J-5 Rogers Family

7.16.2010

Return Home Drama (Vacation - Part 2)

** Please read the post below - Summer Vacation - before reading this one. **

As mentioned in the previous post, we had slight drama on our return trip...

We started the first leg of our return trip - Miami to Atlanta - wonderfully.  On time, perfect weather.  The kids didn't sleep on that leg, so we knew that Atlanta to DFW part would be nice & relaxing since they would sleep.  We got to Atlanta, snacked, changed diapers, and got on the next flight to DFW. It was due to land at 3:02. We left Atlanta on time, and the kids slept.  Sweetness.  

I knew we'd made time up in the air and were scheduled to land a few minutes early. At 3:04, I found it strange that we hadn't landed. At that moment, the pilot says, "We are having to go to Oklahoma City to refuel". That's it! No further explanation - nothing! The girl inside me who grew up on airplanes, who has a dad that worked for Delta for nearly 30 years, who worked for the airlines herself just.about.lost.it. So we land in Oklahoma City a few minutes later, and pull up to a hangar (not a gate) in the middle of nowhere to refuel. No announcements, nothing.

After FORTY minutes, I finally get up and go to the cockpit. I explain to the captain that while he is nice & comfy, there are 8 children near me who are starved, and we need to know what is going on. I tell him that if we are going to be too much longer, he needs to let us off the plane to get food. He says, "You know how it is. We are waiting on a flight release. It could be 10 minutes, it could be 45 minutes." I said, "Please make an announcement then. This isn't fair to us!" So what does the lovely man say on his announcement? "Ladies and Gentleman, we are waiting on a flight release from Orlando. It could be 5 or 10 minutes, or just a little longer."
Meanwhile, I have rallied the troops near me, and told them what was really said. Everyone is so upset. We have looked at the radar on our phones, there isn't any awful weather in DFW. It was clear as day when we landed in OKC. We have talked to family in DFW. So what gives?  We obviously aren't being told everything...

After being at that hangar for over an hour, we receive the release - at which time it has started raining - and we are #2 for take-off. Finally. So while we are on the runway waiting for clearance to take-off, it is pouring. Nasty, sideways rain. We are told that there is now a ground stop in Oklahoma City due to wind sheers, and we aren't able to take-off! So now to save fuel, they are going to turn the engines off. Great. Wonderful. Do y'all know what happens when you turn off engines on an airplane that isn't hooked up to a generator?

Meanwhile, two planes are taking off in the next runway over. People on the plane see this and get really upset.  (They must have gotten clearance before the ground stop which makes no sense to the people on the plane, but I get that.)
So we are now sitting on a hot airplane in the middle of a runway in Oklahoma City. We have now been on this airplane for 5+ hours, half of this time not even moving or in the air. What do you think my 1 & 2 year old are doing? No, not sleeping. They are going crazy. I am one prepared mom - I had diapers, milk, juice, movies, toys, and snacks galore. I even had a box of pastries and bread that we bought before leaving Miami.  I just don't have any REAL food. I can't take my whole fridge on board. Jaydon is STARVED, and we haven't been given anything but a dry bag of pretzels and soda.  I go up to the front again and ask to be taken back to a gate so I can get food for my children. They say they can't move. I ask for food to be brought in - offer to pay triple and get something for everyone on board - they can't. I explain that Jaydon has some sensory issues and he really needs real food.  They won't budge.  I am livid!
Don't think I didn't break open the pastries and start sharing.  We were all in survival mode and sharing what we had.

After THREE hours of being in Oklahoma City, they decide that we should go back to a gate. FAA laws at this point REQUIRE it. I, peronsally, think it is abuse. THREE hours, really?!

So as we are about to get off the plane, an announcement is made: "Please listen carefully. You have FIFTEEN minutes to get food and get back on board. If you go outside security, TSA will not let you back in. We need everyone back on board in fifteen minutes. We don't want anyone to say they didn't hear this announcement."
Hmm...unload a plane that has 150 people on it, get food from 1of 2 restaurants in this tiny airport which probably doesn't even HAVE enough food at its restaurants for all of us, and get back on board in 15 minutes?  RIGHT.

It is "that time" of the month for me.  Need I say more?  I have the strongest stomach in America.  I never got sick while pregnant - ever!  Y'all...I am hot, I feel like fainting, and I am not having it any longer.  I felt like I was stuffed inside of an oversized tampon - at this point for 6 hours!  I have flown to Australia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Korea, Mexico 9 times, St. Thomas, Costa Rica - ALL around the world, but not with three children, and never had I gotten stuck on an airplane like that.
Instinct tells me that this flight might get cancelled.  What if the flight crew times out?  What if, what if, what if?  I know the drill.

My oldest son is starved, and my two little ones have been running up and down the aisle for 3 hours making friends with people who are just being nice for the sake of not being labeled "unfriendly" by those around them.  What on Earth makes you think I am getting back on board that airplane? So we didn't.
What did we do?  We ended up renting a car and driving home.

The airplane finally arrived to DFW at 8:45 PM. We arrived to our house at 10:00 PM.  It is about a 3+ hour drive. By the time we got off the plane, got our bags, and got home, it would have been 10:00, so we got home at the same time driving as we would have flying. It wasn't cheap, ($188 for the one-way rental & 2 car seats + $20 to fill it up again) but I would do it again in a heartbeat to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck on an airplane with no way out with three children.

The DOT is going to get a nice letter from me. I WILL get reimbursed something. The airlines not allowing me off the plane when I said that my children needed to eat is beyond ridiculous. I can understand a "short" delay, but three hours is absurd.
When all was said and done, the people who flew home to DFW had been on that plane for 9 hours. A less than 2-hour plane ride took NINE hours with no offer to feed us, nothing.  I know that weather delays are natural and cannot be helped.  I also know that there is a MUCH better way that the situation could SHOULD have been handled.

Yesterday, we got a letter from AirTran in the mail apologizing for the delay that day.  Are they admitting something?  I appreciate the letter - I REALLY do, but I am not giving up on the hope that a letter to the DOT gets me something else.  I have never been one to want money or ask for more, but I am still upset that my poor son was starved for that long!! 

So to say that last day put a damper on our vacation is putting it lightly. The positive was that all three kids fell asleep the whole way home, and they wouldn't have done that on the plane. 
Let me just say that we did everything "right" - Motrin or Tylenol before each leg of the trip, I had sippy cups with straws for them to sip on.  My two youngest children are just busy.  ...and they weren't the only ones roaming the aisles.  You can't expect perfection from toddlers for that long. 

We will NOT fly with kids again until they are at least 4 years old and can sit for more than 2.4 seconds at a time. Our next vacation WILL be to the beach though. A long vacation with just our own family and hopefully some friends on the beach in either California or somewhere up the northeast coast. Family is loving and fun, but they wear you out.

So that was the end to our family vacation.  I'm sorry I couldn't end on a happier note like with us winning the lottery or something, but the bottom line is that we made it home safe & sound, right?


1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! That was quite the adventure for you guys (good and bad)! I am sooooo glad you guys were able to get away for a nice, long vacation! It sounds like a wonderful time was had by all and teh younger two will appreciate all the pictures their Momma took so they could one day re-live it. Thanks for sharing your story and I'm glad you all made it home safe and sound! - Andi

July 16, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

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