History of a (Lost) Flight

It takes two days to drive from Cedarville to Dallas (with an overnight stop), so this was still faster, but it’s interesting how long it took American to just say, “We’re not flying this plane back to Dallas.”

We were on American flight 1492 from Columbus (ha!) to Dallas, and the plane was in a bit late, but everything looked good.

Then, the new crew did a walk-around, and the Captain called Maintenance. Run-Roh. That’s never good.

The gate agent assured us it wasn’t a big deal, everything was fine, but the Captain didn’t want to board us while they were doing paperwork. So, just relax, everything’s going to work out.

A bit later, she said, it wasn’t a big problem but they weren’t sure if everyone or only some or nobody was flying to Dallas. Hmm. The non-problem seems to have worsened. What would cause a plane to hold less people?

I found all the texts I got while we were at the gate, attached below. Basically, every fifteen minutes, you got a text moving the flight out fifteen minutes. This is silly, especially if the flight has not arrived yet. If a flight arrives late, it will depart about forty-five minutes after it finishes unloading, unless they can’t get a slot to take off. Minimum.

Here’s the annoying part – all the systems (gate agent, app, text messages) are slightly out of sync. You can’t really depart at 3:15pm if it’s 3:17pm and the plane hasn’t arrived yet. I’m pretty sure the gate agent knew the flight was canceled before she finally announced it wasn’t officially canceled yet, but it wasn’t going to depart.

So, after looking at the plane just sitting at the gate for a couple of hours, and listening to ever more disturbing and cryptic announcements, I called the AAdvantage Gold Desk (one time being lifetime Gold helps) and asked for alternatives. I said I thought the flight I was on was about to be canceled. The only other American flight was sold out. The agent offered to just move us to Delta, but that meant a connection in Atlanta, which adds hours of travel. Still, it seemed better than a hotel at the airport and flying out the next day, so I took it.

It occurred to me later that either she moved us to another airline out of the goodness of her heart or she already knew the flight had been canceled. As far as the rest of the people at the gate knew, we were still leaving – or some of us were. We were safe, to a certain extent.

We got to see a small part of Hartsfield International Airport and discovered the seats are better on Delta. (We also got delayed out of Columbus after there was a ground stop in Atlanta, which cut into our connection time.)

We saw a few people from the gate on the Delta flight with us, so we weren’t alone. We were just first, and I didn’t have to stand in line at the gate to negotiate a switch.

I would love to know what was wrong with the plane, especially as it had just flown up from DFW.

Text updates are generally helpful because they will tell you your gate changed before the gate agent announced it, or before you look around and notice you’re alone. However, the sequence of texts for a cancellation is just sad.

Getting Ready to Go

Reminder: Flight AA1492 CMH-DFW on Jun22, 2:45 PM out of Gate B19. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 ON TIME
Arrives DFW 4:20P Gate A10 Bag A15
Departs 2:45P
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

At the Airport, at the gate, no plane.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:10 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:10P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 4:47P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

The Plane has just arrived, so we’re boarding 100+ people in ten minutes?
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:25 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:25P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:02P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

If we start boarding ten minutes ago, we might make this.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:45 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:45P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:22P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

Thinking this is a doomed flight.
FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:55P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:32P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

I called the Gold Desk.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 4:20 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:20P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:57P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

On Hold with the Gold Desk
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 4:35 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:35P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 6:12P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:35P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 6:12P Gate C4 Bag Claim C4
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

At this point, we were rebooked.
FLYAA Info
AA1492 Departs CMH 6:00P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 7:37P Gate C4 Bag Claim C4
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel

Good thing we took the Delta flights. Look at that line forming.
FLYAA Info
AA1492 22Jun 6:00P CMH to DFW is
CANCELED.
Please call 800-433-7300 for assistance.
Local rates apply outside U.S.
http://www.aa.com/PHONE for help

The Man Trying to Kill You May Not Be

So, it’s O’Dark-Thirty, and I’m trying to find the rental car return in Peoria International Airport.

I’m poking along, trying not to miss the Avis sign, when a Parking Shuttle bus comes roaring up behind me. Good Lord, man, can’t you see I’m lost?

I realize I’m in the Hertz return area, and it looks like real parking after that, so it’s time to turn around. This is why I leave early for the airport.

I’m slowly making my way down the lot when the insane shuttle bus comes roaring up behind me, again. WTF? I’m lost. Go pick up someone who knows where they are.

