It was actually a lot of fun revisiting Albuquerque after almost twenty years. This is a city that appreciates its roadside heritage and recognizes it both as a part of American history and a tourism opportunity, and I was happy to see that a lot of the built environment–though not all of it–had survived since my last visit, and that a beautification and transit project was happening over the full length of Route 66/Central Avenue. This was a work trip so I didn’t get to do as much exploration as I might have liked, but I did also get some Groceteria research done.
And then came the trip home, which allowed me to experience a major U.S. air travel meltdown firsthand. Here is a timeline of my 36-hour trip home:
8:00 AM MDT: Get an alert that my 1:15 flight to Atlanta has been delayed by two hours, which will cause me to miss my connection. I easily rebook the final leg and am happy that I get a few extra hours o explore.
2:00 PM MDT: Possible additional delays, but my coworker and I arrive at the airport since the rental car is due. We don’t realize at this time that there is a major weather issue in Atlanta that is about to cripple air travel nationwide.
4:00 PM MDT: It begins to look like our flight may be cancelled. The very helpful and friendly gate staff offer to put us up for the night at an airport hotel, which is not the usual M.O. for weather-related delays. We take them up on the offer and rebook for Thursday. I get booked on a very indirect route via Salt Lake City, but I score first class. This pleases me.
7:00 PM MDT: We have dinner in the hotel restaurant, where it takes two hours to be served a cub sandwich and a beer.
4:00 AM MDT: I wake up and head to the airport for my first class fight to Atlanta via Salt Lake City. Alas, it is not to be.
6:00 AM MDT: My flight to Salt Lake City is cancelled. Fortunately, I manage to get on a direct flight that leaves about the same time, actually putting me In Atlanta earlier than the other route would have. Unfortunately, I’m in middle seat in coach rather than first class, and there’s a very annoying manspreader next to me, who will feel me knee very often over the next few hours. I am cranky, after all, from only having had a Kit Kat for breakfast.
11:00 AM EDT: I arrive in Atlanta. I finally eat. I find my gate and prepare for a four-hour wait for my connecting flight. The airport is a nightmare, with hours-long lines at every service desk. I feel pretty confident, though.
3:00 PM EDT: Just before we are to board, my flight is delayed for an hour. There is apparently no flight crew, though the plane itself is at the gate.
4:00 PM EDT: More delays. I’m getting apprehensive, but they’re still staging passengers so I don’t worry too much. Updates from the gate crew, however, are alarmingly infrequent.
5:00 PM EDT: My flight is cancelled. After pondering for about five minutes what I would need to do to get booked on another flight (one that would probably also get cancelled), I say “the hell with it” and reserve a rental car. I take the airport train to pick it up and find myself in line with a family who are about to rent a car to drive to Detroit for the same reason. There are a lot of people renting cars; I’m amazed I got one so cheaply and easily.
1:00 AM EDT: Having driven over 300 miles from Atlanta, I finally get home. Just for fun, i check on the later flights I could have booked. All were cancelled. At least I made the right call for once.
Delta meltdown: Delays drag into Sunday, improvement is slow