A First Class Trip to Hell is Still a Trip to Hell

So, the good news about yesterday’s flight home is that I was bumped to first class. Yay! Extra leg room!

The bad news about yesterday’s flight home: It left 30 minutes late because they hadn’t finished (or possibly even begun) fueling the plane before we boarded; a dual line of thunderstorms diverted hundreds of miles out of our path, necessitating an unplanned stop at Dallas-Fort Worth in order to refuel; the refueling stop took more than two hours, at least 30 minutes of which came down to waiting for maintenance to say “uh, yeah, you can go, I guess,” that last bit of delay being the thing that caused me to miss my (already once-rescheduled) connecting flight, which was also the last flight of the day to Dayton; and when we landed in Charlotte, nearly five hours late, we had to wait an additional 30 minutes to get to the gate because it had rained too hard.

Yay! Extra legroom!

All of which is to say that I am still not yet home. I am in Charlotte, having gotten a couple hours of sleep at a (thankfully comped) hotel, waiting to see whether the presumably first flight out to Dayton will actually fly, or whether it will be delayed because, oh, let’s say, hamsters in the engines.

I am sitting with hoi polloi for this leg of the journey. Let’s see if it makes any difference.

Update, 1:41pm: Back at home and rested. Hooray!

44 Comments on “A First Class Trip to Hell is Still a Trip to Hell”

  1. Be glad you missed that storm, It was pretty bad when it went over us. Sorry for your delays, stay safe.

  2. John: A bit more class consciousness, please ;-).

    As a frequent train traveller in Europe, i am currently trying to get my first name changed to Odysseus for the frequent detours it incurs…

  3. Bummer, John. I feel your pain – been there, done that.

    Hey, today can’t be as bad, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

  4. Hope you get home without further problems. Did you get bumped from business or coach? Was it for being a famous author or just random chance? Hey, if I howrked for an airline and my favorite Sci-Fi author showed up, he’d totally get bumped (unless doing so could get me fired – I’m a coward).

  5. I’ve been stuck in Charlotte that way; bet I can guess what airline you were flying! Are you in an incredibly crappy chain motel room with no wi-fi and crummy cable if any?

  6. This is exactly why I never, ever, ever fly unless I absolutely have to. Fifteen hour drive or less? Driving. At least I *know* it’s gonna be fifteen hours.

  7. When I think about what it takes to get those beasts from one place to another, it amazes me that these sorts of incidents don’t happen more frequently. Still, it’s no fun when it happens to you. Hope you make it home safely today!

  8. That…does not sound like fun. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a safe and speedy journey home today. Except that will make it very hard to type. They’re metaphorically crossed, anyway.

  9. Wish I’d known about the Charlotte layover. Would have taken you to the world’s best 24 hour French bakery, and found you some great BBQ as well. NC has been cursed for travel the last 48 hours. Rock slides in the mountains, and 77 north has a 50 mile stretch closed due to a tunnel fire in West Virginia.

  10. Hamsters in the engines is probably a sign that the airline is trying alternative fuel sources. As long as they keep going round in those wheels, you’ll be fine.

  11. Once upon a time I was two people waiting for a standby seat. The gate person said “I have one seat in coach” and the other person demanded it because obviously he ws more important than me. He got it. Then gate person came back out and said “I also have one seat in first class.” The Scalzi is correct. First class is great! So was the schadenfreude of smiling at the guy who demanded the coach seat as I walked past him!

  12. This is what happens when the germlins work out you’re on a plane…

    At least you’re a bit more comfortable in first.

    Hope you get home sometime this month.

  13. John… you have an awful big carbon footprint. Between the gas guzzling cross country travel, book tours, massive house, and that lawn of yours that has to be mowed… please consider the planet. Every time you go to a Con you are effectively murdering a polar bear cub.

    now go buy a bicycle and make your way home in an eco-friendly manner. It is also heart healthy.

  14. Yowza! Nasty stuff. My kind of hell as well. Hang in there and maybe use this would be the time for your first beer?

    “Hoi polloi.” I had to google that. Still don’t know the language (Hawaiian?). I feel barbaric(“Pass the venison, please!”).

  15. I am sitting with hoi polloi for this leg of the journey.

    It warms the cockles of my pedantic heart to see people leaving out the redundant “the” before “hoi”.

