Pacifica (autumnwinds) wrote,

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Somewhat flightless

So, here's the story of the airport.

Tyler was supposed to fly out of Albequerque, NM to Phoenix, AZ, and then fly from Phoenix to Seattle. He would be on America West #71, and would arrive in Seattle at 10:30 pm, PST.

I was ready to leave the house at about 9:00, but I checked some flight website beforehand to see if the flight was on time. Here's what I was able to establish:

1. The only info for Flight #71 that they showed was for the Milwaukee leg of the trip (#71 goes from Milwaukee to Phoenix, then Tyler picked it up there to go to Seattle). It was shown as arriving at 9:10 pm.

2. There was a little radar map of the plane's flight path, which showed the plane flying out of Phoenix and making a neat little circle back to Phoenix.

I had no idea what was going on, so I headed to the airport and got there at about 9:45 (after a brief wrong turn at the terminal that put me inescapably in the taxi depot).

I went to the America West ticket counter, which did not have a bluescreen showing flight arrivals or departures, but a sign behind the counter. Flight #71 was shown as delayed. I asked the women at the desk what was wrong and when the flight was expected to arrive, and they were unable to answer those questions. They apparently didn't work for the airline or something, and were only checking in passengers and checking baggage. They had no information about Tyler's flight.

The sign showed Tyler's flight coming in at gate B15, so I headed to the outlet of the B terminal (which, of course, I was not able to enter). There WAS a bluescreen here showing arrivals and departures for all flights in that terminal. Flight #71 was shown as on time.

I settled into a chair at a waiting area and started to read my book at about 10:30. There were about eight people there, two of them very loud women (one picking up her boss, one picking up her boyfriend). The younger of the two asked me if I was waiting for flight #71, which I affirmed. She informed me that the flight was running three hours late.

Three hours!

How did she know this? Because her boyfriend on that flight had called her on his cell phone. Tyler's flight had problems and had returned to Phoenix, and the boyfriend called her in the brief period when they were changing planes to let her know. I found out later from Tyler that not only had something gone wrong on the flight (I think a de-icer failed), but the pilot told everyone that they evidently had too much fuel to land (if this makes sense to anyone, I'd love to hear an explanation), and so they spent a long time circling Prescott, just burning off jet fuel. They landed in Phoenix at 10:30, the exact time they were expected in Seattle.

Ironically, that plane had been delayed in Milwaukee for leaking jet fuel.

And so I sat there, reading, listening, and watching. I watched as flight #71 moved up and up on the bluescreen schedule list, finally disappearing but always showing it as being on time. Around 11:00 pm or so, the America West ticket counter closed. This meant that there would be nobody at the ticket counter from that point on to update flight information on the bluescreens for those of us waiting for arrivals (not that the employees there knew anything...but it wasn't their problem, now, was it?).

The women waiting there griped about parking costs. Neither had enough money to pay the additional parking costs from the flight's being late, so if they didn't hook up with their men, they were stuck at the airport. One had tried to complain to the ticket agent to get them to pay their parking fees, but "it's not my problem, ma'am." I wouldn't have gone that far, but it did irritate me.

I walked around the airport. I looked at the weird art and read interpretive displays (did you know the Denver airport is 3 times the size of Olympia?). I checked the bluescreens periodically, and the lists of flights got shorter, shorter, and finally disappeared with our flight info never showing up. The trickle of passengers slowed and halted. The women good-naturedly heckled security guards leaving for the night.

Around 1:00 am, 4 other people showed up at the B terminal to pick up passengers on flight #71. One of them, another woman, got a call on HER cell phone from her passenger, telling her that the flight had finally arrived in Seattle and was gated at...the South Satellite.

So we all walked down to the escalators for the South Satellite and waited for our loved ones there. The flight was packed and Tyler in the back of the plane, so he showed up on the very last train. We picked up his baggage and gratefully drove home.

I was overjoyed to see him, and I'm happy he arrived safely, but I'm just a little upset with America West. I cannot empasize these following points enough.

1. Explicit flight information was not shown on the website.
2. The counter was staffed with employees that had no flight information, and were not updating the bluescreens.
3. The airline never told us when to expect the flight. I got that information through the cell communication of another passenger.
4. The ticket coutner and baggage claim offices closed, effectively abandoning all passengers and people waiting for flights that were still in progress.
5. The plane parked at a new, distant gate without informing anyone of the gate change.

If I had not been with other people receiving information from passengers on that flight, I would never have known that Tyler was arriving three hours late from a new location. How the hell were we to know that? I would have been really worried, and if I'd stayed that long, it would have been a long time before Tyler and I found each other. There was no Internet access at the airport that I could have used to try and squeeze out flight information. The 800 number of America West informed me that flight #71 had arrived in Seattle at 10:30 as scheduled, even hours after the fact. I would have called Tyler's mom in New Mexico to confirm that he'd boarded the flight, and she would have been worried that he hadn't arrived.

It was a case of blatant failure to communicate, and I found the degree of silence inexcusable.

P.S. My parking fees were $16.

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