Limbo: Travel Day

Up at 4AM this morning in order to catch my 6:30am flight to Denver.  Johnny and Colin were just deciding to go to sleep, so I decided to tap a sleepy Linda for the drive to the airport.  I unexpectedly met my friend Rob Zienkewicz in the airport, and talked briefly about happenings at Viasat AMP.

The delayed flight to Denver was cramped but uneventful.  Although the plane landed late I still had 40 minutes to make my connection, and I already had a boarding pass and seat assignment, printed out the night before.  Arriving at the gate to Williston, I noticed a long line, and soon I jumped into it to find out what was up.  Uh-oh.

It seems that the carrier, Great Lakes Airlines, had scrapped its plan to send a 30-passenger plane and instead sent a 19-seater.   The uncaring desk agent told me that my boarding pass was no good and that I’d been bumped because I had arrived “late” (actually 20 minutes early).  They’d already given my seat away.

Fellow bumpees at the gate laughed and cursed and grumbled that this was commonplace for Great Lakes Airlines.

I was led upstairs and rescheduled on to the 8:10pm flight.  Received 2 meal vouchers for airport food (great) and a $300 credit for use on Frontier Airlines, as long as it involved a Great Lakes Airlines leg, in the future.  In other words, worthless to me.

I called Randy and the bike shop to inform them of my status.   I suggested that Randy check in to my pre-paid room at the Marquis Inn and spend the night, and I also called the hotel to inform them of this arrangement.  Finally settled down for a coffee and a long wait.  The newspaper got fully read, the WordWrap, LA crossword, Jumble, and Cryptogram got fully solved…then the paper was read a second time.

For lunch I opted for the Mesa Verde room, promising buffalo cheeseburgers and the Uruguay/Netherlands World Cup match on TV.  Unfortunately, the room was smoke-filled but the burgers were pretty good.  URU 2, Netherlands 3.

Around 3pm, GLA5121 was posted, scheduled to leave at 8:10pm.  Great!  I could make it to the hotel with some hours to sleep, then Randy and I could hit the road in the morning.  This might work out OK.  I continued to read my Opus, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and continued to wonder, just who is Phaedrus?

At 4:45pm, reckoning that Great Lakes Airlines seemed to work on a first-come-first-serve policy, I checked in at the gate.  The agent assured me I was “confirmed” on GLA 5121.  This assurance resonated not with me – I had already lost all confidence in this rinky-dink operation.

I used my second meal voucher at the Panda House.  Untasty Chinese food, halla venté as they say, but better than losing the voucher I guess.   I then joined the war victims at the GLA gate, veteran oil workers who had flown this airline before, with no shortage of horror stories.    They also had many interesting stories to tell about the oil business, how the pumps are constructed and operated, and the booming oil business in Williston.

The posted departure time for the flight to Williston moved to 8:29pm, then 9:04pm, then 9:29pm.  The bad jokes and trashing of Great Lakes Airlines continued non-stop from the gate patrons.  Reposted as 10:08pm, then 10:32pm.  No announcements were made, no explanations were given.

At one point, I approached the gate and commented, “Guys, you gotta let all these people know what is going on.  They’re just trash talking your company to death because you haven’t told them anything.”  The agent responded, “Well, the plane isn’t here.”  Uhhhh….

Around 10:30pm, I heard the agent mention that the plane was still on the ground in Pueblo, and I’d just about had it.  Most of my gate buddies had surrendered and already accepted a hotel voucher for the night.   I’d decided that I’d hold out until the flight was truly canceled, but headed upstairs for a misery beer.   While I sipped, a kept a close eye on the departure monitor, which restated a departure at 10:48pm, then 11:06pm.

I made it back to the gate around 10:50pm, which now seemed more empty to me.  I asked, “Any word on the plane to Williston?”  Agent: “That flight just left.”

Holy shit.  I felt fractionally responsible for leaving the gate.  But I’d never encountered such a poorly run airline in my life.   In the end, we just laughed, me at them and them at me.  They booked me on the 11:10am flight to Williston tomorrow, and issued me a hotel voucher for the night for the Crystal Inn, and told me to just grab the shuttle outside the airport in order to get over there.

The Crystal Inn shuttle took more than an hour to come by.  In the meantime, I called Linda to explain my predicament, not knowing a phone number for the hotel, not knowing whether they had rooms, not knowing if the shuttle would ever show up.  After contacting the hotel, she called back to assure me they indeed had rooms and that the shuttle would eventually come around.  Thanks Linda!

As a long line of bumped passengers checked in to the Crystal Inn, the poor woman in front of me started to cry.  I guess she’d just about reached her limit.  Fortunately, the hotel desk clerk was very understanding, even came around the desk to hug her and assure her things would turn out OK.  Around 2am I finally got settled in a room.

Miles ridden today: 0
Cumulative miles: 0