Sunday, January 27, 2013

Canceled Flights and Hitchhikers

Last weekend, Dan and I almost got stuck in Seattle. That was fun. I'm not saying this was some unique, dramatic experience. Flying is usually a crapshoot anyway. But we had a bit of an adventure, and now I have yet another cute story in my arsenal about the unpredictability of the airline industry. (For another uplifting anecdote, see "Are the Frequent Flyer Miles Really Worth It?" especially if you are planning on flying United any time soon.)

Dan and I booked an early flight from Seattle to Boise so that we would get home in the afternoon with time to spare before having to head back to work the next day. We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to accommodate our perfect plan. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. As we were enjoying a breakfast sandwich, Dan received a text.

"What?" he exclaimed.

"Is our flight delayed?" No biggie. As I said, we had given ourselves plenty of time.

"No. Canceled."

It sucked, but we were sure we could get on another flight to Boise. Seattle flies to Boise all day, right?

Apparently not.

"There are no seats left on the 10:00," the customer service worker said to all of us bumped passengers who were starting to swarm the check-in desk, "and there are no more flights to Seattle today."

She turned to Dan and me, "You have been booked on a flight to San Jose tomorrow morning."

Not really needing to go to San Jose and really needing to get to work the next morning, I said, "Are you sure no other airlines have any seats to Boise?"

"We could just rent a car and drive home," Dan suggested. "If we leave now, we would be home by 4:00."

"How long does it take to drive to Boise?" asked another woman in line.

"About eight hours with good roads."

"Why was the flight canceled?"

"The plane was broken," the airline worker said.

"I'm glad I'm not on that plane after all," I said to the others with a nervous giggle.

Nobody laughed. I guess they weren't finding the humor in the situation.

I was about ready to ask whether or not the airline was prepared to pay for our hotel room and meals if we were indeed stranded, when the other worker behind the desk called out, "Sun Valley!"

"There are plenty of seats on the flight to Sun Valley. At least, that will put them two hours from Boise."

"I like Sun Valley," I said. "Let's go there."

So we were booked, along with most of the other marooned Boiseans, on a flight to Sun Valley with the hopes of renting a car or booking a seat on the Sun Valley Express. We also called my dad in Twin Falls thinking that, as a last resort, he could pick us up and get us as far as Twin where we might have more car rental options.

"We could hitchhike to Boise, turn this into a real On the Road experience," I said, "except we're not drunk enough."

We arrived at the Hailey airport, an airport that is about the size of our house. And it seemed to me that the plane put on its brakes really quickly once it touched down.

"Is the runway really short here?"

"You're imagining things."

We were able to rent the last car available, a Toyota Sequoia, a monster of a vehicle compared to the Fusion we're used to driving.

I called my dad to let him know he didn't have to pick us up after all. By the time I joined Dan again, some guy from our flight was wanting to split the ride with us. Dan had already assessed the situation, decided the man was not a murderer, and agreed to let him tag along.

"Picking up a hitchhiker, huh?" I whispered to Dan. "This really is an On the Road experience."

Luckily, Dan's assessment was correct. The man did not, in fact, murder us. Even after all of the craziness, we arrived at our house in Boise by 2:30 that afternoon. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Back to Boise via Sun Valley

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