As promised, here is the story of what followed our beautiful and relaxing vacation in Turks and Caicos.
After eating lunch with our friends, soaking up the gorgeous view of the beach in front of us, Adam and I took a taxi to the airport. We were taking a less than three hour plane on American Airlines to Charlotte, and after a small layover, hopping on a flight back to Baltimore. We would land in Baltimore just before midnight, drive home, and then pick the kids up from Adam’s parents when we woke up.
The airport in TC was pretty small, and prices for food were huge. Island prices PLUS airport prices are how you find a $7 bag of Combos. So we decided to wait until we landed in Charlotte to grab something to eat. I figured I would buy some snacks on the flight if I got really hungry. But once we were in the air and the flight attendants were coming around with drinks, we found out that they hadn’t stocked the plane with food, even though they advertise flights longer than two hours as having snacks available for purchase. They didn’t even have pretzels or anything that were given to us on our flights out. Alright, we would just wait until we landed.
As we approached Charlotte, our pilot told us we were having some “weather,” and were waiting to get clearance to land. We circled the airport for over an hour. Then, because we were running low on fuel, we were redirected to Charleston. We would refuel, then head back to Charlotte.
After we landed in Charleston, we waited. And waited. Adam finished his book. I finished my book. I started reading Adam’s book. Airplane wifi and inflight entertainment don’t work when you’re not up in the air. We were in line to get fuel, because apparently a few other flights had been sent here for the same reason. So we waited some more. And waited. It was late at night, we had more than missed our connecting flight, so I called the airline to make sure we would have a hotel room covered when we finally deplaned. I was told we would be given vouchers at the ticket desk. Fine.
After four hours (FOUR HOURS) sitting on the tarmac, we were told that there was a limit to how long an airplane can be used before it needs to take a break. So we were finally let off the plane after over eight hours of sitting on a less than three hour flight. Legally, an airline is not allowed to hold you on a plan that is going nowhere for more than three hours. And after two hours, they have to provide adequate food and drink. During that time, we didn’t receive food or water, and the bathrooms ran out of toilet paper. Shortly before we moved to the gate, we received small cups of water and a little cookie “from the emergency cookie stash.” My eyes were rolling so aggressively that they almost left my head and rolled down the aisle.
Leaving an international flight, we had to go through customs. Not too big of a deal, except that several international flights were finally allowed to exit at once, and they weren’t properly staffed at customs because it was the middle of the night. So we sat on the breezeway, that tunnel that connects you from the plane to the airport, for another hour. I called American Airlines several more times, because I was now being told that “We don’t do that,” when asking about getting a hotel for the night. I switched from “Are we going to have a hotel tonight?” to “How are you going to fix this because a bunch of this shit was illegal and I am hungry and tired and I smell like a plane full of farts and I really want to punch someone a lot of times PLEASE CONNECT ME WITH THE PERSON I SHOULD PUNCH.”
After eight hours on the plane, an hour on the breezeway, and then another hour to get through customs, we were allowed to sleep in the airport at baggage claim or near the check-in counters. It was 2AM by now. Adam went to sleep on the floor, but I knew I wasn’t getting any because the Charleston Airport does not turn off its very loud country music overnight. So I spent a small fortune on junk from the vending machines, connected to airport WIFI, and settled in to watch some Grey’s. Then I got bored and walked around to find ways to entertain myself.
First, I found some maintenance workers.
“Excuse me? Is there any way you can find it in your hearts to turn off this god awful country shit?”
“Believe me, we would if we could.”
Then I looked for other passengers stranded, but still awake, and let them know that they can file a complaint with the FAA, because we were held on the tarmac for an illegal amount of time, and the FAA fines airlines $27,500 per passenger for that crap. Not that any of us would see a dime, but I was feeling particularly spiteful and I wanted American Airlines to pay.
After I marinated in my anger with my fellow comrades, I found an airport security guard, and asked if there were any supplies for situations like this. Blankets, maybe? Or could I raid the lost and found for a sweatshirt if I promised to put it back? My husband was sleeping on a linoleum floor in shorts and t-shirt, and it was freezing. The answer was nope. I was the least surprised.