One more U-Turn, and the shuttle is behind me again. Seriously?

Now, he’s honking his horn.

That’s it. I’m going to die.

So, I pull over and roll down the window.

He says, “Need help?”

Wait. What? He’s not a murderer?

“I’m trying to find Avis.”

“Follow me.”

The van roars off at quite an inappropriate speed for a parking lot, but it’s not like anybody else is here.

He leads me to Avis (in my defense, it was out of the way.)

I parked and he said, “Want a ride over?”

Now, I can see the terminal, and my FitBit thinks I need the steps, but I’ve got two computers and two suitcases, and he seems friendly, for a murderer.

“Sure.”

“I’ll take you to drop your bags first, because the rental counters aren’t open yet. It’s easier to drop the bags, then drop the keys.

I was trying to get you to stop, because you looked lost, and you kept going. I was just following you, because I figured you needed help.”

So, trying to get me to stop so you can render aid just looks like stalking. Good to know.

So, a quick ride to the terminal, quick instructions on where everything is, and I’m good to go.

I’m back to being early, which is much better than being lost.

So, thank you, early morning shuttle driver, for taking pity on me, driving me around, and explaining the lay of the land.

Oh, and for not murdering me.

A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve been in Dallas most of my life, and as much of my travel has been for business, I usually visit cities that are relatively easy connections. However, visiting the relatives can be a different story. I speak of two of my favorite “cities”, Cedarville, Ohio, and D’Hanis, Texas.

Editor’s Note: This is a filtered brain dump of a bunch of research I did in the middle of the night. So, whether or not it’s coherent is probably in the eye of the beholder. (As always, if you read something I wrote and think, “That is profound!”, please call my wife and ask for her neurologist’s name. She has a lot of specialists.) 

Here’s the ways I usually travel:

  • Ship. Fun. Relaxing. Requires deep water. (So much for Dallas.)
  • Plane. Pain. More Pain. Expensive Pain. Pretty fast, though.
  • Train. Faster than my wife’s driving. Might not be as fast as mine. 24×7 travel. Limited stops. Usually visit Chicago.
  • Bus. 24×7 travel. Small towns. Get to see a mob of people descend on a McDonalds every few hours (“Buses Welcome!”) Spousal Unit refuses to ever ride one again (something about riff-raff touching her.)
  • Car. Back-seat drivers (often in the front seat.) Stress. Highways. Rest Stops. Overnight Stops. Souvenir Stops. Still more fun than the bus.

And now, our two citites.

Cedarville

We’re thinking of visiting the grandkids later this year, and we’re thinking “roadtrip.” I believe they used to drive straight through (ah, youth!), but we’ll stop somewhere for a night along the way. (Memphis is about half-way.)  Two nights in a hotel are cheaper than flights, we don’t have to rent a car, and it’s not like I can’t afford the time right now.

There are two airports within an hour or so of the kids’ place, even though Cedarville is not a large town. (There are a number of universities in the area, so there are students to consider.)

Train service is really bad in Ohio. Cedarville is close to Dayton (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and Columbus (Ohio State and it’s the freakin’ capital) but neither is on the Amtrak network. (Amtrak was my cruise before I found ships.)

The closest bus service is Springfield and we’ve stayed in Springfield before, so it’s not really that far. (Still, there’s a university in Cedarville. Today’s kids don’t ride the bus? The bus has WiFi onboard, so you could live blog it.)

So, you fly to Dayton, take the train to Cincinnati, take the bus to Springfield, or just drive.

This time we’ll drive.

D’Hanis

My first thought when presented with the transportation options to Cedarville was, “Geez, even D’Hanis has bus service.” Now, D’Hanis is small. It’s unincorporated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Wikipedia lists it as a “human settlement.” It’s my spiritual home (well, one of them.) It’s also my Mom’s hometown.

The closest airport is Hondo (one town to the east), which is a regional airport (and former Army Air Force training base) so there’s no commercial traffic. My Dad flew in there once in a private plane, and had to wait two days for the weather to clear before he could leave again (instrument ratings are good to have.) The closest “real” airport is San Antonio. Let’s just say people go to the Hondo airport more for the restaurant than the flights.

