I’ve been traveling around for more than 20 years, taking flights to exotic and not-so-exotic destinations. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the last 10 years in the winter months, mainly February and March, due to the availability of time off from my day job that time of year and Amanda’s desperate need to escape winter.
I’ve also had my share of travel hiccups, such as planes delayed due to mechanical problems, late pilots and kittens. But this February was the first time the weather had ever actually canceled a flight I was booked on and impacted the length of my trip.
A few weeks ago, old man winter was pounding the northeastern US like a red-headed step child, again. We didn’t have much snow in Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t the problem. The issue was our connection at New York’s JFK airport.
We breezed through check-in at PIT and were loaded onto the plane — and sat. The push-back from the gate was only a few minutes late and we began taxiing along the runway. The live seat belt demonstration was especially entertaining due to the flight attendant’s hand slipping, which brought the loose end of the belt extremely close to a passenger’s head. She didn’t even notice because she was too busy being obnoxious with the girl next to her (she was plucking the girl’s eyebrows and — according to the girl — missing the hair and pinching and pulling on her skin; this caused a great deal of squealing and whining from both parties). Neither of them were paying attention. Amanda and I shared amused looks with the flight attendant.
Our plane got all the way about to the runway, and we were next in line for takeoff when the captain got on the speaker and announced a ground stop at JFK — for at least the next four hours. We would be returning to the gate and getting off the plane. I was happy for that because back in the old days they would make you just sit on the plane and wait. The new laws penalize the airline if they do crap like that now.
So we got off the plane and decided to get a bite to eat. We also got the chance to sit at a bar and watch the hockey game. We tend to watch a lot of sports in airport bars; we watched football as we waited for our flight the day we left for our honeymoon.
We took our time at a sit-down restaurant and treated it like a mini-date (at the airport, but who cares?). We were also excited that due to the flight delay we’d been upgraded to business class for our transatlantic flight. A few hours later, we got in line to board the plane again. The cabin crew explained we had to board as quickly as possible because the window of opportunity to get off the ground and to JFK was limited. Everyone cooperated, strange for a group of passengers I know, but we loaded the plane in record time.
The doors were closed and cross-checked but as I was looking out the window, I saw the death knell of our flight. One of the baggage crew (who, for the second time had just finished loading our plane) shook his head and tossed his his gloves in the air with a sigh of defeat. It wasn’t long after that we heard the captain come on the speaker and apologize that the flight was now canceled and they would re-book us for the next earliest flights to get us to our destinations.
Amanda talked to the ticketing agent, because she’s good at that kind of thing, and selected a flight that connected in Atlanta rather than New York. There weren’t any options leaving for another 20 hours. I was annoyed that this meant our short trip to England was going to be made shorter, but we knew there was nothing we could do. The weather was the weather, and we’d heard of planes sliding off the runway in the northeast.
It helped that we were close to home, too. Pittsburgh International Airport is just 25 minutes from our apartment, so we were able to go home and sleep in our own bed.
We also got to spend that time together. I know for some of you that kind of sappy sweetness of a couple that loves to spend all their time together is a little much, but because of our work schedules the last year time together is something we’ve had very little of.
So there you have it: Our very first flight cancellation. Certainly not ideal, but we rolled with the punches and started our trip a day later than we originally planned.