Finally, there was a ticket agent at the counter, and I was able to get our bags checked in for a flight to Charlotte. It was about 4 or 5am. She complained that she was called in at 8:30pm the night before to come deal with all the diverted flights that were stranded here. I would have felt bad for her, except she didn’t come in at 8:30pm, she came in crazy early the next morning. From her home. She was showered and had a meal in the last 12 hours. And then my blood boiled that the airport knew they were going to be stranding us for the night at 8:30pm and still didn’t let us off the plane until midnight.
Adam woke up and we waited for security to open so we could at least get to the carpeted floors of the gates. After we got through after 6am, we were very pleased to find a brick oven pizza place right next to our gate was opening and was serving pizza at 6am. We scarfed down one, I made several angry phone calls to the airline to get us out of there because our flight got cancelled while waiting for our delicious pizza, and then we took a nap on the floor. When we woke up, we ate another delicious pizza. It is hard to remember if the pizza was actually delicious, or if I just had Stockholm Syndrome at this point and was happy with whatever crumbs the airport threw me.
The next several hours went like this.
“We have a flight home!”
“They cancelled our flight home.”
“FIND ME A GODDAMN FLIGHT HOME OR I WILL EAT YOUR FAMILY AFTER I SUE YOU AND THE ENTIRE AIRLINE INDUSTRY.”
“We have a flight home!”
Finally, FINALLY, we had a flight to Charlotte and a connection to Baltimore. It wasn’t getting cancelled. We sat at our gate, itching to get home, and waited.
“Where is our plane?”
“They’re bringing it around, ma’am. It’s almost to the gate.”
That was repeated for about 40 minutes. Our take-off time came and went, and our chances of making our connection to Baltimore shrunk smaller and smaller. We got on the plane and flew to Charlotte, and because I guess no one knows how to just land a friggin plane in Charlotte anymore, we circled and waited to land. Once we landed, we checked our flight status, crossing our fingers. And our flight to Baltimore was late!! If we hauled ass, we had a shot at making it.
We waited for every geriatric motherbucket to get off the damn plane and out of our way, and booked it. Of course, our gate was across the airport. Of course it was. So we legit came out the gate running. I felt like I was in Love, Actually. But instead of finding true love at our gate, I was going to find someone to kick in the teeth. Every plane we had encountered on this trip didn’t leave the gate on time, or even on time for its delay. We just had to keep running, and we could make it. I wasn’t cute-running, either. I was mouth-breathing, sweating, Poptarts and Fritos from the vending machine wafting out of my pores.
When we found a closed door at the gate to our flight, realizing this was the only flight to leave one of the times it actually said it would, I started crying. And I was still out of breath for Usain Bolting across the whole place. Adam and I went to an American Airlines ticket agent, and I just cried at him. I cried that I wanted to go home, that I didn’t care what airline I was on. Just get me out of here on the next plane that leaves this airport that can take me home. Now. Adam told me later that I never told the ticket agent where “home” was. I just demanded he get me there.
I’m usually a polite person, especially with those working in the service industry. I worked in that industry for years. But American Airlines broke me. I missed my babies so much that it actually hurt. I wanted to go home and be done with this crap.
My hope was done and over with when we hopped on stand-by for a flight an hour later. But sweet cheesus, it happened. Adam and I got on a plane to Baltimore, and were confident we would be home with August and Halligan by dinner time. We landed at BWI, and our luggage wasn’t there, which we were expecting because of stand-by. Whatever.
As we pulled up to our house, Adam’s parents were already inside with the kids (and more pizza!) waiting for us. August was crying because he didn’t want to leave Grandma and Pop Pop’s house (ie. chocolate pudding and Nick Jr). Missed you too, dude. And Halligan was standing at our front window, banging her little hands against it when we stepped out of the car. Someone missed us.
It felt amazing to be home. And almost as amazing to file a complaint with the FAA about all that bullshit. Even when American Airlines tossed a cherry on the shit-sundae by delivering our luggage at 5:30am and waking up the whole damn house, I was happy that I was cussing them out from my own bed. They also sent us 20,000 miles so we can relive the nightmare for free one day. Thank you for sending me more of what I never want again, sweeties. You shouldn’t have. No. Really.
Any relaxed feelings we had from our vacation were crushed up, peed on and lit on fire. But it’s all over now, and I’ve even stopped calling American Airlines just to scream I HATE YOU and hang up. Thankfully, we have no flight plans in the near future, so maybe this will be like child birth and we will forget all the horrible parts and just remember getting to a beautiful island and then hugging our kids when we got home.