Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finally San Francisco Bound

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 I did not intend to compose a detailed travelogue, but attempts to reach our destination (Australia) have resulted in a long, trying, exasperating experience. Writing is therapeutic.

We were in the Philadelphia airport approximately eleven – 11 – hours. Two planes with mechanical problems, scheduled to fly to San Francisco, sat at adjoining gates. Almost 300 people waited patiently to reach the West Coast. Milling around, standing in lines, quietly sitting and reading or talking, listening to vague announcements, many eventually giving up, changing their reservation, deciding to try again the next day.
It was looking less and less likely our plane would take off. The second plane proved more promising. Finally an announcement: passengers would begin boarding shortly. Then another communication broadcast that our plane would probably not leave and anyone who wanted to might be able to get on the flight leaving NOW.

We jumped at the chance. There was limited availability on planes leaving the next day. We were told we could get on a 5:51 p.m. flight – the time between connections would be barely an hour.

We received new boarding passes and walked on the plane. Moving to our seats, they were taken – in the mini-chaos seat assignments were overlooked and people sat wherever they wanted/could.

We pulled away from the gate around 11:00 p.m. We were on our way to…

Washington, D.C.

That is not a typo. The plane was not really fixed (but we were assured it was safe to fly). It flew to Washington for parts. Another plane would be waiting to take us to San Francisco.

The plane was in the air about 30 minutes. As we landed yet another announcement informed us there was limited food on the new plane. It would be wise to buy food in the terminal.

We were starved. Our 2:00 p.m. salads were nourishing but history.

We disembarked, taking all our belongings, and entered a ghost terminal. No activity whatsoever – except for the 140 passengers from our plane. All concessions were closed.

We waited for the next leg of our journey to begin. Boarding was a long, tedious process. Each passenger gave their name to the customer service reps. Names were checked off and seat assignments verified. (If anything happened they would know who was on the plane and could identify the bodies.)

We were 12E and12F. We boarded the plane, walked down the aisle and discovered…

There was no row 12.

We walked back to the front of the plane and told the stewardess our dilemma. I was concerned that the farther back we were, the less likely we would receive any food. I was tired, hungry and cranky.

Finally a little luck came our way. The plane was slightly bigger than the previous one and there were a few extra seats. We ended up with exit row seats (a lot more leg room) and no one in the middle seat (space to spread out!).

Passengers settled in, the plane left the gate, approached the runway and sat. After a few minutes people started to comment – problems again? It was obvious the airport was not crowded and there was not a long line of planes waiting for takeoff.

Before panic ensued, the captain got on the PA system and told us not to be alarmed, the plane was taking off. There was a short delay.

We actually took off and headed west. San Francisco bound. A brief stop to change planes on our way across the Pacific.

We are booked on the Sydney, Australia flight leaving later tonight. United is supposed to give us a hotel room when we arrive in San Francisco. It will be about 7:00 a.m. east coast time.

Flying is a wonderful, sometimes quick way to travel from one place to another far-away location. The frustration of flying, however, can be awesome. Airline personnel told us stories, excuses, explanations, anecdotes, and tall tales during our hiatus.
It took 14 hours to travel from (south) New Jersey to Washington, D.C.  At least we were not stuck in traffic on I-95.

And our Australian Adventure continues.


  1. Remember when they used to say that getting there was half the fun? I don't think that applies any more. But Australia!

  2. I'm looking forward to hearing about your Australia adventure!! I hope it's wonderful after all these annoyances (to put it mildly)!!!!

    I remember when it was really fun to fly and I mourn the passing of truly excellent service.