Stuck in the middle…part two

Continued from part one.

I’m waiting in this long line just waiting to reschedule my flight and I call my mom tell her the dilemma. Within a few moments, I’m rescheduled on the 5:55 flight (I swear, my mom was amazing throughout my adventure. She probably already knows all the people at Southwest customer service by name and ID#) but waiting in line to talk to a person.

1 hour later, still in line, it hits me—if my flight was cancelled and the storm is only going to get worse, what are my chances of getting out of BWI on the 5:55 flight? And if that gets cancelled, the 8:55 (my original flight) will get cancelled and I will be stuck in BWI over night, not able to get out in the morning (because by the time I realize this, the morning flights will probably be full), and stuck here for who knows how long.

I get up to the front desk to tell them to put me on the 7:45 am flight out Saturday, and what do you know – the computer breaks down. Right in front of me. After 45 minutes of tech support (and lots of unhappy passengers behind me), I’m finally able to rebook my flight. I ask what I can do about accommodations (after all, I’m stuck in the middle of two connecting flights) but am told that “in the case of weather emergencies Southwest cannot offer any accommodations.” I’m told to get my luggage and come back tomorrow.

I call my mom. Treo battery low, I plug in the phone and have her call me on a nearby pay phone. I ask her what I can do. I’ve already spoken to two friends who live in the area and have offered to let me stay the night. Problem is, both of them are in Virginia, nearly 2 hours from the airport and would not be able to pick me up or drive me back in the morning. I would need to find the metro and get there that way. My mom convinces me to stay in a hotel and I go to get my baggage. “We’re sorry, but all bags from earlier flights to Albany are on the 5:55 flight that is leaving now,” she tells me. “Are you sure the 5:55 is leaving?” I am incredulous. “Yes,” the baggage woman snaps. “Your bag will be in Albany tomorrow.”

No clothes and no plans, I found myself outside BWI in the airport passenger pickup section, debating which hotel shuttle to jump on. After a quick call from B (who was looking up hotels back in Cleveland), I decided to hop on a Hampton Inn shuttle and met another group of travelers from Arizona, stranded in BWI on their way to Long Island. The kid had never seen snow before, so he was in for a treat when he finally made it to New York.

After a dinner of champions from the vending machine (white cheddar cheez-its of course), and the first food I’d eaten all day, I was ready to do some work and get to bed.

Next morning, I get to the airport on time and find the flight to Albany is delayed. “The Albany runway is closed because it’s still snowing,” the nicer-than-the-night-before employee tells us. Then, 10 minutes later, we’re boarding, and we’re off!

A couple staying at the hotel the night before on their way to Providence had told me of a plane that made it all the way to the Providence airport, tried to land twice, nearly touched down, but then turned around back to BWI. I kept envisioning this happening as we made our descent, but landing was uneventful.
I could write a whole other post about claiming the baggage, but how interesting would that even be? In short, there were about 10 bags in the airport, and about 200 passengers. Another plane from BWI had also landed, with about 20 passengers and mostly luggage from the night before. Of course the workers in Albany had no idea this had happened, because the flight wasn’t even documented on their screens, and told us that our luggage was not coming. 2 hours after landing, I spotted the bright yellow ribbon on my bag poking out of the baggage tunnel. It was here! I was here, my bags were here, and my adventure was over…I was headed home.

Thanks to all you that made my adventure worthwhile. All those on twitter that provided entertainment and offered suggestions of how I should spend my time (special kudos to @Szczepanik who told me to “challenge a stranger to a cinnabon-eating contest. Be sure to remind them of the no-hands rule.”), B – who listened to me as I frantically pondered what to do and sent me listing of nearby hotels even when my phone ran out of battery, the passenger who offered to let me stay in her dorm at Loyola Maryland, and my mom who pretty much did everything she could have done without physically being there.

Oh in case you’re wondering, about the 8:55 flight from BWI that I was originally scheduled on? I checked and yes, it did make it to Albany that night….

Stuck in the middle …. part one

Well, I just survived my very first “stuck in an airport for a connecting flight because it’s snowing at home” experience. And I’ll bet you’re jealous!
For those of you who follow my tweet, you probably know what happened cos I was tweeting the whole way! For those of you who don’t, here’s the story.

Original Plan: leave Cleveland on Dec. 19th on a 7pm flight. Layover in BWI. Land in Albany at 11 pm.

