Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday Travel and Weather Delays

By Maggie Sefton

ATTENTION: Please read the post directly below this post, because I've picked a Gift Card Winner for December for the Cozy Chicks Blog commenters! Now, for my post---

When you travel as much as I do, it's not unusual to experience some delays, especially with airline travel. Airlines have cut back their flights and are packing each plane. And there are still lines of people waiting at the edges hoping to fly "stand-by." But I've been pretty lucky most of the time. I've only been stranded at an airport twice while attempting to return to Denver's International Airport. Once, was in the summer of June 2006 when I returned from a marvelous refill-the-well 2-week trip to Ireland and the second time was this past weekend when I was returning from a wonderful Christmas holiday trip back to the Washington, DC/Northern Virginia area.

My flight was due to depart Washington, DC's National airport last Thursday at 5:00pm. After a connection in Atlanta, I was due to arrive in Denver about 9:15pm and had scheduled an airport shuttle for return to my home in Fort Collins, an hour north of Denver. Unfortunately, the nasty & violent snowstorm that had drowned California the day before was dropping tons of snow across the Rocky Mountains throughout the West. Our mountains are used to having feet and yards of snowfall, but those of us who live along the Front Range (of the Rocky mountains) had been spared any real snowstorms since last winter. The Front Range runs from the Wyoming state line down toward the New Mexico border. So, Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, and on down have gotten scant snowfall. Well, we were due, and that nasty storm decided to deliver. Not much, really. Only about six inches or so, but the below zero temps and gusty winds played havoc with airline schedules across the country. Planes couldn't get where they were supposed to be, including Washington National where the sun was shining and temps were in the 40s.

When I arrived at the airport and dropped off my luggage at the bag drop, the Delta rep informed me of the first delay. I knew immediately that would cause a problem, because I only had 45 minutes to deplane in Atlanta & get to my second flight. Atlanta is a big airport with several concourses. The kind Delta lady tried to see if I could get on another flight to Denver, but they were all booked. And, after watching two more delays go by, I figured I would be spending the night in Atlanta. Sigh. . .thanks to constant airport announcements, I envisioned a night spent trying to snooze in between recorded voices blaring. Not fun. I also knew that weather delays meant that no airline would reimburse you for a motel. I figured I'd spring for a motel myself, if I could find one. Flights were being cancelled and delayed all over the country, which meant a busy airport like Atlanta would have no lack of stranded passengers.

So---imagine my surprise when I finally deplaned in Atlanta and paused at the Delta Customer Service kiosks where they scan your boarding pass and print out your new flight paperwork. Not only did that little scanner machine spit out my new boarding pass for a Friday morning flight, but it also spit out two meal vouchers (dinner & breakfast) plus a voucher for an airport motel. On each of the vouchers was printed Delta's explanation that the vouchers were given because of the airline's "equipment failure." Failure to get the necessary planes to Washington National on time for me to make my connection.

Boy---was I surprised. . .and delighted. I headed straight for an airport cafe, ordered a nice glass of wine to go with my meal & called the motel to find out where to pick up the shuttle. Then, I headed straight for the shuttle and a 6-minute ride with fellow lucky Delta passengers to the motel and some sleep which I really needed. After breakfast the next morning, I boarded my new non-stop flight to Denver & discovered another "gift" from Delta: they seated me in First Class. Now, that was a treat. Thanks to my Scottish heritage mixed in with the English & Irish, I never choose to spring for First Class. :) Actually, it could be due to the accountant in me. Whatever-----I really enjoyed that treat.

So---considering Kate's awful treatment at the hands of one airline and all the other travel nightmares out there, I thought I'd share a story that turned out really well. Do you have any travel stories to share? Nightmares or good ones?