VOLCANIC ASH- 12 HOURS AT BA AIRPORT
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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NOVEMBER 23 2012
The delay started with an email message yesterday morning that our American Airlines flight from BA to Dallas was delayed; our 10pm departure would now leave at 2am.
Wonderfully we had logged our email address with AA for flight updates, only the evening before- we may have presented at the airport at 8pm as some people did
The next email update indicated a 4am departure.
Angela, our host was very understanding; as noone was expected in our room that night we stayed on until our departure. We tried to sleep but to no avail because by the time we had made contact with the taxi for a change of pick up, it was already midnight.
With no more updates we left the apartment at 1.30am for the airport!
Because of the hour, the roads were deserted and we made the airport in record time, not to mention that the driver was going like a bat out of hell.
Noone in the line, at the check in counter and no further updates on the departure time we went to the gate without assigned seats. The airport was literally deserted- a rare sight!
And then the farce started! The Departure board changed our time to 6am. And then 8am and we moved gates and let me tell you the distance between gates was at least 500 metres; there was not a single American Airlines employee anywhere and no WiFi coverage.
One passenger made contact by phone with the AA office was told that AA ground staff would attend the desk when they had dealt with all the incoming flights for that morning- no time given. Someone noticed a food trolley heading for an AA plane parked by a distant gate and followed- yes they were loading meals for AA 996. But the same customer who had contacted AA by phone called to check this info. and was told NO, our plane would leave from another gate around 11am so the meal trolley and passengers headed for that gate.
It was hilarious as well as infuriating. We were fortunate indeed to make friends with a wonderful Texan couple who had great stories to tell, had a fantastic sense of humour and the four of us made it through the 12 hours at the airport laughing hysterically as events unfolded.
To make the situation graver, this was the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travelling period of the year in the USA.
We were starving, our last real meal being a late lunch and here it was lunch time again; the airport food was mostly fried and very expensive. We ate our bananas and pears and that was it!
At 11.30am ground staff reached the departure desk and instead of making a public announcement about what was happening they dealt with passengers individually and there were some very angy folk who had missed connecting flights at Dallas airport and needed to make new connections. Some people demanded their fares back because having missed their connections they would not make it to their final destination until after Thanksgiving! We had to join the queue to get a seat allocation.
Passengers had so many traumatic tales to tell but the four of us were inconvenienced but not tragically!
Our friends were returning home and would have to pay a whopping 12 hour parking fee for their vehicle dropped off by their son. We would miss our day in Dallas, exploring the city!
We finally took off at 1.30pm and an hour later we were served what seemed to be last night's dinner and that was it for meals on a 11 hour flight except for some semi frozen muffins and crackers. Most passengers seemed too tired to sleep, including us!
We think that they could not find a plane or crew to do our trip, because not a single flight incoming or out going was delayed due to volcanic ash and there was nothing on the news!!!
We later discovered that AA had sought Chapter 11 because of mounting debts and other issues!
First Qantas was a close call for us from Australia, and then, our next international flight AA and as I write this in Puerto Rico, we hear that our next leg operator- Iberian Airlines has been grounded because of pilot strikes!!!! Oh dear let us hope it is back in the air for our flight from Puerto Rico to Madrid on Feb.22. The unreliability of international air travel!
The plane reached Dallas at 9pm and we jumped into a taxi and made our way to the Magnolia Hotel, arriving at 9.30 pm instead of 6.30am.
The passengers with connections to other destinations had to line up to work these out with just two AA staff manning the desk. Yuk!