Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LaGuardia: A Tale Of Woe

It was 12:45 p.m. on a clear and sunny Thursday afternoon. The only thing standing in the way of me and Vacation were some high winds and LaGuardia Airport -- notoriously terrible, always delayed, crappy, crappy LaGuardia Airport. Our LaGuardia flight was scheduled to depart at 3:35 p.m. Dan was due to pick me up at any moment.

As I sat there waiting, perched high above New York City in my very beige office, at my very beige desk, my gut told me ever so gently, Don't go to LaGuardia. Get in Dan's car and drive to Dulles (where our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at approximately 6:55 p.m.).

Doubting my gut, which you should never, ever do, I picked up the phone and called United's toll free number. A nice man in India told me, with confidence in his voice, that despite high winds in New York and countless delays at LaGuardia, our flight was just fine and scheduled to depart right at 3:35 p.m. on the dot. And, he added, if we did not show up for the LaGuardia leg of our travel, and instead went straight to Dulles, we would be considered a "no-show," thereby forfeiting our reservation for the entire trip. UNLESS, that is, the first flight was delayed or canceled, in which case skipping the first leg was just fine.

Oh the joy of travel.

"So you're SURE our flight hasn't been canceled and is scheduled to depart on time?"

"Yes, miss."

"And you think we shouldn't risk forfeiting our reservation by going straight to Dulles? You are recommending that we go to LaGuardia?"

"Yes, miss."

Fast forward 2 hours to a long line of sweaty, irritated passengers and a snippy United representative announcing that all flights to D.C. were either canceled or severely delayed due to high winds.

Panicked and shrilly: "But I was told on the phone, just prior to coming here, that everything was FINE!"

Tired and disinterested: "Yes, ma'am, but the person who told you that is probably in India and has no idea what is going on here in New York."

Big. Deep. Breaths. (An exercise that works wonders for me in most other situations, but not at LaGuardia Airport).

At this point, getting back to the car -- now parked miles and miles away in long-term parking -- and driving ourselves to Dulles was not an option because of time constraints.

Fast forward 8 hours to a cramped and dark terminal with one (1) Au Bon Pain quick-stop station, one (1) magazine rack, and a woman selling sandwiches, apples and cookies out of a cart. This was our home. Our prison. For Eight. Long. Hours. There was no leaving, you see, because we were on stand-by for every single flight that managed to make it out of LaGuardia all day and all night so had to stay close by "just in case." And because we were tagged as stand-bys we couldn't go through security without being thoroughly and invasively body-checked. So...there we sat, in probably the worst, most dank, suckiest airport terminal of all time. No shopping to distract. No cushy lounge in which to relax. No alcohol consumption to ease the pain. Just stale bread and trashy magazines and very angry, tired United employees. Angry, I tell you.

Dan eventually got on the good side of one of these angry employees, who furiously typed on his little keyboard (and when I say furiously, I mean sparks were flying, people) and managed to get us BOTH on a flight to Dulles that night (remarkable since they were claiming there were no seats left anywhere due to the high volume of screwed passengers), which would then connect us to a Denver flight that would arrive out west around 1:00 a.m. MST), which would then connect us to an Albuquerque flight early the next morning.

That's pretty much what happened, except for the added adventures of: sitting on the runway for a good amount of time because Dulles had, apparently, placed another ground-stop on all incoming air traffic (at which point Dan died a little inside); then, once finally leaving the God Forsaken Land of LaGuardia and getting to D.C. in one piece, running frantically to our Denver-bound plane which was waiting on us only because my dad had them on the phone, threatening that if they left without us he would sue (or something like that); arriving at our crappy Denver motel room (courtesy of United Airlines...ha -- just kidding!! yeah, they don't do that for "weather related issues"...) in the dead of night where, upon discovering that we'd both forgotten toothpaste, the night clerk informed Dan that they were all out too, but it's OK because he'd heard toothpaste was bad for your teeth and that it was "better to just use water"; then a few hours of fitful sleep and nightmares about planes crashing (because, mind you, all this happened on the same night of the tragic Flight 3407 Buffalo crash); a trip back to the Denver airport at the crack of the crack and then finally....a smooth flight to Albuquerque where upon arrival we fell into a heap of tiredness in my dad's car as he drove us to our final destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico. 25 hours door to door.

The moral of the story? Well, there are a few.

First, if it comes down to your gut vs. a United Airlines employee in India, always go with your gut.

Second, always bring Kleenex and booze with you to LaGuardia Airport because you *will* cry and you *will* need a drink.

And third, I hate LaGuardia. Not so much a lesson learned as a statement of fact. Regardless, it needs to be said. Maybe one more time: I. Hate. LaGuardia.

1 comment:

laurenklittle said...

leave it to LGA to create such a setting for a nightmare such as this! no fun, no fun... i want to hear about the rest of your trip sometime soon!

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