One more blogpost written on American soil. The flight home yesterday didn't work out exactly as planned, one could say.
I managed to arrive quite on time at the airport on Saturday. Since my idiotic stint at MAD last year after NSSpain, I've been extra careful to be on time. I'd rather now spend some expected time waiting than to miss a flight and having to do more unexpected waiting (and pay extra, too).
I'm flying Lufthansa but the flight back is a code share by United Airlines. I flew in on an actual Lufthansa flight and as far as all the clichés on Germans go: it was perfectly on time and everything was so well taken care of it kinda hurt (it actually didn't of course, but you can catch my drift, surely).
Back to Saturday: checking in my baggage at the United desks was a breeze. Even though my luggage seemed to be twice as heavy as it was coming in (thanks to Amazon Prime, I guess), there was no problem at all and before I knew it I was waiting for a security check.
Again, that was not a problem. There was a small wait, and I had no problems at all passing security even though I was carrying a fair number of laptops and Apple devices. The epic near "just walk through security" last year after my interviews at Apple (resulting in a 2+ hour wait in the terminal) was not repeated, unfortunately.
Boarding was no problem either (don't you love being in Boarding Group 1), but then the wait started. We were going past our scheduled take-off time. Now to be fair, I think I have never seen an airplane take off on the actual scheduled time (even the German one last month), so wasn't really worried. I had put on Ready Player One (excellently read by Wil Wheaton) and started to relax for the flight, when a communication from the captain broke:
When you hear things like this when sitting in an airplane, even though you're still standing on the ground, you know shit is going to hit the fan.
And yes, about forty-five minutes later (I fell asleep in the meanwhile it seems, Wil's soothing voice certainly helped):
So we got off the plane, waited some more and then chaotically boarded another plane a few hours later:
The chances of my baggage winding up with me, at the same time, on the same airport had drastically dropped by then I felt, but I'd worry about that later. Boarding again was kinda funny, seeing familiar faces around you (since we had the exact same seats as before). Anyhow, I got settled again and waited for the airplane to start taxiing.
Apparently the crews can only work for 16 hours in one stretch, which is an admirably large number to be fair. But given the time they needed to prepare the airplane, our delay and then the flight home we'd be royally over those 16 hours. It seems United had some problems finding a replacement crew so the flight was delayed by some 1400 minutes until the next day (with the same crew, I assume).
And so they threw us back out of the secured zone to wait in line at the check-in desks for "rebooking" and accomodations for the night. That took a while, and it was all pretty orderly. The people helping us were very polite and helpful, no complaints there. It never pays off to be angry or arrogant in cases like this: the people helping you did not have a direct doing in the problem at hand. And in this case it was just a bad circumstance of a technical problem and regulations. That happens, I guess.
I must say I was pretty pissed off at this moment though. My mental state had finally set itself on getting back to Belgium and seeing my wife and kids a few hours later, and so this delay came as a very large disappointment.
Anyhow, I finally managed to get out of the airport by 8:30pm, spending almost 8 hours in there. I was in good care all of the time, so no real complaining -- there are people having it a lot worse. United set me up in the Embassy Suites SFO hotel nearby: a quick shuttle trip, a check in and half an hour later I could crash on my bed. I also got some meal vouchers so I gratefully exchanged them for a nice meal at the restaurant: I hadn't had a decent meal since breakfast.
The hotel had a full size palmtree instead. 🇺🇸
I slept like a baby, gaining an hour in the process (DST!), and woke up pretty refreshed. Had breakfast, spent the morning at the hotel writing this blogpost and working a bit, since I had a feeling that without some settling-in time, I wasn't going to do much of the planned work on Monday anyway. And I had to wait out the time until my flight, so I might as well be productive.
During a quick Facetime call with my wife I found out my kids weren't as bummed about my delay as I had expected, although my wife framing it like "Dad's going to be a day later: this is not fun, but it's better than him not making it at all." might have had something to do with it. Which I guess is fair: a faulty braking system is no fun when landing, I presume.
I then took the shuttle back to the airport, got through security without much problems: I even earned the Swarm mayorship (which was quite unexpected, to be sure):
And now I'm in a lounge, waiting for my plane from yesterday to take off today. My connecting flight in Frankfurt is long gone, and I have to rebook that one when I get there. So the journey's not over, but let's hope I actually make it to the other side of the ocean this time.
Remember: traveling is never boring, people. Except for the "waiting" parts, perhaps.