Friday, February 12, 2010

Question of the Day

What with all the weather-related travel woes…

What is your most interesting travel-interruption story?

In 1993, Allen and I were coming back from a week on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. (This was before the volcano came back to life.) We flew from Montserrat to Antigua to catch our flight on American Airlines back to Michigan. Our flight was supposed to leave at 8:30 a.m., but we’d also heard rumors that the flight attendants were planning to go on strike. We watched as the flight attendants went across the tarmac, boarded the plane, then turned around and walked off the job.

The ticket agents at the American counter were immediately mobbed by about 200 passengers who were trying to get home. On the other hand, Allen and I were going back to the cold and snow of northern Michigan and were in no hurry to get away. I knew that in situations like this the airlines were on the hook for getting us to our destination or providing us with accommodations until they could, so we waited patiently, played a few games of Scrabble, and when it came our turn to talk to the agent, we said, “Hey, whatever works.” They were very nice and patient, and after a lot of attempts to get us on flights to Traverse City via a variety of routes (including flying on Continental to Caracas, Venezuela, then to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, then to Detroit on Northwest) that for one reason or another didn’t work (lack of visas, for one thing), they gave us vouchers for a free night and meals at the Halcyon Cove Resort and told us to come back the next day. We got to the hotel, got a nice room, and spent the day on the beach of what was then an all-inclusive resort like Sandals; we saw more people in that one day on the beach than we’d seen during the entire week in calm and quiet Montserrat. The next morning we reported back to the airport and again got another free night at another resort. The third day was the same, except we were back at the Halcyon Cove. Finally, that afternoon we were told the airline had brought in a flight crew from South America; they were not part of the union and were willing to take us. We landed in San Juan in a sea of other stranded passengers, and in a scene that was reminiscent of the escape from Havana on January 1, 1959, we were put on a TWA red-eye to JFK with a connection to Chicago the next morning and then on to Traverse City.

We arrived at JFK at 2:00 a.m. and after a series of missteps (including leaving a piece of luggage in a shuttle bus — and chasing it down — after trying to get 20 people booked into a sold-out Holiday Inn in Queens), we spent the night sleeping on the floor of the terminal, then on to Chicago where we waited another eight hours for a flight to Traverse City, arriving around 6:00 p.m. We still had a 60-mile drive home from the airport to our house in Petoskey. It was snowing hard, we were still in tropical clothes, and we hadn’t really slept in about 36 hours. At one point in the drive Allen, after reminding me that we don’t drive in the left lane in the U.S. (I must have nodded off), said, “Well, that was an ADVENTURE!” And it was.