May 23rd, 2014
I've come to believe that in order to take a really good trip, you have to get up at some obscene hour. This of course, after you have spent the entire evening before, intending to go to bed at 9pm (because dang it we are gonna be rested tomorrow) and finally setting your alarm at 1am to get up at 3am. This morning didn't start that way. In fact we were even in bed by 10:45pm. This feels weird, something isn't right, but, it was a sunny beautiful morning. We will take it!
We ran Dexter to work to drop him off for Ashley and checked in to our flights online. After a good bye to Ginny it was off to pick up mom and dad and on to the airport. Today has been sliiiightly stressful. Our flights have been changed a bit to give us very little time to change planes in both Salt Lake City and New York. Also, for the nearly seven hour flight to Dublin, Air France (how fitting) decided to change our seats. Instead of sitting together, we are now seven rows apart. I'm not sure yet what we are going to do about this, but it would be a major bummer to take that leg of the trip without Nicole next to me.
As we sat and checked our Facebook in the Spokane airport a friend of Nicole's, Kindra, urged us to find a way to visit her in Prague. The ol' travel wheels started cranking in my head. How exciting, a possible unplanned trip to a new country and famous city. Hmm, I do believe we should figure this out. There are a few extenuating circumstances that need cleared up, and I think we might be able to swing this! These are the types of moments that excite me as a traveler more than anything else. It's always the unplanned surprises that, if you have the guts to pursue it, turn out to be the best memories. Now to land this blasted plane.
This very moment, all our stress points are coming to a head. We are circling JFK Airport at this very moment, due to weather. This is particularly sweat inducing considering our layover is only 50 minutes from the time the plane lands. Now we are taking away valuable minutes with each massive circle the plane makes. We found out that we will have go change terminals to get to our gate, and on top of that, if we even catch our flight, we won't have time to address our seats not being next to each other. We are both going to be super bummed if we can't sit next to each other.
Time to search for the silver lining. Bottom line is that we will not be making our connecting flight to Dublin. We have been circling JFK for over half an hour and the pilot says we have to land elsewhere due to our "fuel situation." In no circumstance is it okay, ever, for the pilot to say "fuel situation." We have been diverted to Newark (shudders) and the word at the moment is that we will stay on the plane and refuel. Then we will take off again for JFK. The silver lining is that, well there is no silver lining yet.
We circled Newark for another 30 minutes and then landed at around 8:50. This is when the most fun began. During our flight, I had kept my ear perked up for fellow travelers going on the same connecting flight to Dublin that we were. I figured we could band together to make sure we got to our connecting flight on time. As it turned out, a lady next to us and her freshman-in-college daughter were going to Dublin for a One Direction concert followed by a 9 day tour of the coast. Right in front of them were a young couple with their 3ish year old son and a 6ish month baby. All of us had a connecting flight out of JFK at 9:25pm. It only took moments after landing to realize there was no way we were going to make it back in time for that connection. The hope was alive in all of us that we could make the hop back over to JFK and catch the later 11:25 flight at least. We all began to chatter and bond as the following events played out and grew more and more dreadful:
Ridiculous situation number one: After we are sitting there hoping to take off for 15 minutes, the pilot comes on and says, "Flight attendants, prepare for departure." We are all excited. Yes! For sure we will make it back. The minutes begin to drag by. I texted my friend Krystle, who lives in New York, to see if she could be on standby to help us if the situation didn't get resolved. Five minutes turned into 20 minutes and we weren't moving.
Ridiculous situation number 2: We still aren't moving. Some voice comes over the intercom and tells us that, "Some people have been asking to get off the plane here in Newark, as it is their ultimate destination. Unfortunately, according to regulation, if we were to let anyone off the plane now, we would have to cancel the flight and let everyone off. We are going to confirm with the head office in Atlanta?" Okay, that's fine, makes sense. Seems as though we will be taking off soon. This is good. We still have time to make the flight and catch our flight to Dublin, we can make it! Five minutes turned into 20 minutes and nothing was happening.
Ridiculous (and blood boiling) situation number 3: Some voice comes over the intercom, "If Newark is your final destination, can you please grab your bags and exit the plane." What the HUH? I thought it was regulation not to be able to do this. Now we can do this? What selfish person (more on this later) demanded this and caused, what by now we knew to be, many people to miss their connecting flights?! We are talking Liberia, England, Ireland, and parts of Africa from what I heard. We can still make it if the Newark people hurry their butts up and get off the plane. So. Slow. It was like....it was unreal. 10 people would exit. Then a few minutes later, a few more would get up and exit. There were probably 5 separate slows groupings of people that took their sweet 15 minutes to get off the plane. Okay okay, now push back and let us go! Five minutes turned into 20 and still we weren't moving.
