Saturday, April 28, 2012

The long road home

I sincerely hope that by the time this is published on the blog we will be home at last. We left Austin on Thursday morning as planned, getting there early so that we could go with sister Gwen who left an hour before we did. The flight to Salt Lake City was smooth and uneventful, and the change to the flight to Los Angeles also went well. We even commented on how efficient Delta seemed to be. Famous last words.

We waited in the airline lounge for about five hours. It passed reasonably quickly, and then we went down to the gate. Lots of milling about. The time for boarding passed. The solitary gate agent made an announcement that there was only one of him and that he could only do so much, and please don't keep coming up to the desk asking the same questions. Uh oh. I got up and went to stand at the desk to see what was happening. I am so glad I did that. What was NOT happening was the flight. It had been cancelled. I stood my ground at the desk, and two or three others beside me were dealt with. On my right was a couple whose flight had been cancelled two nights before and there were no seats on the day before. They were pretty cranky. There was an announcement that we should use our smartphones with the Delta app to try and get alternative flights. The two sisters on my left were put on separate flights the following night, one to Brisbane with Virgin, one to Sydney. A very very long line had formed behind us, and it was obvious that it was going to be a very long night for most. Announcements were made that those with young children were to go to another gate, where as I learned later, they were ignored.

We were given what looked like boarding passes for the Qantas flight on the following night. Also hotel and meal vouchers. All the while I was using Viber on my Iphone to keep husband informed. What a great way we have come in communications. I am still gobsmacked by it all, and very grateful. We went to baggage claim, got our bags, and fortunately we're the last ones allowed on the courtesy bus for the hotel. The two sisters on my left told me later in the hotel that they had waited an hour and a half to get in that bus, and didn't get into their hotel room until 3 am.

We were very hungry by the time we arrived at 11.30 so we used some of our vouchers t eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup and some execrable Caesar salad in the hotel restaurant. Then we fell into bed and slept soundly until the next morning.

It was a lovely sunny day, and the meal before had been so bad that we took to the streets in search of better. The Hacienda hotel is on Sepulveda Boulevarde and there was a lot to choose from. We eschewed the IHOP in favour of a little cafe called the Petit Cafe, which served us an excellent breakfast. We then walked down the block and across the road to a Walgreen's where I got some cold and flu tablets for what feels like it is brewing, and some cosmetics. When in doubt, buy cosmetics. Back to the hotel for some exploration. I looked into the fitness room, which counts as fitness points, I looked at the pool, and was tempted, but instead went back to the room to have a little nap.

I looked at the Qantas vouchers and could see no class (Wes had been flying business class) and no seat assignment. I rang Delta and Qantas, and wasn't very happy with what either of them said. I emailed everyone to let them all know what had happened. Not trusting any of this, I suggested to Mum that we take th shuttle back to the airport and discuss it there, in person. First Qantas. I told the story to one, then two, then three staff who said that we weren't in their system at all, and that the flight in question was already overbooked. Then they all went away and someone else came out. "Can I help you?" she said. "Do I have to tell you the story all over again?" I asked. Yes, I did. She said there were seats, was getting us a new travel order, I asked about business class. This led to a long discussion which culminated in a phone call to Delta, whereupon she informed us. That we had been confirmed on the DELTA flight out tonight. We should go to the Delta terminal. We did, trotting from terminal 3 to 5. We spoke to a lovely young woman from delta who got us onto this evening's flight, and gave us seat allocation. I wasn't going to leave without confirmed at allocation. By this time Mum was getting very tired and I was getting aggrieved and teary. There is more to the story regarding what class we could fly in, but the upshot was that we had no choice but to fly steerage, aka coach, in seats which appeared to be separated by someone into middle. By this stage we we're taking what we could get.

We returned to the hotel with some more meal vouchers I which we used in the hotel, for a rather better lunch, and a bit of repacking and resting. The hotelmismfull of Australians, each with a story to tell. By five we decided to return to the airport, check in, confirm that we had seats, and sit in the lounge again eating carrots and resting. I also remembered to confirm with them that we had ordered a gluten free meal for Mum, which they did confirm.

I am so glad we confirmed those seats. There were many others waiting there who had those funky non-boarding passes waiting for confirmation which never came. There were some distressed people there. The appointed time came, and we boarded. Our seats are the last in the plane, and despite being A and C, there is nobody between us, just the seats. What a relief when the plane took off. We are on our way.

I settled in to watch a pretty bad Korean movie as I usually like them. Mum had a good sleep. Dinner came, and I told the stewardess about the gluten free meal. She said she would go look - uh oh, not on the list. At this stage I lost my temper, shouted, banged my tray table with my fist. Mum tried to calm me down, as did the stewardess, and it took some doing. It was the last straw and my patience had snapped. A compromise was reached and the stewardess was very nice, but enough is enough. Will I contact Delta and complain? I think I might.

Only another 11.15 hours to go, and I might try and snooze as it is now 1.44 am wherever my iPad thinks I am.

Whatever the pain getting home, it was worth the trip to see my dearest family. It was very hard leaving them, and we had a wonderful time.

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