rerouted through Cleveland so they could have kept that middle seat empty, but such is life.

I missed the flight attendant’s monologue, but since the two top pilots of Southwest were heading to Phoenix, I assume she told everyone that they were being transported today by two average-to-substandard pilots. I’m just guessing here.

Meantime, I called my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU) to advise him of the change, and to tell him to take a nap, because now I was due in at 12:35 a.m. The flight actually arrived at 12:45, and by the time we waited for a Southwest employee to be satisfied that my luggage was NOT, in fact, coming in, and to fill out the report on my missing bag, it was 1:00 a.m. Which means we got home at 1:45. Which means it was well past 2:00 when we got to bed.

Well, I reasoned, this was an adventure. And that sinkhole on the Phoenix runway was probably a big story on the news. Nope. Never heard a word, nor saw a photo. I wondered if that whole story was bogus.

Today I searched and found only this: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20130514phoenix-sky-harbor-runway-concrete-flight-delays-abrk.html Looks pretty benign to me, but I’m all for overdoing safety, especially when it comes to flying.

Meanwhile, my bag took another day and a half to arrive home. I’m not sure where it went, but I hope it had a good time. Here’s a picture of the tag Southwest put on it. Scary, huh?





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