Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Up, Up and Away!

Checking in was easy.

I arrived at RDU Airport two hours early, fought no traffic on I-40, got a spot close to the elevators in the parking garage, and managed to switch from back-of-the-plane seats to 1C and 4C on my first and second flights, respectively. Security found no reason to detain me. I even had time to walk the terminal to compensate for the exercise I won't be getting over the next few days.

Then everything slipped sideways.

The diminutive woman working Gate D12 for US Airways announced all passengers connecting through Reagan International Airport in DC needed to rebook to different flights. Apparently, President Obama's State of the Union Address was expected to cause all kinds of delays. I don't pretend to understand why that should be the case. It's not as though the entire Congress intended to gather on Runway Three to watch the speech on a makeshift jumbotron at the airport. Still, we had to rebook our flights to connect through other cities, and I was lucky enough to be the first one in line.

Halfway through rebooking my flights, the phone rang at Gate D12. Turns out the State of the Union would not, in fact, cause any airport delays and we no longer needed to make any changes. Trouble was, both my flights had already been cancelled.

Instead of immediately reinstating my original itinerary, the vertically challenged gate attendant told me to stand aside while she boarded the rest of the passengers. When she called for Zone One to board, I approached and pointed out that I had been in Zone One before she cancelled my reservation. She huffed and begrudgingly made a half-hearted attempt to address the problem. After thirty seconds of not trying very hard, she handed me the now-defunct boarding pass for the connecting flight out of DC.

"Take this and get on the plane," she instructed. "I'll rebook your flight after everyone has boarded."

"What about my boarding pass for this flight?" I asked.

"You won't need that," she said.

With no ticket for the flight I was boarding and only a cancelled ticket for my connecting flight, I nestled uneasily into seat 1C on the flight from Raleigh to DC.

As I watched my fellow travelers make their way past me to their seats, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling I was destined to end up in a DC security holding room trying to explain how I'd managed to get on a flight without a ticket while TSA officials ran a background check and performed a cavity search. So, I asked for and received permission to return to the gate.

Good thing, too. Not only had the gate attendant not rebooked my flights, my checked bag was in the process of being rerouted to Charlotte. She tried to assure me she hadn't forgotten about me, in spite of the fact she was ready to close the gate and send us on our way. I should get back in my seat, she told me, and she would bring me my new boarding passes.

"No," I said. "I'll feel a lot more comfortable standing right here while you get me and my bag back on our original itinerary."

After some grumbling and a few forceful keystrokes, she had me rebooked. Her disgust with me turned to hatred when I pointed out that she had booked me for seat 16D instead of 4C on the connecting flight, but she quickly realized I wasn't budging until she made it right.

As I write this, I am comfortably reclined in seat 4C on my way from Reagan International Airport to Columbus, intently staring at the rolling sea of clouds washing over eastern Ohio below me. Let's just hope my bag isn't waiting for me in Charlotte.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler


  1. I have never gotten a bag lost (permanently). I always ask the folks checking my bag to work the mojo they always work; I've been lucky so far.

    I hope that gate attendant doesn't take her dislike of you out on your luggage and "accidentally" send it to another continent.

  2. Having bags sent somewhere else is a pain in the ... We left from JFK and had a connecting flight in Miami to the Dominican Republic. They managed to get most of the planes bags on a plane-- to Puerto Rico!