The other morning a friend of mine told me about his recent trip home from a convention in Denver. He had to wait three hours in Minneapolis for his connection. I really don’t like sharing stories about travel horror, but that one was far too easy to top.
We had been in Denver for a wedding. My brother Eric and his wife Anke were there, too. After all the festivities, we left Denver in the morning. Eric planned to drive back to Rochester and we took the airplane. We dropped off the rental car at Denver International about the time Eric drove past the airport east of Denver. We breezed through security. There wasn’t much for security in the Nineties. The flight to Minneapolis was uneventful. We arrived in plenty of time to catch our flight from MSP to Rochester. There was a layover of more than two hours.
We called Eric. He was in Omaha. We’d beat him home easy. They announced boarding for our plane and we dutifully lined up to get on board. We stood patiently. One moment, please; a mechanical problem with the airplane. Sit and wait. No problem they said. There’s another airplane available and we’ll get it right out for you all.
In two hours. They moved all the luggage, the food, the crew and all the freight from the hold. Again we dutifully line up to get on board. Nothing to it. We get settled in and wait. And wait.
“Sorry folks. There’s a problem with this airplane.” A cracked windshield. The airline can handle this. Believe it or not, there’s another airplane available for us to go to Rochester. They herded us off the airplane to wait in the concourse for the next bird. They find an airplane, get it into position, move the luggage and freight, wait for a new crew and get everything ready. We are now over six hours late.
Finally the ground crew finished fueling the airplane and hundred or so grumpy people get on board and wait for the plane to back out of the gate. It does! We’re on the way! Takeoff is easy. It’s a short flight, maybe twenty minutes total if there’s a headwind.
A half hour into the flight the pilot comes on the PA.
“Sorry folks, the Rochester airport is fogged in. We will circle until it clears.”
It doesn’t clear.
“Sorry folks, we’re running low on fuel and have to return to Minneapolis.”
Talk about grumpy. By the time we land at MSP Eric has been home in Rochester for hours. We’re just getting off the airplane. In Minneapolis. Again. It’s coming up on midnight. The airline will take care of us. They hand out a few dollars of coupons to get food. Maybe half enough for a meal. If the restaurants were open we could get food. It’s midnight for God’s sake! Judy is beside herself. She’s recently diagnosed with diabetes and isn’t sure about the medications and food. Now we’re shifting meals, highly stressed and can’t find food. Talk about grumpy.
They’ll take care of us. A bus is on the way. Do you have any idea what it takes to find a bus and driver in the middle of the night? About three hours, that’s what. It took several buses, what with the luggage and all the people. What a mess.
We wave at our house from the highway as we ride by on the bus headed for the Rochester airport. We arrive home before sunup. Over fourteen hours from our arrival in Minneapolis from Denver. Almost twenty hours from when we left Denver. Eric and Anke awake refreshed. We tumble into bed after a long night after a long day.
Since then I try to avoid flying out of Rochester. One day I’ll tell you about the time the airplane had to stop in Des Moines to refuel before it could land in Rochester.
Airline employees are great people, but they are severely challenged.