    Greg Leon Guerrero @ 10:54:

    “Hoi polloi” is Greek; literally “the many”. It’s the plural form of “polys” (“much”), whence we get the prefix “poly-“. Often used for “the rabble”, “the commoners”, etc..

  16. What the hell is the deal with ground crews not being ready for arriving planes? I know that the schedules get mixed up, but the ground knew (or should have known) you’re coming for quite some time even on a delayed (or even re-routed) timeframe. It’s one thing if there isn’t a gate available. It’s quite another for them to not have someone available to move the fricking jet bridge into place.

    I understand with profit margins tight and limited competition the airlines can’t/ won’t do things that make travelling easier. I don’t understand why they seem to go out of their way to make things difficult.

  17. I am SO sorry to hear about your Flight From Hell, Scalzi! I’ve had one trip that was that bad, to Kansas City where Tammy was GoH for ConQuesT. Tammy and I were stuck in O’Hare for several hours, and we had to take separate flights from there to KC because our original flight was late and they only had one seat left on the next flight out – which Tammy (lucky her, given the flight was overbooked!) took since she had to be there the next day.

    I almost didn’t make it until the next day – and seriously considered renting a car and driving the eight hours from Chicago to Kansas City. At it turned out, there was a seat on the last flight out that day, and I got a seat on that….

  18. I am reminded of Louis CK, “Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story and it’s like a horror story. It’s, they act like their flight was like a cattle car in the 40’s in Germany. (yeah) That’s how bad they make it sound (right). They’re like it was the worst day of my life. First of all we didn’t board for 20 minutes (right) and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there. Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero? Wow, you’re flying! It’s amazing! Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, oh my God, wow (yes) you’re flying, you’re, you’re sitting in a chair in the sky (yes, yeah, yeah) but it doesn’t go back a lot. And it smells really. You know, here’s the thing. People like they say there’s delays on flights (yeah) delays really New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You’d be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there. Now you watch a movie you take a dump and you’re home.”

    I feel your pain but… hey, you were flying in a chair in the sky!

  19. I’m sure hoi polloi are happy to see you. And Stephen Dunscombe, thank you! My educational moment for the week; I was one of those who didn’t know the literal translation included the article.

  20. There is a short story around somewhere where the lead character is trying to get home and keeps getting rerouted – it’s a take on purgatory. Can’t remember who wrote it though it might be in one of the SF anthologies.

  21. @Not the Reddit Chris S: Think that might be Ursula K LeGuin? Can’t remember its name ….

    Sorry to hear you had the gremlins *in* the plane this time … hope you are soon home and resting.

  22. @ Sooz: That sounds like you’re thinking of the framing story for the “Changing Planes” collection, which is called “Sita Dulip’s Method”.

  23. My horror story was the flight from Detroit to Boston that ended up taking 12 hours, including being threatened with being left stranded in Newark and a bus ride from NJ to MA. When we neared Boston, the driver heard me pointing out sights to people I’d befriended and asked me if I could direct him to Logan (I could and did)!

    All that for a short weekend trip (return took 6 hours instead of 1, but that’s a different tale).

  24. I think Mary’s poor traveling luck is rubbing off on you. Your tweets were very similar. Well, except for the “take a drink” and “I have a drink” parts.

    So, in trying to get home to Ohio from California, you end up in North Carolina. When you think about it, that’s a pretty impressive detour.

  25. US Air did the same thing to me once – left me stranded in the Philly airport overnight (with no hotel rooms to be found, let alone a comped one) and it took a merry chase of missed connections through half a dozen cities before I finally got home. Never flown with them again, have no intention of doing so in the future.

  26. @ Not the RCS – “keeps getting rerouted – it’s a take on purgatory”

    Despite being without planes, it reminds me a bit of the John Cleese film Clockwise, though here he is a punctuality obsessive trying to get to a headmaster’s conference where he is giving a keynote speech and all manner of obstacles turn him nuts.

