Despite being a cold January the 3rd afternoon, the children’s excitement of escaping the cold of Buffalo Niagara in favour of Orlando and Walt Disney World had a buzz in both of the limousines that it took to bring our party of 10 to the airport from the hotel. Thankfully the curbside check-in was open, and with no line, checking all of our luggage was a breeze. It wasn’t until much later that I even noticed JetBlue had assessed me a $20 fee for using the curbside (which explained the lack of a line), in addition to having to pay for my golf clubs.
Once the agent had checked all passports, Janie (my wife) and Gladys (our children’s nanny for the past 15 years) herded the children inside along with my aged father who had just celebrated his 83rd birthday and is afflicted with Parkinson’s. We had arranged for a wheelchair which showed up after a short wait and took him through the TSA checkpoint and on to the departure gate. The rest were our three youngest children, one of our adult daughters, her beau and their 16 month old daughter.
The core of our family travels frequently including my father who travels to Florida with us at least once a year. But the older daughter had never been to Florida and was very excited to have her first trip to Walt Disney World at age 26 with her guy, Dan, and their daughter, Alexa. Of course I had told them that we were very fortunate to be travelling JetBlue as it was a quality airline with televisions in every seat. Despite our frequent travel, we had only flown the airline on one other occasion and I could say nothing but positive things about that experience. It was a year or two ago when we took our return flight from Orlando to Buffalo Niagara. The flight was on time, the aircraft was new, the crew was amazing and we hit it off immediately, so we were excited to be able to travel with them again at this time.
We caught up with Alex Sr. and his wheelchair at the departure gate, and were very happy to see an aircraft at the end of the jetway which, of course, we assumed was our ride to Orlando. With such a large entourage on this flight, we had arrived well in advance so as to avoid delays checking in and passing through security. We had just under an hour to cool our heels before the expected departure and call for boarding a half hour before departure.
As the expected call for boarding approached, the gate agent decided to break the news to all the travellers on the full flight that the aircraft at the end of our Gate 8 jetway was in fact not our ride. Rather it was a plane that had been delayed due to storms on the east coast that were destined for Boston (I could be mistaken but I believe it was Boston), and that our ride was still sitting in Orlando with mechanical issues. The gate agent continued that we should cool our heels because it was at that point a minimum three hour delay estimating the flight time from Orlando to Buffalo and the time to turn the plane around.
Having a group that included two seniors (one confined to a wheelchair), four adults, two teens, one tween and a 16 month old, this was a disaster, especially for our adult daughter who was not only making her first trip ever to Florida for only five days, but was losing an entire evening in Florida in exchange for an undetermined wait in the Buffalo Niagara Airport with a 16 month old child.
Gratefully the kids all have Kindles, iPhones, Nintendo, handhelds and laptops, so they did have some entertainment devices with them. And they were good enough to take their young niece and run her up and down the terminal of the airport to keep her content. Janie and I went to the Anchor Bar to pass the time having drinks and watching DVDs of a popular television show.
I had subscribed to the airline’s notification service for flight status updates, and according to my records which I saved, the first email was sent at 2:26pm announcing that our 3:55pm departure had been delayed until 5:35pm; at 3:50pm it was further delayed until 7:20pm. At 7:10pm it was further delayed until 7:50pm; amazingly they sent an email at 8:25pm saying that the flight was delayed until 8:10pm. We finally departed at 8:28pm. I cannot with certainty say that I checked all of those messages on my Blackberry while passing the time waiting for the flight and making sure that my father was doing okay in his wheelchair. Another gentleman in a wheelchair was speaking to a family member in Orlando at the airport who said JetBlue was announcing that their flight to Buffalo had been cancelled.
At some point the gate agent offered up some coupons for food due to the delay. My wife went around and collected up all 10 of our boarding cards and came back with a voucher for $100 which did not go too far in feeding our group. In reality we would far preferred to have just departed on time and spend an enjoyable evening at the Walt Disney World Swan, including having dinner at one of their restaurants, as opposed to being stranded at Buffalo Niagara Airport.
At some point about midway through this debacle, I went over to check on my father who had been stuck in his wheelchair for a couple of hours to see how he was holding up. I looked towards the agent at the gate to ask for an update, but he was on the phone. He paused and asked if he could help me. I asked the obvious question – any updates on our flight? After he responded, being a frequent traveller, I commented that JetBlue sucked, but not nearly as bad as United as I had had an even worse delay the previous year on one of their flights to Green Bay, Wisconsin. In my mind I was giving a compliment; I was to find out otherwise hours later.
