social spark Aisling Beatha: Trip to America

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Trip to America

I've been out of the loop with the company girls for almost a month now. There were the two weeks I was in America and with getting ready the week before and recovering the week after, I'm just getting back in the loop today.

YES, I went to America! And I saw far more of it than I had ever intended to.

The plan was to fly from Birmingham England to Newark and then after a 4 hour layover, fly on to Atlanta! We had seen the weather reports, we knew there was some snow, so I was expecting to have SOME delays. I was not expecting what then happened! We knew when we got off the plane that a lot of flights had been cancelled and sure enough after going through immigration had it confirmed that the flight was not going.

The ladies at the Continental desk were helpful but not particularly friendly. Said she could get me on the flight the following morning at 6:25am. She asked if I had anywhere to stay and when I said no she just said "Oh well, you'll have to stay in the airport then". Basically if your delays are due to weather the airline has zero responsibility to house or feed you. BUT the following day during further delays I clearly heard other people being given at least the information on where to go to organise yourself a room! I didn't even get that. Through sending text messages to my husband back in England and my friends who were expecting me in Atlanta I got the phone number for a hotel near the airport and booked myself a room.

Howard Johnson at Newark airport. The rooms are fine, great, but the communal areas left a little to be desired. They did appear to be doing a lot of work on those communal areas, but still, I wasn't too impressed with that part of it. But a room is a room and since I have sleep apnoea I absolutely needed somewhere to sleep safely and plug in my CPAP machine.

Because the flight was due to leave at 6:25, I needed to be at the airport by 4:30ish. YES, in the morning! Yuck, I was awake and unable to sleep any longer at 3am! I looked outside the window and there had clearly been at least 4 or more inches of snow overnight! So, with a heavy heart I headed back to the airport!

Sure enough my flight got cancelled, in fact, so did pretty much EVERY OTHER flight until 2pm, although we did begin to see flights leaving from around 1pm but only a handful! There was a kind of camaraderie building up in groups of people who were sitting near each other and we would watch each others stuff while someone went to the Continental desk to find out the latest, or went to get food, or whatever.

The snow was incredible, I have NEVER seen anything like it. I found out later they had over 20 inches in 2 days! It wasn't the snow on the ground that was the problem for the planes, it was the blizzard conditions with which it was coming down, they literally could NOT see to take off! If you have ever been in terminal C at Newark airports and looked out from one of the arms of terminal C across to one of the other arms, you will understand how bad it was when I say that you could ONLY JUST see the other arms from the windows of the middle one! Seriously!

When it had become clear that the 6:25am was going NOWHERE, I had been put on standby for a 3:50pm flight to Atlanta and confirmed on the 6:30pm flight.
HA! Neither of them went anywhere! We knew by about 3pm that that was going to be the case, but not because anyone on staff had told us, no, we had to find out from each other and other passengers. Having said that the ladies on the Continental desk this day could not have been more helpful and kind and were just fantastic. The lady who helped me in the afternoon said there was no space on any flights to Atlanta now until the Monday (this was Friday!) but there was a flight to Cleveland leaving in an hour or two and she could get me on that with a connecting flight to Atlanta that evening. Cool, we knew a flight had already successfully gone to Cleveland, so that was good.

Off I went onto a plane to Cleveland. oh my word, delay after delay, some of them for stupid things like we had no sugar. The cabin assistant wanted to leave without it as it is only a short flight but the ground crew wouldn't allow it! For crying out loud, SUGAR! And sure enough we landed in Cleveland too late to get the connecting flight to Atlanta! Apparently they were taxiing as we landed! I learnt later that the snow started falling again just after we left Newark and that the whole place closed down again as far as outward flights were concerned.

So, another queue, another Continental help desk and another kind, helpful lady! By now I was on the phone with my friend who was supposed to meet me in Atlanta going through a list of other airports to see if they could get me there, but nothing, and again no spaces on flights to Atlanta until Monday! BUT I have a friend who lives close enough to Washington to come get me if I could get there! So they managed to book me on a flight into Washington Dulles on Saturday with a flight from Washington to Atlanta on the Sunday!

This time, although there was no obligation to provide accommodation or food, they did at least give me a hotel discount voucher and so I headed off to the Holiday Inn at Cleveland airport. Gorgeous hotel, fantastic facilities, apparently the bar is one of THE places to be seen in the area because it was PACKED! Thankfully my room was up on the 5th floor so I didn't hear a thing! The floor in the foyer is a bit slippy in the wet weather, but I managed to stay upright! The restaurant was fantastic and I ate my first proper meal in 3 days! I had a gorgeous room!
At some point during my time there someone suggested that if I got stuck the following day as well I should head on out to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I asked if that was all there was to do in Cleveland and she said "pretty much, yes!"

In the early hours of the following morning I got a message from my husband to say that our bank had stopped my card because of an "unusual spending pattern"! OK, so they were doing their job and trying to protect me, so that is good, but it really was the final straw when I could not get through to them on the phone number they had given my husband! OH MY WORD! I just broke down and cried for a while. Eventually I phoned my husband and got him to get them to phone me in my room! They did and it got sorted, but it was another night with as not as much sleep as I needed!

Another day, another airport, and another time to go through security, hey, by now I was getting used to it!
The flight to Washington went fine and my friend came to pick me up! The relief at seeing a friendly face was immense! It felt so good. They took me home to their house, we ate and talked a lot and then I went to bed after I fell asleep in the recliner more than once! I do need to ask her about that mattress because I had the most awesome nights sleep I have had in months and months!

Sunday morning she drove me back to the airport and I headed on to Atlanta!

This post is mega long already, so I think I will save the stories of my trip and the return journey for next week!

5 comments:

  1. Good heavens. I can't imagine...all that fuss, delay upon delay and more cities visited (or at least airports!) than you might of seen even if you planned it that way...

    You seem to have handled it MUCH better than I would have - looking forward to the rest of the story!

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  2. What an adventured you've had! Sure makes for a good story. We're in Northern California and were flying to Indiana for a wedding, but had to fly out of the way through Atlanta, and the connecting flight of almost everyone on our flight was before the time we were to land, plus we had to get to the gate, etc. It was not fun especially since I was pregnant with Melody and had morning sickness. It was their mistake and the people at the desk were trying to tell all of us we couldn't get on...basically the flight was empty, and then the captain came out and told the dude to let us all on. Anyhow, Atlanta doesn't seem to be the best place to land I guess. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed your time here.

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  3. What an experience! I sure hope the stories are better next week. I'd hate if your whole America experience was like your trip over.
    Have a great weekend!
    LydiaCate

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  4. Welcome back, Zoe! I was wondering where you'd run off to :)

    I think anyone stateside could have warned you about the Howard Johnson (or HoJo) - they are not known as the classiest of places. Decent for a quick stay, but nothing to write home (or blog) about.

    How about that snow!! The east coast hasn't seen snow like that in so long...maybe decades. it was one of those quirky weather flukes I guess - and you got to experience it first hand, hah! You have such a good attitude about it now - I can't wait to hear more about your adventures.

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  5. Glad you were able to visit America!

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