For Any Inconvenience

Friday before last, my flight from Key West to Miami was delayed.  I wasn’t aware of it for some time.  After I cleared security and got into the departure waiting area, there were no signs displaying flight status and no staff to be seen, only an empty tarmac that seemed innocuous at first but grew more ominous as time passed.  After a while, overheard two other passengers talking about how my flight would be leaving over an hour behind schedule.

Under different circumstances, this would have been fine.  I didn’t have to be in San Francisco at any set time.  However, the delay was going to eat up most if not all of my layover in Miami before catching my connecting flight.

Time ticked away.  Meanwhile, another plane bound for Miami arrived, offloaded, boarded, and left.  Those of us with tight itineraries pleaded with the ticket agent to get on the flight, but to no avail.  “Everyone has connections,” she said, as if that explained and justified everything.

By the time my and we were ready for takeoff, it was running close to an hour and a half behind schedule.  I remained hopeful that I would somehow be able to make my connection.  Maybe the flight to SFO was delayed as well.  Maybe the arrival and departure gets were right next to each other.  Maybe the propeller aircraft I was on was capable of hitting mach 1.

No such luck on any front.  When I arrived in Miami, it was three minutes before my San Francisco flight was scheduled to leave.  To make it in time, I had to get from Concourse D to Concourse E.  That sounds adjacent enough but required a quarter-mile dash with carry-on luggage followed by a ride on the airport’s Sky Train.  When I got there, I was ten minutes late and the plane had already left.

The woman at the desk told me there would be no more flights to San Francisco that evening.  I was given a boarding pass for the next morning’s flight plus vouchers for meals and a room at a nearby Holiday Inn.  It could have been worse.  Legally, I don’t think they were required to give me anything.  Congress supposedly passed a passenger’s bill of rights but after the airline lobby had its say, the legislation was no doubt transformed into reams of legalese that could be summarized in layman’s terms as simply “tough shit.”

The room was fine but the ten-dollar meal allowance was a little insulting, as it had not been adjusted for inflation since the release of the movie “Airplane!”  If I ordered a burger, the cheapest item on the hotel-restaurant menu, my voucher would cover the cost with five cents to spare if:

  • I didn’t get cheese with it.
  • My beverage was tap water.
  • I refused to pay sales tax.

Suffice it to say I was not living large on American Airlines’ dime.  After dinner, I went back to my room to watch CNN and get some sleep before my five a.m. wake-up call.  This must be the business travelers live, eating bland but adequate food and sleeping in bland but adequate hotel rooms.  Just the way employers prefer it, I reckon.  No good can come to a company from booking a sales rep into a hotel that doubles as a whorehouse.

When I got my five a.m. call, I didn’t dawdle.  I quickly showered, hopped the shuttle to the airport, and made it through security.  There was no way I was going to miss another flight.  It didn’t even matter that I was going to have to sit scrunched between two people for the next six hours.  I was just glad to be on the move, enjoying the miles that disappeared behind me far more than the ones that lay ahead.