Well, I mentioned a couple of months ago about my travel issues getting to Kansas City and back. At the time I had never experienced the true terror of travel. But, that day became my worst travel day ever.
I guess I am travelling too much since I now have a day to rival that one. It was to be a simple day, fairly relaxed leaving Richmond mid-day to get to Milwaukee by way of Philadelphia. The plane was late at Richmond and with only 45 minutes to catch my connecting flight, I was paged by the airline desk and they suggested I try another flight (if I missed my connection I would be stuck in Philly for almost 7 hours until the next flight).
So, based on their urging, I waited in Richmond for 2 hours to catch a flight to Charlotte that continued to Milwaukee. Flight left Richmond on time and was vacant enough that I got an emergency exit seat- for the 45 minute flight. I did find out that a) “continues to Milwaukee” does not mean the same plane goes to the destination, as I assumed and b) the smaller plane end of the Charlotte airport is nearly void of any signs or information to confirm flights and gates.
But identification of my gate was the least of my problems. We boarded the plane, fairly on time. It was packed full. I was one seat up and across the isle from the bathroom in the back, pinned in the window seat. Not completely happy but bearable- let’s just get there already.
The Captain first came over and said that the auxilary power unit required maintenance, that it was not allowing them to start the plane’s engines and causing the Air Conditioning to not work. This issue was compounded by a thunderstorm rolling through the area- apparently when lightning is striking (and it was pretty close and plentiful) the ground crew takes cover and do not perform maintenance. The temperature rose to the point that I was sweating all over and most of the passengers were fanning themselves with the emergency pamphlets. It felt like at least 90 degrees, maybe more. Once they fixed it the Captain stated the temperature dropped 15 degrees and was still dropping.
Hats off to crew members who happened to be on board on their way to a conference. They were able to lend a hand, pass out water (until it ran out) and basically guide the working crew to better care for the passengers. They mentioned that it was noticably cooler in the front of the plane, which explained why the working crew never came back to our area once the temperature rose.
For some time they were not allowed to let us off the plane- too much lightning. But, after the storm died down a little (after about 30 minutes of active lightning) they let us off and the maintenance crew was able to perform repairs. This of course added time to get everyone off then back on but at this point it also gave a chance for escape- to find a flight back home.
But, the quest was on. I got back on, we had to wait through another round of lightning and then wait for several other planes in line to get out now that the coast, or air, was clear. I finally arrived in Milwaukee almost 6 hours after I was to be here. No big deal other than missing the Brewers-Rockies game. But it is one of those travel events that will stick in my mind for a while (and hopefully not be matched anytime soon).