It was like a movie-the Southwest airline worker asked for our Driver's License and all 3 of ours hit the counter at the exact same time-in a little circle. This was closely followed by a credit card-landing right in the middle. The Airline worker is yelling across the room to "hold the plane!" as another airline worker was about to shut the door to the jetwalk and my brother, sister and I are all panting and apologizing to the many people in line that we cut in front of and not even caring where this plane is going-as long as it is going to St. Louis.
My brother, sister and I were flying to St. Louis to our grandfather's funeral.
A funeral that had family visitation in 3.5 hours.
And our flight had been canceled.
We were supposed to be flying on USAir. We arrived at the airport early and cleared security. We sat in a bar and loaded the terrified to fly sister up with some liquid courage. We bantered back and forth as siblings do-keeping our thoughts well away from the reason for this trip. Then, things went south.
The parents had flown out to St. Louis on the exact same USAir flight the day before to take care of the few remaining funeral arrangement details that had to be done in person. Except the flight was canceled due to engine trouble and they ended up sitting in Chicago, finally getting to St. Louis around 9pm-long after the cemetery and funeral home had closed.
45 minutes before takeoff the phone calls started. My Dad, very stressed, was calling because our flight was reporting a delay. At the gate it was still reading "on time". I nicely approached the worker and asked him about the flight-using the words we know what happened yesterday and we have to be at the funeral (visitation) tonight. He was nice and said that the plane was fixed and flying in from Hartford-and was running late but we would be out on time. 10 minutes later the board registers a 15 minute delay. My brother approaches him this time. He knows our situation, he says, and this plane is fine and just behind schedule. The flight arrives and some of the passengers get off. 10 minutes later, they make the remaining passengers (who were going on to St. Louis) get off. Then the flight attendants and pilots get off. The status changes to "delayed" and the airline worker disappears. This is bad. We hear words like "engine trouble" floating around. WE are the only ones who know this is the same damn plane as yesterday that had the same damn problem. WE are not happy. WE know this is not good.
My brother goes directly to the source-the pilot. He talks to him for about 30 seconds and then walks to the Customer Service Desk down the hall. 5 minutes pass and he calls and tells me to grab the sister all of our bags and RUN. Our flight is canceled and there is a Southwest Flight boarding now-leaving in 4 minutes. I grab sis and our bags and take off. She asks what's going on and I loudly yell to her (and the entire waiting room) It is canceled. We have to go NOW!
So-if you were in the airport around 2:15 Tuesday you saw 3 adults running as fast as they could-bags in hand-through the concourse. In the middle of this-MY phone rings. It is our Dad. I answered the phone, dropping my brothers water bottle and my purse and yell "WHAT? I am running as fast as I can!! We have 2 minutes to get on this plane or we are not making it to St. Louis tonight!" Dead silence on the other end-and then a "call me when you know if you can get on a flight".
We have no idea where to go other than "Concourse B" So I run up to the first desk and ask for help, gasping and out of breath (asthma-I felt fine-just sounded bad). The Southwest person was immediately helpful. She asked what was wrong-and told us she could help us-the flight behind her was the one we wanted. She calmly stopped what she was doing and started working on our problem-while letting the long line (of nice and understanding travelers going somewhere else-thank you, btw!) know that our situation required her immediate attention. In 5 minutes we had tickets, a flight number and the knowledge we would stop in Chicago on this plane-but not get off-and were on the plane-door closed and getting our pre-flight directions (exit doors, etc.) I was on the phone-literally standing at the plane-touching it-while on the phone with my Dad letting him know the flight details-and that our return flight needed rebooked because USAir canceled our entire tickets. I am not even sure if we GOT paper tickets-all I had was receipts for paying for them.
There were other hiccups-but all of them mild in comparison: A windy Chicago delayed our take off for awhile...my bag wouldn't fit in the overhead (I was last on the plane) and asked then to "check" it-they did but I had no idea that meant I had to go to baggage claim to get it-another delay.
We kept sis fairly liquored up and I asked a couple of people to move on the plane so we could sit together (or THEY would have to deal with her :) ) and they complied-and wouldn't even let me bye them a drink! I kept her mind occupied on the first leg-and handed her off the the brother for the second leg. By some small miracle we encountered ZERO traffic during rush hour.
In the end, we arrived at the hotel about 60-90 minutes later than we first planned-but we were at the funeral home for the majority of the Visitation. Which, considering the alternative (late night arrival) was great.
Thank God I had that double shot of Tequila!