Sunday, June 30, 2013

13-1/2 hours by plane, from Madison, WI to Philadelphia - we could have been in Hawaii

     Please don't misunderstand by the title.  We visited some of our wonderful family in Wisconsin, were treated royally, and had a simply marvelous time.  Children and grandchildren looked and acted wonderfully and we would not have given up this fabulous week for anything.  We were active and passive participants in water-skiing, tubing, karate lessons, photo portraits, dining out, and boat rides.  Even the dog and cat seemed to love our visit too.  And the weather was wonderful and conducive to father's day bonding between father (gramps) and son.

     Now for the terror.  We're old.  We always request and receive wheel chairs when we fly.  And the airlines and airports are accommodating - except for the Madison airport which has only one wheel chair pusher on duty at a time.  So, our Wisconsin family arranged for a limo for us both to and from the Chicago airport.  So far, so good.  We arrived at O'Hare in plenty of time for the 3:00 boarding of our 3:30 flight to Philadelphia and joined the waiting throng in the gate-area waiting space.  At precisely 3:00, American Airlines announced that the 3:30 plane to Philadelphia has been canceled and, furthermore, there were no more seats available on any American Airlines flights to Philly that day (or night).  We did not have to worry about checked luggage because we always take only carry-ons.

      We did not join the long line of people at the counter who were clamoring for seats.  Instead, we called the 800 number for American Airlines, waited on hold for 22 minutes (the time is shown on the cell phone) and spoke to a caring and capable agent who apologized profusely.  Then I asked for seats on another airline and she again disappeared from the phone but came back with tickets on a Delta flight and recited the computer-look up numbers.  Our problems were almost solved.  We just needed two more wheel chair pushers to take us on a tour of O'Hare Airport from the American Airlines space to the Delta Airlines space - about a half a mile.

     At Delta, the agent was very helpful and puzzled.  She said that she did not know why American gave us tickets on this flight to Philadelphia because there were no seats.  But, we must have looked very pathetic because she relented, and gave us "bulkhead" seats on the flight that did not go nonstop to Philly but, first to Memphis.  We had our boarding passes and relaxed.  Then, we called our friend who was picking us up and told her about the new plans and she was able to follow the progression of our flights.  Instead of arriving in Philly at 6:30, we did not arrive until after 10:30 - probably closer to midnight, but by that time, I was too tired to check.  And now, sounding like a bad infomercial, "but wait, there's more."

      In Memphis, the flight attendant was much more officious than any we had run into previously.  She denied us the seats in "bulkhead" but moved us up one row and encouraged those passengers to sit in the bulkhead seats.  As a side, the gate for the Memphis to Philly departure was right next to the gate for the Chicago to Memphis arrival.  A break for our wheel chair pushers.

      We arrived in Philadelphia, and were told that the jetbridge was not available and we would have to walk down the "stairs" and cross the tarmac.  Another, "but wait, there's more."  To call them stairs is inaccurate.  They are more like a ladder - and difficult for us "old guys" to use.  When Edgar was asked if he could negotiate the stairs, he said "I'm not going to live out my life on this plane," and with help from several employees, he came down the ladder backwards.  "But wait, there's still more."   One cannot go directly from the tarmac to the street.  Oh no.  One has to go through the bowels of the airport - around utility stations, supplies, storage areas, and dark places that had no signs.  Fortunately, the people who pushed our wheelchairs knew what they were doing and we arrived on the sidewalk and at our friend's car.  What a welcome sight!

     We left Madison, WI at about 11:00 AM and arrived at our house after midnight.  More than 13 hours.  And, as I said in the beginning, we could have been in Hawaii.  We never received any notice as to why the Chicago flight to Philadelphia was canceled.  I am very skeptical that we will ever fly on American Airlines again.  And that's a shame.  Because, for years, we relied on them as our go to Airline.

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