July 22, 2012

Traveling can bring adventure

by Kelly Hawes

— The crew had already given its safety demonstration, and the captain had just announced that the plane would be pushing away from the gate when the lights went out.

The cabin went deathly silent. I had a feeling this was not a good sign.

Minutes went by with no comment from the captain or crew. Finally, the lights returned, and the captain announced that we would experience a minor delay. He remained confident that we would take off soon and reach our destination on schedule.

As the minutes ticked away, though, that scenario became less likely. After a few more times with the lights going off and a few more reassuring announcements from the captain, the news we had been dreading finally came.

Our flight had been cancelled.

After leaving the plane, we stood in a long line surrounded by grumbling passengers but still confident we would reach our destination in time for an afternoon meeting.

“We were lucky,” one of my two colleagues said. “At least the power didn’t go out when we were in the air.”

When we finally reached the front of the line, the ticket agent advised

that the flight we needed to remain on schedule had only one seat remaining. She booked one of us on that flight and scheduled the others on standby.

The woman at the next counter, though, questioned that strategy.

“There is no chance you’re getting on this flight,” she said. “It’s completely full. I told her that when she called.”

And so back we went to the original counter only to learn that our only option was to take a flight out just before 6 o’clock that evening.

We would miss our afternoon meeting and dinner, and we wouldn’t get in until after 8 o’clock that night.

She offered us $18 in meal vouchers, enough to buy us lunch and dinner. She also gave us a coupon good for a $50 discount on our next flight.

“If you really think we’re going to fly on this airline again, you’re going to have to do better than that,” I told her.

She suggested that we contact the airline.

We had already been at the airport for more than four hours, and we still had more than five hours to go. We talked about the trip and what we hoped to accomplish. We checked our emails and text messages.

We called the airline to complain. The woman who answered the phone said she couldn’t top the $50 offer from the ticket agent. She suggested we write a letter.

We did finally arrive at our destination, and the trip went well. We learned a lot and felt that our time had been well spent.

Our first sign that the return trip might not go smoothly came when the kiosk at the airport advised us that both legs of our flight had

been delayed. We would arrive in Indianapolis about 15 minutes later than originally planned.

Soon, though, the first leg of the flight was more than an hour late, and finally, it was cancelled altogether. Stormy conditions in New

York were wreaking havoc with airline schedules.

We finally got a ride to another airport where we boarded a direct flight that got us home more than four hours later than planned.

It was nearly midnight as the plane approached the gate, and the captain came over the intercom to announce that the stormy weather was keeping the ground crew off the tarmac.

“We’ll be delayed a few minutes here before we can travel that last hundred feet to the gate,” he said.

My heart sank. I knew that a few minutes could quickly change to a few hours, and I had visions of sitting there on the tarmac half the night.

Fortunately, though, the captain’s estimate proved accurate.

We made it home. Tired, but not much worse for the wear.

• Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or