I was traveling for work last week. Chicago to Charlotte on Tuesday night, then back home on Friday. The outward bound flight was nice and smooth; Chicago O’Hare was surprisingly crowded, but security moved quickly and the flight was on time.
The flight home was another story. I was flying American Airlines from Charlotte to Chicago O’Hare, departing at 2:34pm and scheduled to arrive at 3:44pm. I was at the airport in plenty of time, breezed through security and got to my gate about 1:45pm. Like clockwork, we boarded the plane at 2pm and I settled in for the flight. After a little while, I noticed that they had not closed the doors, but I did not pay any real attention to it. Then the pilot came on to announce that there was a mechanical issue and that they were just finishing up the paperwork on it, we would be leaving soon. OK, short delay, no big deal. Five minutes later, he was back on the intercom to announce that—well, the maintenance issue had not actually been fixed and it meant that the deicers would not work. Not a good thing. They would find another plane. Everybody off.
I collected my bags and headed back into the terminal. After about an hour wait they announced that they had a new plane and we would be leaving at about 4:15. We all duly boarded our new plane and settled in. The doors closed and we pushed back, and were airborne by about 4:45; OK, 2 hours late, I would still get home by 6:30, no big deal.
The flight was uneventful, for the first 1.5 hours. Right about the time the pilot usually announces that we are going to be landing soon, he came on to say instead that we had another mechanical issue—once again the deicers were broken and we could not land at O’Hare. Our choice was to go to Milwaukee or turn around and go back to Charlotte. I am not sure why flying another 50 miles north would make not have deicers OK (yeah, that just seemed stupid to me, especially because I was hungry and waiting to ear dinner with the hubby.) but that is what they said. We were going to land in Milwaukee (which is actually called General Mitchell Airport) and once we were there, they would let us know what would be happening.
I was talking to the woman who was sitting behind me when we boarded the first plane. She was very excited about her trip to Chicago. She was visiting her son who had moved here and she had splurged and bought two tickets to Hamilton. When the first flight was delayed she was pretty calm. She figured as long as we were airborne by 5:30 she would be fine. Now that we were already two hours late—and going to Milwaukee—she was getting nervous. We talked about the fastest way to Chicago, either Uber or Amtrak, depending on the traffic and timing of the trains. She asked the cabin staff if there was a free seat closer to the front of the aircraft so she could get off the plane quickly once we landed. They quite kindly moved her up to a free first class seat.
It was after 5:30pm when we landed in Milwaukee, and they announced that a maintenance worker would come on and look at the plane. After a little while, a number of people asked to get off to would find their own way to Chicago, including the Hamilton lady. They left the plane; a short while later the cabin crew announced everyone had to exit so that they could re-board those that remained once the plane was ready. Once again I left a broken plane and waiting in the terminal.
By the time we exited, it was after 6pm. I reviewed my options. My beautiful, wonderful wife offered to come and pick me up, but that would take her more than an hour to get to me. Uber would cost upwards of $125. Catch a 7:35pm which would get me to Glenview at 8:45, then Uber home. Or I could wait to see what American was going to do. As we waited, I struck up a conversation with a few people (this is the man who says he is socially awkward and doesn’t like people) who were standing around. I found two others who were going to nearby towns and after hemming and hawing for a bit, we decided to split an Uber.
Our driver came within about 5 minutes and we were on our way. I spent the next 90 or so minutes talking to two very interesting people, both of whom were visiting Chicago. One was a Northwestern alum who had come back for a football game. (Humorously, her husband was taking a 5pm flight from Charlotte and arrived well before her.) The other was visiting friends for a week. The conversation made the time go really quickly. The drive took just over an hour and half to get to our first stop then on to me. I walked in the front door a little past 8pm.
Just about 4 hours late on a trip that should taken 4 hours…I got a two-fer!
I wonder if the Hamilton lady made it.
Oh the joys of traveling for work.