Getting there is half the pain

January 28th, 2007

It took 30 hours to get to Aspen.
The highlight was spending a couple hours in SF with guyvera eating tacos and hanging out. The rest of it wasn’t so much fun. The visibility in Aspen had gone from 7 miles to under 2 miles. No landing for us. We circled the airport for an hour waiting for it to clear up using all our ‘holding fuel(!)’ The pilot told us we’d have to head to Denver and try again tomorrow.
The rest of the story after the jump…

When we landed in Denver, the attendant had no idea what we were to do and directed us to the counter. The poor guy behind the counter had no idea what to tell us and tried to balance out answering our questions while investigating how we were to get to Aspen. This was only mildly chaotic for two minutes, then another flight came in after attempting to land in Aspen. Suddenly there was a swarm of 50+ passengers asking, no demanding, to be told everything right that moment.
He didn’t know when our flight was going to be, he didn’t know how we were going to find out and he didn’t know what was going to happen to our luggage. All he knew was that we weren’t getting it that night. He gave out ‘vouchers’ for discount rates at the airport hotels and tried to calm us down while he figured out what was happening.
Finally, he let us know that they had managed to get 2 unscheduled flights in the next morning. He issued us new boarding passes and we got to go to our hotels.
I’d never be rerouted like this, but as a rule I keep everything I value in my carry-on. This means that my messenger bag usually weighs about 80 lbs. I knew that when I began rushing through the airport looking for the hotel shuttles. What I had forgotten about was the elevation. Denver is called the Mile High City because it is 5280 feet above sea level. I got 10 gates away when I started losing my breath.
That sucked.
I slowed down and made my way through the airport to the shuttle. A group of pilots and an attendant were raucously talking and laughing in the back. The attendant was cozied up flirting with one of the pilots. “Do you like it when I call you Captain?” she asked him.
At the hotel, Stewart from Brooklyn, was not making the home team proud. This guy was either drunk, sleepwalking or dumb as a rock. It took him half an hour to check in the two people ahead of me. He told the couple before me that they would need to catch the 4:55 shuttle to get to the airport by 7pm, then he said that the 5:55 should get them there by 5:30… After they left he told someone else that the shuttles run on the 25 and the 55 and that the ride was about 30 minutes.
Right across from the check in desk, taunting me, was the bar. All I needed after all of that was a beer, but Stewart was not helping me out. In the bar was a group of cowboys in town for the rodeo -seriously.
I slept for a couple hours and headed to the airport early in order to avoid the crowd from the night before. When I got there, my flight was not on the board and there wasn’t a United staffer to be found. I looked the flight up online and found out the gate and that the flight had been moved back 45 minutes.
Boarding and loading our luggage took almost an hour, then we pulled out of the gate to get de-iced(!).
Then came the message from the flight deck. Visibility was still low in Aspen. We have to go back to the gate – except it was a different gate.
The new gate had no jetway, so we had to walk down to the tarmac. A lady in a fur coat scoffed, “We have to walk out in the snow?!?” Imagine that!
When we got inside, no one knew what to do with us. I got to play spartacus and walk up to a gate with 50 people behind me and introduce us, the roaming passengers of flight 6001. After attempting to send us back to our original gate, Patti, the attendant looked up the flight and figured out where we were supposed to go. When we got there, the guy there told us we weren’t supposed to be there. I told him Patti sent us and asked him to look it up. When he did, he told us that our flight was ready to (re)board and sent us back to the plane.
We landed at 1:30, 16 hours late. Good times.
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