D’Hanis had train service when my Mom was growing up – in fact, when the first train line was built in Medina County (in 1881) and bypassed the town, they just moved the town closer to the tracks. (This is why there is technically an Old D’Hanis and a New D’Hanis.) By the time I was riding Amtrak for fun, the Sunset Limited passed through town, but the closest stop was San Antonio. I had to stay up late to see D’Hanis from the train, since we passed through before the crack of dawn, but I did manage to see the town – just for a second. Again, it’s a small town. I also found D’Hanis in the 1954 Southern Pacific timetables, so the Sunset Limited stopped there at one point, on the eastboound and westbound runs.

D’Hanis had Greyhound service and the Kerrville Bus Line which was a Continental Trailways affiliate. I actually rode the Kerrville Bus to HemisFair ’68 with my Mom and little brother, who got car-sick. (Bus-sick?) Greyhound absorbed Continental Trailways years ago, and the Kerrville Bus just goes to college towns and casinos now (an interesting market plan.) However, Greyhound seems to be routing on I-10 instead of US 90, so they don’t stop in D’Hanis any longer. So, no more bus service. Ouch.

So, now you have to go to San Antonio to get anywhere. That hasn’t changed much, it’s just now you can’t get to San Antonio.

So, D’Hanis is off the grid. Unless you have a truck. (Pretty much everyone has a truck, but still.)

This really distressed me. It took a while to figure out why, but then I realized that D’Hanis was the place I always knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 (bus fares kept going up!) I would get off the bus, and go mooch off call on my relatives. By the time they realized it was more than a visit, I would be moved in. D’Hanis was the place my late grandmother once said I could be buried if I “died alone” because there were extra slots next to her and my Granddad. (I think she was comforting me after my divorce, since that was the last time I was alone.) Sweet and morbid at the same time. (That’s pretty much the definition of my family.)

Cedarville was the place I knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 and the kids would give me a cup of coffee and point me to D’Hanis. So it goes.

This also means neither town will ever be in a country song. If you can’t get out of town, you can’t be in the song. It’s in the rules.

America The Exported

One of the interesting parts of international travel is finding new and exciting ideas, foods, drinks and the like. If you wander around a foreign mall, you may find things that make you stare in wonder. You will also find things that just make you wonder.

Here in Malaysia, my hotel is connected by a covered walkway to the 1 Utama Shopping Centre, the fourth largest mall in the world, according to CNN. (It’s on their website with a link to the CNN report.) So, the other night, when I just couldn’t take room service anymore and I really didn’t feel like Asian cuisine in the restaurants, I wandered over there. First, was a Chinese restaurant. No surprise. Just not doing it for me. Next, a deli that looked like a local trying to do his interpretation of a deli. Hmm. Then, Carl’s Jr. Huh?

Now, I expect McDonald’s in all corners of the universe. I was really surprised I had walked over 300 yards and had not seen a Starbucks. But a Carl’s Jr? They can barely keep them open in Dallas, and there’s one in the mall in KL? (It was tasty.) (Don’t judge me.)

I went back to the mall this evening to wander around, since my feet were falling off from standing in class all  day, anyway.  Before I went over, I found their website, and looked at the list of restaurants. Wow. It was quite the list, and a homesick American will feel right at home.

There actually was a McDonald’s, I just hadn’t gone to the right floor yesterday. (This mall is so big, there are multiple food courts – or multiple areas where food shops seem to congregate.) It’s not that I wanted to eat at McDonald’s, I just feel strangely comforted knowing it’s there. (There is a part of me that will go to McDonald’s simply for the irony, but that only works in Paris, when you order coffee at the McCafe on the Champs Elysees.)

There actually was a Starbucks ( think there are two in the mall). (We drove past outposts of both on the way to the class this morning, so I knew they were around.) No surprise. Burger King? Hey, if there was one in Linköping, Sweden, there might as well be one here. KFC? A little strange, maybe, but I did see one selling fish and chips in London. TGI Fridays? I thought those were only allowed in airports, now. Kenny Rogers Roasters? Wait. Didn’t they go out of business?

Please excuse this (rather juvenile) interruption: The Kenny Rogers Roasters logo looked different than I remember. Maybe they’ve given the place a facelift. Bwa-hahahahahahaha! Wait. Shouldn’t Kenny Rogers run a laundry? He knows when to hold ’em and he knows when to fold ’em. I feel better now.

