The fun began changing planes in Vegas at about midnight on Friday night. Just before the door to the plane closed Ma Mullet went wailing down the aisle “we’re going to have to leave Bobby-Dale behind in Sin-City, they won’t let him on the plane." There were about a dozen members of the Mullet clan on board returning home from one of them renewing their wedding vows before the King (Elvis) in Las Vegas. It never was entirely clear why Bobby-Dale was being denied boarding, something about a fee that had to be paid for him to fly at that time on that flight (with the rest of the clan) and no one in the Mullet clan having a credit card to pay it (and the airline refusing to take cash at the boarding gate.) Members of the clan ran down the aisle to comfort Ma, who wailed even more about how terrible the airline was. The door was closed, she wailed some more and the Senior flight attendant stormed up the aisle, ordered the jet-way back and the door reopened. She talked with the Mullet family, with airline staff and even had Bobby-Dale brought to the door to say (with a grin on his face) “it’s ok, I’ll fly home tomorrow.” Finally after about 20 minutes they gave Bobby-Dale the keys to one of the pick-up-trucks parked at the airport and it was agreed that the rest of the family would fly peacefully without him (they offered to let any or all of them off if they couldn’t fly away and leave him behind in Sin-City.) The result of all of this commotion is that we were about 45 minutes late leaving Las Vegas making my 45 minute connection in Charlotte terribly tight.
Now airline schedules are as well padded as a thin starlet's bust, so when we landed I had 17 minutes to change concourses in Charlotte to catch my connecting flight. I don’t think we knocked anyone over as we flew through the airport, arrived at the gate about 11 minutes before departure (they close the little commuter flights 10 minutes before flight time so we were barely on time) only to be told that the flight had been delayed and in fact just that moment cancelled. I asked the nice lady what she could do and she said nothing and sent me to stand in line at customer service (I grumped at her, but it did no good.) The line at the service desk was not long, but everyone ahead of me was furious. When I got to the desk I looked at the nice young man and said, “I know if you could fix the weather, the plane, the crew or what ever is wrong you would have, but you can’t, what are my options for getting home to day I have been traveling since yesterday afternoon?” After suggesting a 7:45 PM flight (at 7:45 AM after I had been flying since 4:00 PM the day before) he said that they would fly into another city 90 miles from home and provide ground transportation to my home airport. I said that sounds ok, let’s give it a try. He said it would be faster if I went back to the gate and had them fix the ticket (back to the lady who 10 minutes before said she couldn’t help me, but he called her and now she could help me.) There were two flights leaving in the next couple of hours, I was placed as a standby on the first flight and confirmed on the second flight.
There were enough no shows that all of the standbys boarded the first flight. Then we all got off the plane, because the co-pilot was stuck in traffic on his way to the airport (lucky him.) About 45 minutes later a co-pilot was pulled from another flight, we re-boarded and the door was closed.
Believe it or not, this is then things get weird, and funny. The plane started to push back and there was this clatter and bit of a bump, I turned to the guy next to me and quipped “I hope the dog we just backed over will be ok.” The plane was pulled forward, stopped and started back again and this time it was more of a scraping and crunching sound. The plane came to a stop, the door to the cockpit flew open and the captain shouted at the flight attendant open the door and stormed off the plane. He went to inspect the carnage. We had backed into another plane, pulled forward and backed into it again. Parts were hanging loose from the splintered wing tips. He made a slashing gesture across his throat (never a good sign!) My best guess is that it will take six months for them to finish up the paperwork with the FAA. After about 10 minutes the co-pilot (undoubtedly wishing he was stuck in traffic or still on the plane he had been pulled off of) announced that we had experienced a little problem on the push back and we would need to deplane while they figured out what to do.
Suits and real workers descended on the scene. Accusations ensued including the literal pointing of fingers. After about 30 minutes the ground crew started unloading the baggage (not a good sign.) A few minutes later it was announced that they had cancelled someone else’s flight and that we would take their plane while they all went to stand in line at customer service. While we milled around the co-pilot started to walk away and I told him “you can’t leave us,” he said “I’ve just been transferred to another flight” (with a relieved look on his face.) Half an hour later another co-pilot was suited up and ready to go. I was back on my way to another city to eventually take a bus to my home airport. Oh yes, my luggage arrived about 30 minutes after the bus (on a different plane that I was never scheduled on.)
Four more airline flights this year, I wonder what will happen the next time the little penguin tries to fly.