Bad Things Happen: Missed Connections

Boston
August 2015

Nothing can sour the memory of an otherwise pleasant trip than a bad journey home.

When international flights are late, everything falls like dominos. I am writing this from Logan International Airport in Boston on the day after I was due to return home. Yesterday was a mess. At check-in in Copenhagen, at 4 a.m., I received a text that the Amsterdam–Boston leg had been delayed by two hours. Suddenly, the three-hour changeover in Boston was down to less than an hour.

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the gate agent informed me that once I arrived in Boston I probably would be rebooked on a Detroit flight and then sent home from there, arriving after 10 p.m. A long day, I supposed. I was up that morning at 2 a.m., after getting very little sleep. Some people were having a loud party in the street outside my hotel.

“Get some rest on the plane,” the gate agent told me. I took her advice, and for once I was able to sleep most of the way.

As we approached Boston, the flight attendant announced what people needed to do to rebook connecting flights. She assured us that people would be there to help. An hour in customs, one line after another. A roundabout run from the international terminal to the airline’s domestic ticket counter. In the special assistance section, there was already a long queue and only a couple of agents.

When it was my turn, the agent told me I was booked on a flight to Detroit, but it was leaving in five minutes. “Hurry,” she said. “It’s the best I can do.” Security was a mess. I didn’t make it.

The gate agent booked me on a flight to LaGuardia in New York. The flight boarded and pulled away from the gate. Onboard, there were several of us from the Amsterdam flight, some trying to get to the same final destination as me. I chatted with a young Zumba instructor sitting next to me, who had come over from Kuwait and was heading to Orlando for a conference.

After a long wait on the runway, the plane was second in line to take off. That was when the captain informed us of a one-hour ground stop. He didn’t know why. The sky was gray, but not violently so. At seven o’clock, the flight attendants brought water. An hour later, the plane was back at the gate. By now, I’d missed the connecting flight home. “Go back to ticketing,” the gate agent directed me.

That’s when things went south. The woman from Kuwait and I were third and fourth in line, respectively. There were only two agents at the counter, and one of them was packing up to leave. The one who was staying called for a manager, who didn’t arrive. These two women at the counter were totally losing it. “This is an outrage,” one of them kept saying. The group lining up behind us was already getting impatient.

An hour passed. Finally someone helped us. A long wait and a couple of phone calls later, she booked the Zumba instructor and me on separate flights leaving the following morning. After another half hour, her manager found us hotels – mine way out in the country.

This is the problem with international flights. When they are significantly late, everything falls like dominos. Throw in bad weather and it’s hopeless. There was a girl from the Amsterdam flight who was on her way to Phoenix. They tried to route her through LaGuardia to Minneapolis and then on to Phoenix. That didn’t work out.

So now it’s the next morning, and I’m sitting here an hour before boarding, waiting for my seat assignment. I’m hopeful.

Finally, a break: an open seat on a nonstop home. I dash from one end of the terminal to the other through an underground passage with my luggage in tow, until my lungs practically explode. Made it.

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