I’m supposed to be sitting around visiting with my dear friends in Florida right now, my dry skin soaking up the humidity re-hydrating my sinuses, while my kids burn off their energy and re-kindle old friendships. Instead, I’m sitting at a Clarion Hotel in Detroit soaking up high speed internet while my kids run around the room slapping each other in some game they just made up. THIS has been a day for the records. I think I’m accumulating enough airline travel with kid stories to make up a book, or in this case non-airline travel.
This was supposed to be a simple trip. The Narrator dropped the kids and I off at the Detroit airport a little before 11 a.m. today. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:30 and we’d arrive in Tampa at 3:00 p.m. My dear friend went into work early today so she could leave early and pick us up. We arrived at our gate and discovered we had an hour delay due to a mechanical problem with the plane that they were in the process of fixing. There had been NOTHING online or at check-in to tell us we were delayed. I called The Narrator to let him know and told him I’d keep him posted. He had packed his camera and planned on doing a photo shoot in Detroit for the day. Since we live about 2 hours from Detroit, he figured he’d make the most of the trip instead of just heading straight home.
We sat at the gate and sat. And sat. And sat. Another hour delay. Then another. Then no news. Then another hour. There were four other kids aged 2-7 on this particular flight and they all became good buddies with T-Rex and Little Miss Sunshine. In fact, I’m not sure how we three moms (two of us were traveling alone with our kids) would have survived the day if they didn’t have each other to play with. While the newly remodeled Detroit airport is nice, it’s no Tampa airport which has a nice play area for kids.
Finally around 3 p.m. the airline started offering food vouchers for both lunch and dinner. They said we should be boarding around 4 p.m. (remember this was supposed to be a 12:30 flight with a 3 p.m. arrival time). I got in line to get the vouchers. And we waited. And waited. They were HAND filling out these vouchers and it took a looong time. Finally about a half hour later, we had our vouchers and since it was apparent that we weren’t going to be leaving by 4 p.m. (judging by the ladder under the plane and complete lack of maintenance activity) I decided to walk the kids down to the farthest end of the terminal for a sandwich. They needed to burn off the energy. I could tell we were starting to push their limits of staying in one place and playing with good manners. We marched all the way to the end and at the last minute I changed my mind on which restaurant and veered into a smaller sandwhich shop. They ordered their fancy croissants and we marched ALL the way back down the terminal. By this time in the day I was reaching my limits too. It was funny to watch everyone grin and smile at us as we marched through the terminal. The kids did look rather adorable with their Lightning McQueen and Disney Princess backpacks on. Adorable, despite that I had been hissing for a half hour straight, “Stay next to me!! Don’t run!! Watch where you are going! Slow down! Keep up! Please walk normal and WATCH where you are going!!” Ok so they were adorable, me really not so much. At all. Nada. Zero adorableness in the hissing mother mode.
We made it back to the gate to discover that YES, finally we were going to board. At five p.m., I called The Narrator to announce that at last, finally, we were sitting on the plane. We began to taxi towards the runway, and I sank back in my seat praying the kids would sleep. I wasn’t sure how they would handle 2 1/2 hours more of being cooped up. T-Rex had a minor meltdown as we were heading towards the runway because he couldn’t see out the window and he didn’t believe me that we really weren’t in the air yet.
And then the terrible noise started that made everyone on the plane fear it just might break into pieces right there under our feet and dump us onto the runway in Detroit. We had heard rumor that the problem with the plane was something with the hydraulics and a pump. And it sounded like the pilot was doing one last final check as we taxied away. And the hydraulics were grinding and groaning and complaining LOUDLY. I looked around and saw the other passengers looking at each other and starting to laugh. At this point in the day, FIVE hours delayed, it was all so ridiculous that you really had few choices left: laugh, cry, or start a riot. Fortunately, people were still able to laugh.
Soon, the pilot pulled the plane off the taxi route. And we sat. And sat. And then they announced that the pilot thought something still wasn’t right (DUH. It doesn’t take a license to know THAT didn’t sound right!) and was checking with maintenance to see what to do. TIP: if the plane sounds like it’s going to fall apart, it’s a good idea NOT to fly it. Fortunately, maintenance agreed. And we headed back to the gate. They instructed us to sit and wait while maintenance took another look at the plane, but if we wanted to get off and get a refund we could do so. Half the plane got off. I mean, really, they had already been looking at the thing for FIVE hours. If it wasn’t fixed now, they weren’t going to fix it in 20 more minutes. I sat there with the kids and made a few phone calls to The Narrator. My brain was so fried at that point that I couldn’t even think of my options other than: laugh, cry, or start a riot. I was leaning towards starting a riot, but I had a 2 year old and a 4 year old and thought that might not come off as good mothering skills, although I’m sure they would have made willing and valuable accomplices.
After about 20 minutes, we were instructed to de-plane and wait at the gate while they made a final decision about the plane. It’s too bad no one asked me what to do about the plane. I would have told them to take it out back and start a bonfire with it and make s’mores. At least something good could have come from it then, because really, what’s not good about charred marshmallows surrounded by gooey chocolate and graham crackers? How can you be sad or angry or frustrated then? I think they might have turned their angry customers into happy customers had they just started a bonfire with the plane and invited everyone out for s’mores. Problem solved. Well, unless you really had to get to Florida for a wedding or a cruise.
At last, at 6 p.m. nearly SIX hours after our departure time and three hours after our original arrival time, they canceled the flight. We were all told to go downstairs to the ticket counter for a refund or to re-schedule. Oh, but it gets better. A plane full of passengers had also checked in for a 6:55 p.m. flight to Ft Lauderdale and their flight was canceled too – our plane would have been their plane too (had it actually made it to Florida and back). Tell me, WHY did those people show up for their flight? Don’t you think around oh…3 p.m. (the time the plane should have been leaving FL to head BACK to DTW) they should have put on their website and updated the flight status as seriously delayed? Nope. Spirit prefers to keep their customers completely in the dark and show up at the airport and wreck hundreds of peoples lives on an otherwise happy Friday. So there we all stood, in one giant line with one ticket agent to deal wtih a couple hundred customers who really are ready to riot at this point. In fact, I almost saw a couple riots start. A policeman, who seriously looked like a guy from the movie Mall Cop on his little wheelie thingy, smoothed things over. People got more and more frustrated over very valid concerns like – why don’t you have another plane to bring in? Why don’t you schedule another flight? Why do you only have 20 seats on a the ONE flight tomorrow? Why can’t you help us schedule on another airline? There was ZERO customer service help. Zero. No hotel vouchers. No free flight vouchers. So sorry our plane broke. Your loss. I didn’t talk to a single person in line who said they’d ever fly Spirit again. I know I won’t!!
Thankfully, The Narrator had stayed in Detroit all day long and we didn’t have to wait 2 hours for him to come and save the day. He showed up, located our checked luggage. A new friend in line in front of me gave me Spirit’s 800 number (which no one had told us we could call to reschedule). I made the call and got us on a flight for Sunday.
We decided to spend the weekend in Detroit and just make a family weekend of it. We found a good price on a hotel on Priceline.
There’s more to tell. More funny thoughts, more good human moments, more ridiculous non-customer service moments, and I’ll get to them later. For now, I need to recover from spending 8 hours in the airport to nowhere.