Recently I recounted a business trip to Atlanta for training, and the difficulties I encountered flying to and from that city’s airport. This was not my first experience with substantial delays, or with issues at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Let us go back in time to 2007, not long after your humble correspondent enlisted in the United States Navy. In that year, I took a number of flights with different airlines to either visit family and friends, or return to my duty station, and it never failed that frustration had stowed away in my carry-on.
I rang in the New Year on leave in western Pennsylvania with my fiancée and her family before returning to Great Lakes on an uneventful United Airlines flight from Pittsburgh to O’Hare. Two weeks later, I finished my apprentice training at Great Lakes and received my orders to “A” School at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. I was to fly on American Airlines from O’Hare to Los Angeles, then a puddle jumper up to Fresno after an hour layover at LAX. Delays in Chicago due to weather and waiting for the plane to be de-iced resulted in us arriving in Los Angeles with barely enough time for me to get off the plane and hop on a shuttle van to make my connection. After the gate agent treated us sailors in our dress blues with an attitude of, “How dare you hold up my flight! Get your ass on the plane!” we boarded the turboprop to Fresno, where the duty driver was waiting for us.
Later, upon completing “A” School and driving down with a friend to our final duty in San Diego, I decided to take some leave in October to attend homecoming at Edinboro University and visit my fiancée and old friends. This time I flew on a Continental Airlines redeye from San Diego to Newark, then a commuter jet to Pittsburgh, where after meeting my fiancée we would drive to Edinboro. After a wonderful weekend, I dropped my fiancée at her dorm and drove down to Pittsburgh to retrace my route back to San Diego. Arriving at my gate for the flight to Newark, I shrugged off a delay of about an hour since I still had plenty of time to make my connection. We boarded the plane at the appointed time, left the gate and started making its way to the runway.
While waiting on the taxiway we learned that there were high winds at Newark, backing up air traffic there and further delaying our departure, resulting in me missing my connection. I talked with the flight attendant about my concerns, considering I had to check back in from leave the next day, and I was reassured that Continental would do all they could to get me home. I made my way to the service desk when I finally landed in Newark, and true to their word, they got me a seat on a flight to Las Vegas, where I would transfer to a US Airways flight to San Diego. I sprinted from the desk and through the crowded terminal, just making it to the gate before they closed the door, and I made it back to San Diego without further problems. However, I realized upon my arrival that I had absent-mindedly packed my car keys in my sea bag, which was not arriving until the next morning from Newark. I got a taxi back to North Island, and borrowed a friend’s car to pick up my luggage and retrieve my keys.
The final adventure of 2007 was flying to Pittsburgh for Christmas leave, and this is where Atlanta enters the story. The roundabout flight path I flew on US Airways from San Diego, to Phoenix, to Las Vegas, to Pittsburgh was uneventful for the most part, and highlighted by the view of the Grand Canyon from 30,000 feet. Conversely, the return flight to San Diego on Delta remains the worst experience I have ever had flying. The combination of bad weather and the Christmas rush resulted in the flight from Pittsburgh leaving later than scheduled, and the flight Atlanta to San Diego had already departed. After making my way to Delta’s service desk, I had a guaranteed seat on a flight the next evening, but as this would be after my check in time with my squadron, they recommended I try to get on standby for an earlier flight. Since they did not give me a voucher for a hotel room, I spent the night in the airport, getting no sleep and wandering between the terminals to stave off boredom.
The next morning I made my way to the gate for the first flight to San Diego, and promptly got on the standby list. After spending the next hour or so staring at the standby screen and watching my name move ever closer to the top of the list, I got a seat and boarded the 767 with a sigh of relief. I normally don’t buy alcohol while flying, but when the flight attendant reached my seat with the refreshment cart, I bought a Canadian Club to go with my ginger ale. I spent the next few hours relaxing with my CC & Ginger watching Hairspray, and even taking a quick nap before landing at Lindbergh Field.
Other than flying to attend my fiancée’s and my sister’s college graduations in May 2008, and returning to Pittsburgh that November for my wedding, I did not fly commercially again until my recent travels. It is worth noting that flying back to San Diego after our wedding, my wife and I had a layover in Atlanta, and it marked the only time I had no problems at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. My wife must be my good luck charm.