When the plane finally showed up more than five hours late, most passengers were relieved that the ordeal was over. Being an experienced flyer and having reserved seats in the premium front of the plane (Row 1 – Seats A, B, C; Row 2 – Seats A, B, C, D), I counselled my daughter and Dan to try to pre-board as most airlines make accommodation for passengers with small children to board first. Apparently this is not so on JetBlue, or maybe it was just this flight?
As people pushed and shoved for access to the plane, an agent for JetBlue (a different one than had been manning the desk throughout the debacle) said that they would offer free headsets on this flight due to the delay. There was a Muslim family on the other side of the velvet rope with a number of younger children. Two of the boys bolted under the rope and scooped up as many headsets as their little arms could hold. The chap from PrimeFlight, who was responsible to get the wheelchairs on the plane, called the boys out for their action and I commented that they were taking them to the Middle East.
I can say that the man didn’t seem to speak any English, but the woman with the head gear spoke perfect English and seemed to be spoiling for a fight, taking direct aim at my off-the-cuff comment. I called out for my family and said come on, let’s get on this plane, they are calling for all of the early boarding privileged passengers with the extra leg room. It stuck in my mind that there was a couple right at the door and they sat in Row 1 Seats E & F.
Having spent nearly five hours in the bar drinking, I was in fine condition and calling for more beer. It wasn’t until the end of the flight that I understood why the stewardess spent most of the flight during which I was awake scowling at me. I was disappointed when they gave me freeze-dried lime for my Corona, and while watching my DVDs on a laptop sitting across the aisle from my father I fell asleep for the majority of the flight.
Shortly after I awoke I noticed that the life preserver from under my father’s seat had come loose and was lying half under the seat and half in the aisle. Trying to be conscientious, I picked it up and asked the scowling stewardess what she would like me to do with it. The answer I got was to toss it back where it was, which I did with some inquisitiveness as to why an employee would want to treat a piece of safety equipment with such callousness.
When we finally landed in Orlando there was the usual rush to get into the aisle, either in a race to leave the aircraft or just to stretch after a couple of hours of confinement to seats, even if they were extra space premium seats that on this flight also came with extra attitude. I was standing in the aisle next to my dad to make sure all was well with him, and to discern whether the wheelchair meeting him at this end of the flight wanted him to get off with the mob or wait till the plane unloaded.
You will recall the couple who were seated in Row 1 Seats E & F who pushed their way to the door at the end of the jetway when we boarded in Buffalo. This pair was very self-important, and in addition to having a dog in a crate at their feet, they were far too important to check any luggage. They were further so important that they didn’t need to wait for anyone to move to get their luggage from the overhead bin, despite every airline that I have ever travelled on advising passengers to take care when opening the overhead bins as items can shift in flight.
This pair’s problem was that sitting in Row 1, their luggage had to be behind them in the overhead bin as the front portion of the first overhead bins are generally reserved for the crew to store life vests, seatbelts, first aid kits, etc. This guy actually stood on his Seat 1E and opened the overhead bin and pulled out his or his wife’s bag from above my father’s head, dropping a rather large tablet style cell phone (probably a Samsung Galaxy 5) onto the bridge of his nose.
I will take this opportunity to apologize in advance, but with all due respect, when a jackass who is so self-important feels that he can jeopardize the health and well-being of any passenger on any flight being youthful or aged, I strongly disagree. I expressed my disapproval vocally to the “jackass” who couldn’t wait a minute to retrieve his luggage and very nearly took out my father’s one remaining good eye. He’s legally blind in one eye and just had cataracts and astigmatism corrected in the other.
What did I get out of the deal? Bitched at by this yo yo’s wife for swearing at him for being an impatient jackass, and delay of the entire body of passengers apparently so that the airline could send some public relations ass down to talk to me about my behaviour? Wow, impressive. This is when I found out about my comment about JetBlue sucking, and my apparent insult to Islam in general, because some woman with a chip on her shoulder was waiting for some poor sap like me who had endured the same wait as her to play the race card which as we all know only works against Caucasians.
I endured a five plus hour delay with four children, got raked over for having an opinion about the service of JetBlue on that particular day, and didn’t even receive an apology from the jerk who dropped luggage on an elderly passenger’s nose. I have to ask honestly if my father had lost an eye, or suffered a broken nose, would the outcome have been different? It just doesn’t pay to have an opinion, or apparently to stand up for the rights of your family members.
- Alex Jr.