  27. I wasn’t at home in Sidney when it blew through, but I know that Mercer, Darke, and Shelby Counties were under a severe thunderstorm warning. I was up at Lake Erie and we had two sets of storms blow through, especially when we were out in the open on the shore at Camp Perry. Plenty of lightning, lots of people running for shelter, but fortunately, no one got injured. On Saturday, there were 3 reports of hail, 1″ just northwest of Sidney, 2″ in Jackson Center (northeast corner of Shelby County) and 4″ hail in Anna, (north central Shelby County). There was a confirmed tornado in Champaign County from this very line of storms that blew through last night. Glad you didn’t have to land in them.

  28. @Grace, thank you, yes, that was the book! I had ‘Always Coming Home’ in mind but I knew that was wrong :).

  29. I had a trip like that once. An early-afternoon flight out of Buffalo was delayed on takeoff by mechanical trouble, so when it finally got off the ground, Chicago was socked in by snow. We landed at Flint and had a 7-hour bus trip to O’Hare. Slept on the conveyer belt, because who knew when flights would be going out the next day? First flight we could get on to Portland left at 1:30 PM the next day. We were bumped up to first class (yay!) but the flight was diverted to Seattle, where we sat on the runway for several more hours before being allowed to continue to Portland. Elapsed time Buffalo to Portland, about 32 hours. And of course, I was actually starting from St Catharines, Ontario (so we had to go through US Customs first) and going to Corvallis, Oregon, so somewhat closer to 40 hours overall.

    The champagne and lobster hardly made up for it.

  30. This stuff never happens on trains. Of course, train travel has its own problems…

  31. I believe I was at DFW killing time until my next flight while you were there, and I got to see a pretty light show from the storms when I got on the plane later.

    I wasn’t supposed to be at DFW, but I had done a Stupid Thing: I read the itinerary that had been emailed to me, and it said (with exactly this formatting): “depart YYZ 10:05 AM, arrive LAX 12:25 PM“. And even though my eyes work perfectly well and I am capable of doing math and other forms of higher reasoning, I just went ahead and copied down the part they’d put in boldface, and dutifully arrived at the airport two hours before 12:25.

    The airline was kind enough to give me only a $75 spanking in exchange for putting me on a different flight that routed me through Dallas and added many hours to my travel time, and I am in no way complaining about that because it was my own dumbass fault, but it was a fairly unpleasant travel day.

  32. The first time I went to Australia my return journey was a nightmare.

    I flew Melbourne to Singapore, Singapore to Tokyo, Tokyo to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Seattle, and finally Seattle to Edmonton. It was such a long trip, 32 hours IIRC, that by Seattle I was having auditory hallucinations.

    Eating dinner in an airport restaurant I found that I was seated between two groups of Australians. Or I thought I was. Upon asking where they were from suddenly their accents changed to bog-standard US ones. It was very disturbing to find my senses fooled like that.

    When I got back to the gate they were calling for volunteers to layover because the flight was overbooked. The counter staff was visibly put out when I enquired about my seat. She thought I was going to volunteer, and even explaining why I absolutely, no fooling, *needed* to be on that flight (She couldn’t smell the veracity of my story? Really?) did nothing to mitigate her ire.

    Mind you, she was balance with the check-in clerk in Los Angeles. When asked if I wanted window or aisle, I said “Smelly.” I had forgotten to pack a spare shirt and deodorant in my carry-on and in my brief layover in Tokyo I couldn’t find anything in the shops there that I could positively identify as deodorant .

    On boarding the aircraft I found that I was on the aisle of a three seat row. When the doors shut the two seats next to me were still empty. Cool, I can stretch out! When I got up to go to the toilet I found that I was only person on the aircraft who had a row to himself. Either I really was that smelly, or she saw just how bagged I was and took pity on me. Nice either way.

    My mother crossed the Atlantic on four separate occasions, ever time as a passenger on a freighter. Many years later, after as many trans-Atlantic flights, she was firmly of the opinion that air travel was uncivilised. I can’t say I disagree.

  33. Hi John,

    From a retired Pilot, the most important things to know about flying:

    1 The Pilot has the final say – If he doesn’t want to go, then neither do you.

    2 The Pilots primary pay is for logged flight time (take off to touchdown) so they really want to go.

    3 The system is so tightly scheduled that any flight that does not go to schedule, screws up at least 5 other flights (which affects 25 more …think chain reaction) Once a problem occurs, the system won’t recover until the next day.

    4. If at all possible, avoid afternoon and early evening flights in the midwest, south and east during storm season. Easier said than done.

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