Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Journey Home - Part Three

Where were we? Oh yes Chillis... drinking margaritas and telling our life stories but still stuck in Chicago O'Hare. Now it was my deadline which was heading towards us very fast. It was 10.30am in Chicago... and I had to be in Newark for a 8pm flight (well 7pm Chicago time) so with check in I had maybe 8 hours. You wouldn't think this was hard to do but considering my previous flight problems I was beginning to get worried.

We headed towards the gate for our midday flight, all still on time. Yes! I might actually get a cup of tea with Anna at Newark airport. As the snow started to fall in Chicago I started to relax... little. Which was a foolish thing to do as suddenly the flight time changed to 1pm. NO! This could not be happening! I got to the desk and when I started talking to the staff it became obvious that 1pm was the time they would make a decision to fly AND not the actual take off... ARGHHHHHH!!! This is when everything welled up in me and I started to cry. I asked the guy if I could transfer to a UK flight as I sobbed
"I just want to leave this country!"
I love the US, I really do but I just wanted to go home.

It turns out they couldn't do that so I phoned BA... to be told if I missed my flight from Newark I would be classed as a no-show as my internal flights hadn't been booked through them and I would have to buy a new ticket home! This was the same if I wanted to fly out of Chicago!! All for the joyous price of £900 ($1800)!!! I was gobsmacked. As I struggled to get my head round this, Annabella phoned to say there was a flight to White Plains which was leaving and her husband would drive me to. I raced to the gate to find we could only go on stand by. As I realised this wouldn't work either I started back to the original gate promising Annabella I would call her if the Newark flight status changed.

Around this time I completely lost it. I phoned my parents and howled down the phone at my Dad, incoherent. At which point he passed me to my sister who told me to reserve a ticket with BA and wait to see if the Newark flight went. Through tears I agreed and then phoned BA. I reserved myself on the last flight out of Chicago to the UK, I had until 5pm that day to pay for it, it was now 1pm.

1pm decision time. And this is when the loveliest airline person decided to actually give us information... they were boarding us at 1.15, we would push back at 1.45, de-icing the plane and then we would take off (maybe) at 2.30pm. What to do?? They couldn't get my bags off the flight, should I stay in Chicago and spend a lot of money or take a chance?

I phoned Annabella to let her know the new status... she had already given up on the White Plains flight and was heading straight for me. I needed someone here on the ground to help me make the decision, she was the voice of reason... if the Newark flight didn't take off I still had time to get the Chicago flight... what did I have to lose?

So that is how I ended up on the flight to Newark, Annabella and I back of the plane with our fingers crossed... you have never heard such whoops of glee and applause as we ACTUALLY TOOK OFF at 2.30!! The flight attendants gave us free drink when they heard what had been happening and the cheering as we landed did get us a few looks. Annabella wanted me to meet her husband which I did and after that I kissed the floor of the terminal building. Yes I did! All very papal.

And so that is how I made it to my flight with 2 hours to spare... the great thing was I now had two people in New Jersey who were worried about me. I had to text both Anna and Annabella that I was actually on the flight. It might have been a horrible two days but I had met a new friend. And anyway I was on my way home... what else could go wrong??

See this is where I should have never relaxed... as it transpired the storms that had battered Newark and started this whole thing were now speeding across the Atlantic with us. This meant a bumpy but very short flight due to HUGE tailwinds. It also meant that we were in for a bumpy landing... if we could actually land. At this point I became a very bad flyer... if we had to divert due to high winds I would have had hysterics right there and then. We strapped ourselves in and came into land with the plane waving, about a foot off the runway the pilot suddenly pulled the plane back up and we were climbing again!!! *SOB*
We came round again and we landed ten minutes later... THANK GOD!!

And then my luck changed... off the plane and through passport control in TEN MINUTES! My bag was the first one off the plane and I could see it as I was coming down the escalator... and so I was from plane to Heathrow Express in TWENTY MINUTES! And so home... to my bed. The marathon journey was over.


Michelle Styles said...

Oh Biddy what can I say?
How absolutely dreadful!!!!
Still you are back home now where you belong.

liz fenwick said...

I'm exhausted just reading it. Hope you are totally recovered now!

Donna Alward said...

That is the worst travel story I've ever heard.

Cripes. I bet you're not in any hurry to go state-side again.