Sweet Home Chicago

Blimey.  What a difference 48 hours can make eh?

This time two days ago; I was stuck in Chicago O’Hare airport.  I had spent 7 hours sitting on the runway in a situation that became more convoluted as time went on.

For whatever reason, United Airlines decided to keep their gate open for over 25 minutes after the plane was scheduled to leave (so that people could make the flight).  Big mistake!  We eventually made it out onto the runway and found ourselves about 10 or so in the queue to take off.  By the time we got remotely close to the front of the queue, we had used up too much fuel!  SLAG!

Back to the gate we went, which took an age because only one gate could service the 747 type of plane that I was on.  Refueled, we headed back out again, only to find that a storm came out of the middle of nowhere and rattled the plane with it’s 83 mile an hour winds.  Posts nearby were shaking like mad, the wings were bobbing up and down, almost like we were experiencing turbulence.

The air traffic control tower was evacuated due to the strong winds; we eventually had to return back to the gate in case debris had clocked up the tailpipe or gotten into the engines.  When we got back inside the terminal, the flight was cancelled.  Pandemonium!

It was literally a case of everyone for themselves; queues formed as people tried to book alternative routes.  I eventually got to the front of the queue after almost 4 hours; and then they shut it due to ‘union restrictions’.  This was about 2:30am local time.

Bugger.

The communication from airline officials was terrible; I was told to go back to gate C18 so that I could find an alternative flight home.  The customer service desk was due to open there at 4:45am.  So I just slept on the concrete floor.

At 4:45am we all jumped up, only to be told that the customer service desk couldn’t help International customers.  Everyone then ran, literally ran, down to the front of the airport (a good mile or so) and queued up at the front desks.  I must have waited 4 hours to get my flight re-organised.  My new itinerary………home via MONTREAL!

I was initially told that I would be unable to fly home until Friday, arriving Saturday which was a grim scenario given that I would have missed my driving test.; so going home via Canada didn’t seem so bad after all.  The Air Canada staff were fantastic, gave me an overnight bag, told me where I could freshen up and all sorts.  Fantastic service.  Made United Airline look like a bunch of gits.

Bad weather again began to jeopardise my flight plan; the Montreal flight was not ready to go and it looked like I’d then be stranded in Canada on standby.  Grim.  That’s when I got a very big surprise.

The lady on the Air Canada desk told me that they’d contacted British Airways and that I would be getting a flight home; and that’s exactly what happened.  I was elated as I ran for the gate, sat down in my comfy and roomy seat……and I went out like a light, woke up in Heathrow 🙂  Sadly my bags didn’t make it due to all the changes, but they’re expected to work their way to me sometime this weekend with any luck!

It’s weird really because I never expected to find inspiration in such a situation; I think I hit close to rock bottom before I found it though.  Inspiration came in the form of my fellow passengers; one Iranian guy in particular was genuinely really funny and travellers from several other nationalities really rallied around to keep everybodies spirits high.  There was an ubundance of jokes and banter waiting in the early morning queue which ended up in each of us clapping and hollering each time one of us got our itinerary changed.  Much to the bewilderment of the Americans in the domestic queue section who had no idea what was going on!

I must also make a very quick mention about an American guy that I met who was called Krishnan; how surreal is that?

He and his family were from Minneapolis (the first airport I flew into back in ’98) and he was utterly startled when I told him the background of my name etc. 

Krish (as he liked to be called) had a love of Cricket and was taking his family to London for the first time; I was really fascinated because I’ve never really spoken to an Indian with an American accent before; yet we sat for ages talking about Sachin Tendulkar and his ancestry in Chennai!

How funky is that?

The moral of this story – Patience is a virtue!

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