Arriving there early in the morning, we got in line to pass through security. Just as the lady with the metal detector waved me past my phone started to ring from the little basket on the conveyor belt. It turned out that the airline sent out an automated message to let us know our flight was delayed.
I guess NOLA didn’t want to let us go because we ended up stuck there for five hours.
At first it wasn’t so bad, a nervous learning experience but we managed to sort out our flight details with a minimum amount of frantic phone calls. So we had to take a different connecting flight, so what?
There was food (more precisely there was one cafe), there were washrooms nearby and a huge open area with lots of benches. Everything was fine, except for one tiny detail. Although the NOLA airport is pretty plain there is something they do extremely well — air conditioning. They deserve a prize for coldest place in the South.
After an hour I couldn’t really feel my toes, my legs were prickly with goose bumps and my fingers were blue at the fingernails. I am not exaggerating for comedic effect here — I was freezing. When the airport staff got around to handing out blankets to people, they ran out when they got to us. I ended up wrapping my friend’s rain coat around my legs to preserve heat. Another hour passed and they handed out vouchers for free food. That pacified me somewhat and I got by with cups of hot tea and muffins.
Admittedly our situation wasn’t that bad, we were just on our summer vacation. There was a sweet older lady from our flight that had to get to Atlanta for a dying relative and couldn’t find a faster way than our delayed plane. I can’t fathom that kind of helpless waiting.
We had assumed that our plane had been delayed because of weather, which is notoriously unpredictable in New Orleans. The atmosphere outside the airport windows seemed to threaten rain. It turns out that we wrong, apparently the plane had mechanical issues.
An announcement came on stating that as soon as the issues were resolved boarding would get underway. I wasn’t really keen to get on a flight where it took over four hours to fix whatever was broken.
Still, later that afternoon, we finally boarded our flight to Atlanta. An older gentleman even helped my friend shove her overstuffed backpack into the overhead carry-on space. The flight hardly took any time and before we knew it we were descending into Atlanta.
This was where Act Two of our problems began.
As we rode our way through some heavy turbulence to the final touchdown the pilot came on over the intercom to announce that we weren’t allowed off the tarmac. A huge thunderstorm was about to sweep through the area and they didn’t want to risk airport staff running around outside.
We spent another half hour sitting in what was essentially a Faraday Cage as the storm thundered overhead without pause.
Finally arriving inside the airport we realized that the storm that delayed our landing had also delayed all departures. That meant even more waiting before we could catch our connecting flight to Savannah. By strange coincidence we ended up sitting beside the very same man that had helped my friend with her carry-on.
He glanced over and said, “Oh God, the heavy backpack followed me here.”
During our wait we had some time to chat with him and his wife, who were on a business-trip-turned-vacation. They were lovely and the perfect example of Southern hospitality. In the couple hours that we talked with them we learned all about their sons and grandkids, their church congregation (they didn’t hold our lack of regular church attendance against us), and they even found time to show us family photos on their cell phones. When we finally arrived in Savannah they were kind enough to offer us a lift to our hotel even though it was far away and already late into the night.
After a long day of delays and frustration it was heartwarming to encounter such kindness. They told us that when their son had been traveling he had received help from strangers and they believed it was only right to pay it forward. So they dropped us off at the door of our hotel, with the parting words of a few restaurant recommendations, and drove off into the night.
At the hotel we found out that our rooms had been upgraded to have a view with a balcony and when we got inside there were chocolate cookies resting on the bed. I suppose this only goes to show that you have to take the bad with the good. Everything turned out for the best in the end.
Anyone out there have their own tricky travel stories?