After all that, I ate dinner at O’Briens Irish Sandwich Bar – a place with “Irish” and “Bar”  in the name that doesn’t actually have beer. I saw “Irish” and “bar” and Googled it, and it’s a franchise of a Dublin sandwich shop that sold their Asia franchise rights to a Brit who lives in Singapore. That was so complicated, I felt obligated to try it out. I’m still a bit dubious on how an Irish place sells healthy fruit juices and coffee and not Guinness, but whatever. Maybe it was started in Dublin, Ohio, like Wendy’s. It was a very good sandwich, and the iced coffee rocked. That was actually the second iced coffee I had today. I don’t know why I don’t make it at home.

However, since I didn’t try any of  the local delicacies for dinner, I’m going to take massive heat tomorrow from my local IBM host, so after I finished my sandwich and iced coffee, I wandered around the mall, looking for the Japanese ice cream place I had seen in the list, because I thought they might have green tea ice cream. They did. It was pretty awesome. (Flashback to earlier this week – they also had sweet corn ice cream.)

Naturally, I got lost trying to find my way back out. As I wandered one floor below where I was supposed to be, there was a Hush Puppies store. A pretty big one, actually. I can’t find Hush Puppies in the shoe store at home any more and there’s an entire branded store here? (I loved Hush Puppies when I was growing up – they were slip-ons so I didn’t have to tie ties [yes, I was that lazy, and now I’m that inflexible] and they were close enough to dress shoes to wear to work or school. Plus, I always loved the puppy in the photo. No, Virginia, we are not adopting a Basset Hound.)

I just looked at the list again, and there’s a Kodak store. Really? I may have to go wander the mall tomorrow night, and see what develops. (Heh. Heh. Heh.)

I think sometimes we export stores to other countries, and sometimes we just move all of them, and never realize they’re gone.

So, if you have a craving for rotisserie chicken and a pair of Hush Puppies, I know where you can go. It’s just a bit of a flight to get there.

CX881 LAX -HKG

Wow. This is one long damn flight.

Here’s my new definition of a long damn flight: You get on the plane, climb to cruise, eat dinner, take your nighttime medications, and sleep fitfully for what seems to be a long, long time. When you finally realize you can’t really sleep any more, you turn on the navigation channel. There are five and a half hours left to go.

Five and a half hours. I needed to walk around, but I just couldn’t get motivated. It was like I was glued to my seat. So, since it had been almost ten hours since I took my medications, I found the one thing likely to make me walk. I took my diuretic.

After that, I walked around about every thirty minutes.

My seat wasn’t bad, for coach. I had the aisle seat in the middle section, just behind the galley. So, nobody in front of me, and only one neighbor, an older Chinese gentleman (which is important later in the flight.)

Cathay Pacific actually has premium coach, so there are four classes on the plane. Thank you, Corporate Finance, for managing to bump me even lower down the food chain.

Random Thought: There should be a convention of all corporate finance people in Australia. Those fuckers should all have to fly coach to get there, and they should all have to route through at least two airports. Maybe then they would realize business class is not a luxury when you’re talking about flights over four hours or so. (This may be too soon, but on the way home, we should charter a Malaysian Airlines jet and hope for the best.)

The plane is a mix of Chinese and old Americans. From some of the conversation I overheard during boarding, many of the old Americans are going on a cruise. Considering how lost most of them looked just navigating the two aisles of the 777, they’re going to be really lost on a cruise ship. It was like being an extra in The Night of the Living Dead trying to get to the lavatory.

Food was decent, but my recollections of Cathay Pacific business class food were not met (not surprisingly.) The exciting meal was breakfast, where the choices were a mushroom omelet or chicken congee. I did not know what that was, so I assumed it was the token Chinese dish, as the omelet was the token American dish. The person across from me didn’t know what it was, either. All I heard was a muffled discussion, and then “The omelet, please” in a choked voice. The person one row up and across from me didn’t know what it was, either, he just knew it was the only thing his flight attendant had left on her cart. She said in a bright voice, “Chicken congee. It’s like a chicken porridge.” Now, I understood the choked voice.

My flight attendant had one omelet left, and two passengers. Luckily, the other passenger was the older Chinese gentleman next to me, so he had the chicken. I got the last omelet on the plane. Perhaps, there is such a thing as Divine Intervention.

It was a pretty good omelet.

Random Thought: All Boeing 777s should have a photo booth, so you could get a passport photo that reflects how you actually look after an overnight flight.

It’s Sunday.

Remember how I woke up with five and a half hours to go? That’s about how long my next flight will be.

Actually made my connection with time to spare.