Pass travel has its known hassles, but sometimes, the delays and inconveniences have nothing to do with flying standby and everything to do with WEATHER.
It was a work day for me and for Rob. He was at the end of a 5-day, waking up in Houston. I was scheduled to see patients until 5pm. The plan was for me to leave work and head straight to the airport. Rob and I would meet in Chicago if he didn't make it home. What complicated things, was a late February snow-storm heading our way. I kept checking the weather report, watching as flights in and out were delayed, and then cancelled. I got good news when he managed to make it home late morning. I drove to the airport on my lunch hour, picked him up and we had HyVee Chinese for lunch, all the while watching the snow pile up and discussing our Plan B and even Plan C options. I kept throwing out my best guesses as to where we were going. He was clearly thrilled to keep me in suspense.
When I returned to work, I had more good news and was really feeling optimistic that we would make it out of town at least. The office was closing early due to weather. I called Rob and he planned to pick me up at 3:00.
Our original flight to Chicago had been scheduled to leave at 6:30, but it had, alas, been cancelled. Since the office had let me out early, we would try to get on an earlier flight, probably the last flight out.
But upon our arrival, we found the 4:20 had a 4 hour delay! Oh my! That would mean we'd miss our flight out of Chicago. Our only option was to drive.
It's about 2 1/2 hours and despite the weather, we made decent time. Rob dropped me off at the terminal and went to park in the employee lot. After checking in and making it through security, the first thing I noticed were the long lines of travelers stretching from the customer service counter, down the length of the terminal. Uh oh...Turns out that not just our flight, but just about every flight out of Chicago, was cancelled that night. Here's how the boards looked:
Rob eventually met me back at the terminal. He immediately set to work on the laptop looking at our options. I suggested that we might not want to delay finding a room for the night, as that long line of delayed travelers was fresh in my memory. After reassuring himself that he could still get us where we needed to be the next morning, with any luck that is, we set off to meet the hotel shuttle to our luxurious accommodations for the night.
A budget hotel in any city is still a budget hotel. I didn't care. This felt like an adventure. At the La Quinta, we ordered in some pasta from a pizza place that delivered and both enjoyed the first real carbs we had eaten for weeks.
3am came so early this morning! Ouch! But we got through security and set off for our gates. Yes. Gates. Now the standby game gets real. We have several options, Newark, which leaves first, San Francisco, or Houston. Any of those can potentially get us to our destination, but we not only have to make it onto the flight out of Chicago, we also have to make it onto the flight from any of those cities. Rob was furiously working the numbers, trying to figure odds of success. We let the Newark flight leave without us...it departed from the furthest gate and running to try to make it would put us in danger of not being able to try for the two others.
We were standing in line to get on the Houston flight. Getting seats was easy, a nice surprise, (where are all those folks who were trying to leave Chicago last night? Did we beat them to the starting line this morning?) but Rob was uncertain. He asked the gate attendant if she could look at the San Fran flight to let us know if it looked as 'wide open' as this one was. She was NO help! She tried to tell us that the flight we had so easily gotten seats on was not wide open at all. The risk is that we take the flight to Houston and then cannot get on our flight to the beach. Rob was so uneasy, I told him we should just not board this flight. Obviously he had a hunch of some kind. I thought we should listen to that. Of course, the risk of listening to that hunch, giving up our seats on this flight (breaking the cardinal rule of pass-travel) was that we would not be able to get on the San Fran flight. We reasoned that if we could not get to our destination, it would be better to find that out when we were still fairly close to home....just a short car trip away, rather than to get all the way across the country and get stuck. If we couldn't make it out of Chicago this morning, we decided, we would just head home and spend a few days with his daughter instead.
So, we did it. We gave up our seats on the Houston flight. We now had about an hour. So we had breakfast. Honestly, if you have to eat airport food, breakfast is the way to go! The first coffee of the day (yes, seriously, we made all those harried decisions without the benefit of caffeine!) and some delicious omelets.
Here is our view of the snow plows clearing the runways as we ate breakfast:
We met a lovely older couple en route. Turns out, they were heading to Cabo San Lucas. Oh? You can get to Cabo from San Francisco, eh? Hmmmm. They had been many times before and though they knew the chance of making their connection was slim; (we were delayed out of Chicago) they were happy to stay in the city for the night if they missed it.
Turns out, after a sweaty all-out run for our gate, we made the connection to Cabo and our friends did not. Did we take their seats? I hope not, but I thought of them enjoying some fresh sushi in downtown San Francisco and didn't feel too bad about it.
This was our two-day travel adventure. Some weather issues, some pass-travel stress, but in the end, we made it! Cabo is beautiful. What a great Valentine's Day gift. I loved being surprised, loved trying to guess, loved that he kept it a secret until we arrived, panting, at our gate.
Turns out, I just love being the girlfriend of a pilot!