Ridiculous...ah, you get the point, number 4: All of us Ireland people now know that we will not be making the flight out tonight. The bonding grows. Nicole is nearly in tears because the next flight to Dublin gets in AFTER our scheduled flight to Spain leaves. This is particularly worrisome because the flight into Spain that we booked was very hard to get. Then our flight to Germany will leave from Spain. It's a cascading fall of badness, yes badness. Some voice comes on over the intercom, "The flight attendants need to come through and get a head count so that we can compare our manifest and make sure that everyone is accounted for." Our poor flight attendants must have known this was a ruse. They took a good 10 minutes to count us over and over. The flight attendants had now become the targets of ire and anger from all the people realizing their missed flights. It's too bad because they really have no say on what is going on. The counting finishes. Five minutes turns into 20 minutes and we are not taking off.
Number 5: Some voice comes on over the intercom, "Ah, um, ah we have been trying to calculate the crew hours for today. According so some department of blah blah regulations blah blah, which our hours are something blah blah, our crew has timed out. We are now going to cancel the flight." You guys are so on top of it! Fantastic! Well at least we can get out of the plane and try to get some information. Our little band of 8 has bonded to the point that we have now banded and become a force. We have all vowed to stick together until all our flights are figured out. The local time is 12:30ish pm by the time we get off the plane. Remember my friend Krystle that I texted earlier? A few minutes later I called her up. She was on board with helping us out any way that she could. Whether that be to get us from Newark, New York and take us for the night, or to help keep us company if our flight didn't leave until late tomorrow, she was ready and willing. What a relief to have a such a good friend close by in a situation like this. Off to Deltas desk to get this figured out.
As we walked up to the Delta agents, Nicole and I made sure to watch each of them. After only a few minutes, we knew exactly which one we were going to. We let people go in front of us to the other agents until she was ready to help the next person. This was important and we weren't messing around! Little did we know that this choice would end up saving our entire crew of people from heartbreak. By now we had a finally learned each others names and where we were all from. This is the best part. We are all from Idaho! Haha! I didn't know anyone else from Idaho even went to Dublin. Justin and Megan live in Pocatello with their son Liam and daughter Kathryn. They had each spent several years in Ireland and were headed back for 5 weeks. Liz and Amber were the two going to the One Direction concert and are from Middleton! So back to the story, Megan and Liz were working with one agent and we got to our agent, Ashlynn. Ashlynn was amazing. She felt SO bad for all of our situations and worked very hard to help us. Our situation was a bit sticky because of our need to connect to our Spain flight. She was on it. We looked at tons of options. The other agents only cared about the original destination, that being Dublin, but we had special circumstances. They also only checked the Delta flights, which were extremely limited. Ashlynn hooked us up with an option with non partner Lutfhansa and, with some help from another agent named Clarence, got us the perfect fit with another non partner of Aer Lingus. No cost to us, and a hotel voucher to boot. We are missing an entire day in Dublin, and will have to eat the cost of the lodging we paid for, but that is great considering the circumstances. At this time i gave the thumbs up to Megan who was on her last bit of strength. She and Liz came over to find out what we booked. I told her it was a direct flight to Dublin and she completely was crushed. Her kids had been troopers all day, her and Justin have a great way with their kids. But, her agent had booked her on a non direct flight, and with already tired kids it was just too much. Liz was livid at hearing our news too. This is where the choice of waiting for Ashlynn saved the night. We introduced Ashlynn to Megan and Liz. She found both families direct flights and completely saved everyone's sanity. At long last (this took 2 hours) we made it to the shuttle. Our little posse laughed and talked and commiserated all the way to our hotel in NYC. Megan and Justin even had some dirt to spill on Delta after having a conversation with a head management person. As it turned out, some jerk face was demanding to be let off the plane in Newark and was saying (also tweeting) that he was being held hostage against his will. Even better is that the flight crewing timing out was a farce to make an excuse to cancel the flight. Delta rocks!!!. Exhausted, we checked in, dealt with a coin toss between us and Liz who gets the room with the broken toilet, helped Justin haul their luggage up, and crashed into bed at 3:30am. Silver lining? We made some great friends as only travel can create, Nicole and I now get to sit together ob the long flight, and WE GET TO TOUR NEW YORK WITH KRYSTLE TOMORROW! I'd say that classifies as silver.
PS: I apologize for any errors or lack of continuity. You'll get the gist of the story and I wanted to post it before we board, which we are right now.