What actually happened: Wish it were that easy to explain!
The afternoon of Dec. 18th, I get a call from my mother, frantic, explaining that I must do everything in my power to try to get to Albany earlier. We’re expecting a big snow storm (big= 12-15 inches) and she knows that if I stay on my flight I will never make it home.

I find a new flight, 6am from Cleveland, getting into Albany at 11 am (slight layover in BWI again) just before the storm is supposed to start. Tell everyone at work that I can work from home and from the airport. Great, right? Story over?

If only it were that simple!

7pm I get a call saying my 6am flight from Cleveland is cancelled. Not delayed, not postponed, but cancelled. A nice recording from Southwest tells me this, and says if I per chance want to reschedule my trip (hmm..let’s see, why would I want to do that?) to stay on the line. Of course I stay on the line, ask why the 6 am is cancelled (woman’s answer: “Bad weather in the Midwest.” Not Cleveland, but the Midwest. How the heck are they cancelling a flight for weather nearly 12 hours before it’s supposed to leave?) and reschedule myself on the next available flight out of Cleveland..11:15, layover in BWI, leave BWI at 2:35 and get into Albany at 3:45. Wonderful!

Again, if only it were that simple.

My flight leaves Cleveland slightly delayed. I have 2 hours to kill in BWI so am able to do some of the aforementioned promised billable work. (“Bill, baby, bill!”) 2 o’clock rolls around and the monitors read “Boarding” for my flight. This is promising! Just then a woman gets on the loudspeaker and says, “Attention, all passengers hoping to get to Albany…” My stomach sinks. “Hoping” to get to Albany? This can’t be good. “…your flight has been cancelled due to weather up north. There are 3 other flights out of BWI today and if you go to the desk over there….” Mass chaos ensues. People run toward the desk to get new flights, find out what’s happening, etc. Within moments all 150 people on my flight (plus about 50 more from an earlier noon flight that was cancelled) end up in line behind TWO airline employees. And of course, I’m not in the front of the line. What can I do?


And the line goes on and on

And the line goes on and on

RIP: Newspapers

Cleve’s local paper, the Plain Dealer formally announced all their staff cuts yesterday. The list of those that were “selected” to leave and those that chose to take the buy-out was released and I know I was shocked. Many reporters that I have followed, pitched, read, admired, etc. chose to leave. I can’t even begin to imagine what this even means for the future of the PD, as they are losing some truly talented individuals.

I recently came across a website called Newspaper Death Watch: Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism.

A few weeks ago, the AP announced it was cutting jobs – up to about 10% of their workforce in 2009.

Then today, our President posted this article on twitter, No Papers in Certain Cities By 2010? The article refers to a recent report put out by Fitch Ratings.

“Fitch expects newspaper industry revenue growth will be negative for the foreseeable future as both ad pricing and linage will be under pressure within each of the four main components of newspaper companies’ revenue streams: circulation and local, classified and national advertising. Newsprint costs could rise, and it could be difficult to offset revenue declines with cost cuts.”

I entered college believing I would become a journalist. I loved to write, loved people, and was always asking questions. It seemed like the perfect job for me! In high school I spent half a year “interning” at our local newspaper and spent a day shadowing a local reporter just to see what her job was like. (Side note: she was a lifestyles reporter, so our day consisted of going to the mall and buying out different candles, then trying them out to see which ones were the best, and writing out our findings. My love for journalism was confirmed.) I changed my mind about journalism halfway through college, realizing that I would rather be on the other side of the fence (PR), but even today have been drawn to newspapers.

I grew up to newspapers. Each morning during breakfast, my parents read the papers (yes papers plural – we always received our local upstate NY paper and the NY Times) and I would grab the comics. When I was older, I had a methodical way of reading the paper: first the comics (Cryptoquip, Sudoku and Dear Abby included!), then the Life & Leisure section, then perhaps the Technology or Business section. Time allowing, I’d read the local and world sections last.

I do have a confession to make – I do not get a newspaper delivered to my apartment now. My parents still do, and when I read at home, there is some sort of luxurious feel to it. I am of the “digital” generation – I do everything online, read papers online, and may be partially responsible for the fate of newspapers. But really, who is to blame? Our world is really changing. What happened to the glorified days of newspapers? I’m thinking of Newsies (one of my favorite movies- hello young Christian Bale singing with a NY accent!) or Citizen Kane times, when newspapers really did rule the city.

Before I drag this post on for too long and your eyes start to hurt (I mean really, isn’t this tiny type just horrible on the eyes?) it should be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years. Will newspapers become extinct? What else will happen in the strange new economic times we’re facing?