Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jonah of the Airways

It has been pretty bad, trying to get from Vancouver to LA and then particularly to Chicago. The flight out was a small jumper and there were mechanical difficulties, which ultimately meant that a mechanic was out straightening the propeller before we took off! A bit disconcerting. Anyway, we left for Portland 40 minutes late, and I missed my flight to LA by about 10 minutes. This set off an unbelievably frustrating chain of events. Not only did it mean I was going to be much later than I wanted getting into LA, but then because Air Canada cancelled a leg of the flight (since I had to go on Air Alaska into LA), then I ended up getting bumped (involuntarily, no less!) because this increased the probability that I was going to just skip out on my other flights on the trip.  Even from Portland to LA, there was a problem.  Someone had thrown up in the bathroom on the previous flight, and it added a lot of extra clean-up during turnaround time, so I was even later getting into LA.

I ended up having to skip the trip to the Hammer Museum at UCLA, and my friend had to meet me near but not at LAX. (I had simply planned on taking the LA Flyaway to UCLA and having some extra time.) Well, I ended up getting cursed out by the cab driver, since the ride was so short. However, my friend and I did meet up and did make it to UCLA and then found parking (!) and then found Royce Hall in time to see Kronos Quartet play. It was quite a nice concert, though I didn't care much for John Oswald's Spectre (nor did I like it when they did it in Vancouver) nor was I crazy about the Penderecki piece.  However, Philip Glass's Orion: China (which they performed with Wu Man) was amazing.  I'll definitely want to see if that has been recorded.  The main reason I went was to see Crumb's Black Angels, and that was eerie and unusual.  I thought the encore (something from the soundtrack to Aronofsky's The Fountain) was quite powerful and entertaining.

Sat. in LA was particularly nice, as the weather was perfect.  We woke up late, and then spent a big part of the day at LACMA.  We met up with some other friends and ate at the food trucks, which are still camping out at LACMA.  It was a great day.

Then Sunday came.  My friend very graciously drove me to LAX, and I had plenty of time to get through security.  Then my troubles began.  All the airlines, but particularly United, have gotten far too aggressive on the overbooking front, and it was particularly bad this Spring Break.  As I mentioned already, they couldn't find enough volunteers (partly because they had no space at all on guaranteed flights later in the day) and I was bumped.  I was supposed to arrive at 5:30 pm.  The best they could do on a direct flight was 12:30 am.  As you can imagine, I was incredibly pissed, since it meant losing half a day with my kids.  Ultimately, they did compensate me (in these situations, you never volunteer to give up your seat, since it means they do have to provide more compensation).  They really dawdled in dealing with this, and then I only had 15 minutes to get to a flight to Denver -- in a different terminal no less.  I just hate LAX with a passion.  It is such a cesspool of an airport -- badly laid out and almost no meaningful internal circulation.  The food is pretty bad, and they have not figured out that if travelers are going to spend days stuck there, they need to provide more outlets and charging stations.  I probably won't visit LA again, and I have vowed never to transfer through LAX again in my life.

The last time I ever see this place? (LAX)

So I was more than willing to go to Denver, which was supposed to get me to Chicago at just about midnight.  Well, this ended up being a 5+ hour delay, which they handled quite badly, sending us back and forth from the monitors and such.  I thought the last person staffing the desk area at the gate did a terrible job, and I'm surprised more people didn't miss the flight once they finally did start boarding.  Anyway, I made it to Denver with only 15 or so minutes before that last Chicago flight, though that was uneventful, mercifully.  At that hour, I had no choice but to cab it to my mother-in-law's house on the far south side of Chicago.

I turned around and flew out to Toronto the next morning, though I have to say Porter was a fairly stress-free experience (getting to and from Toronto), and the return flight wasn't too bad (just long).  Sadly, my travels are not at an end.  I am flying back to Toronto today and finally returning home on Sunday.

Most of this can be put down to the airlines really overbooking flights and maintenance issues really catching up with them.  But I have had bad trouble getting to and from Scotland, and even from DC (when going to TRB in 2013).  It does make me wonder a bit if I am just a trouble magnet for these flights (a veritable Jonah of the Airways), and I certainly hope that nothing unusual happens on this next flight.  I really don't need any more headaches, since my patience has already been worn far too thin.

3/30 edit: the flight to Toronto wasn't too bad, but on the return I just missed the cut-off for the earlier flight by about 15 minutes (darn my attempts to avoid a speeding ticket in Toronto).  The board said that there was already a two-hour delay, which was about the last thing I needed to see.  I was quite sure this would eventually stretch to a 3 or 4 hour delay.  Apparently, the problem all started when one of the stewardesses didn't show up, so one had to be ferried over to Winnipeg to get that flight started.  However, I was glad that it wasn't anything mechanical, and they really did keep it to a 2 hour delay.  I was a bit surprised that the flight time was 5 hours (up from usually 4.5), but perhaps they did some rerouting to avoid turbulence.  I will say that there was remarkably little turbulence on this flight, so it wasn't so bad on the whole.  I did manage to finish reading two books over this trip, though not quite enough work-work.

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