Thursday, January 21, 2016

Travelogue, Allegiant Air Style

After this article made some of their problems public, I couldn't resist sharing my latest experience with Allegiant Air. (If you are unfamiliar with the Leo di Caprio's Inception, you may want to read this description of the movie first.)

Friday January 8, 2016
Idaho Falls, Idaho 

2:00 pm snuggle with baby for the last time.

2:30 pm arrive at airport--kiss my little grandkids goodbye and hug their parents. I hate leaving them.

3:00 pm purchase a diet Pepsi and Cheese-Its. Idaho Falls is a small airport with little but vending machine fare available. That will hold me till I land in Mesa in three hours.

Check departure time. Flight delayed from 4:03 to 5:03. Sigh. That puts me home just after 7--still good.

4:57 pm board the plane. I pulled out my iPad and earbuds to watch Inception, which I downloaded off the Cloud at Heidi's house. For some reason, it's still trapped on the Cloud and I can't watch it. (Or is it on a different dream level.)

5:20 pm flight attendant hits switch to signal door is closed. Lights flicker three times accompanied by an alarming ding that can't be normal. It happens twice more. Now we know something's up. Flight attendant announces there is an electrical malfunction and to wait for further news. Like we have a choice?

5:30 pm all passengers deplane and wait for mechanic to look at the mechanical issues. Well, at least I can get Inception off the Cloud while I wait. I find a place in the terminal to charge my electronics, but panic begins to set in. I have a baby shower at my house the next morning, and I need to be home. I start sending texts to Heidi, Brad, and my friend Shauna (grandma of the showered baby), bemoaning my predicament.

5:34 pm begin exploring options to shuttle to SLC and fly Southwest home. After three minutes' research, I quickly realize this option will not get me home in time for the baby shower.  This won't work.

Beginning of the "Delta Departure Debacle." (This may remind you of a scene from a movie. It felt like I was living in one. Was I Ellen Page's Ariadne? Did I construct this alternate reality?) 

5:41 pm Sam texts me that there is a Delta flight leaving for Salt Lake in 35 minutes, with a connecting flight to Phoenix, that will put me home just after 10 pm. There has been no update from Allegiant, and I'm beginning to wonder how long we will be stranded in Idaho. I text Brad in desperation, "Can you get me on this flight? GET ME HOME!"

5:43 pm no response from Brad. An announcement comes across the speakers, saying that the mechanic should be there around 6 pm, and they will let us know after his inspection.

5:45 pm text Shauna about the very real possibility that I will not make it home for the shower.

5:46 pm run to the Delta counter and ask the attendant if it's possible to get on the flight. He evaluates the level of crazy in my eyes (pretty high) and tells me the only way to get a ticket is to call or get online. I walk away, defeated. Still no response from Brad. What the  ?

5:53 pm call Shauna. Two minutes into the call . . .

5:55 pm Brad calls. I hang up with Shauna. He successfully bought a ticket on the Delta flight. Without a moment of rational thought and with the phone still pressed to my ear, I scoop up my carryon bag, my jacket, and my still-plugged in and still downloading iPad, dropping half of it to the floor and making an inordinate amount of noise. People stare and wonder who the crazy lady is. I don't care, because I'm about to escape this prison.

5:56 pm ticket agent is gone from the desk, and the door to the gate is locked. With my desperation rising with every passing second, I pound on the steel door over and over and over, begging someone to open the door. I open Brad's text, and there is the number confirming my seat on the plane that will GET ME OUT OF HERE!

5:57 pm ticket agent opens steel door, and a crazy lady with the yellow jacket and iPhone charging cord hanging over her arm starts begging for him to open the door and let her on the plane.  (Crazy lady may or may not have been me. I may have been incepted.) Ticket agent again assesses the level of crazy in my eyes (even higher, and mounting by the moment), and calmly states, "I'm sorry, ma'am. The flight is closed."  What???? But my husband just bought the NONREFUNDABLE ticket two minutes ago! "I'm sorry, ma'am. The flight is closed. I can call my supervisor downstairs." Normally in situations like this, my mood turns biting and brusque and mean, but not this time. This time, I burst into tears. The flight isn't even scheduled to leave for twenty more minutes! It's not fair to have a flight leave EARLY! I have a baby shower at my house that I can't miss! I need to get on that flight. Tears and sobs and insistent gestures to the confirmation code on my phone's screen. But a quick call to the supervisor and the roar of jet engines could not be ignored--I was stuck at the airport. After a trip downstairs to get the purchase price of my ticket refunded ("I don't know how your husband even bought this ticket. Flights close thirty minutes before takeoff . . ."), I sullenly walked back up to the terminal/prison.
End of the "Delta Departure Debacle."

6:15 pm is when the humor of the whole situation hit me.
I had just lived the airport scene in a movie! I was the crazed lady who needed to catch a plane and couldn't--with the entire terminal of people staring and wondering what is she doing? This thought makes tears disappear, and I start laughing out loud. (This didn't stop the stares from onlookers. Now they must be thinking I have completely lost it. Don't care. It's funny.) I call Brad and we laugh and laugh as I recount each detail in the story--from spilling my electronics all over the floor, to who the ticket agent reminded me of, to the begging and the tears. Halfway through our conversation, I realize what a mess it would have been if I had caught that Delta flight--I forgot that I had a checked bag on the Allegiant flight. Now that would have caused some problems . . .

6:26 pm recount story to Heidi and begin a funny text string with Tucker and Brad. The story becomes funnier each time it's told, with me the hapless clown and the butt of every joke.

6:38 pm Allegiant attendant announces status of our broken plane. It's not good. The mechanic can't fix the generator connection, so a rescue plane has been dispatched and will arrive at 10. New departure time--10:40 pm. Strange, but this news does little to comfort me. Do I really believe the second plane will be any better than the first?

I descend into survival mode. How can I find something to eat--Domino's delivery? And where are my earbuds--time to start that movie.

7:57 pm Domino's passes a thin crust basil tomato pizza through the security checkpoint just for me. I wait by the security gate to sign the receipt, ready for dinner and a little time with Inception. How did I miss the announcement that Allegiant was ordering pizza for everyone? My personal pizza gets scanned just before 20 others. When I take an entire box for myself, I get dirty looks from others around me. Little do they know, and little do I care and I don't bother to explain--I have already hit bottom in front of these people. Snagging my own pizza is nothing. I find a place to sit, pull out a notebook, and focus on my goals for 2016 before allowing myself to watch the movie.

8:12 pm Allegiant attendant announces the rescue plane is having problems and that they will update us when they have more information. This announcement is greeted by a collective groan and a titter of conversation. No one is very surprised.

8:45 pm I finish writing up 2016 goals and prepare to finally watch the movie.

Funny how 8 1/2 hours in an airport makes fleeting friends. 

There is the Phoenix father flying home after spending a few weeks in Idaho looking for a house in Pocatello where he can relocate his family. He tells me about his increasing hate for the heat and love for all things Idaho. I hope he finds a piece of property to live out his dreams.

There is the couple on a birthday trip to the sunshine. They ask me about fun things to do in the Valley of the Sun, and together we huddle over an iPhone map and plot a few fun sights and activities. I hope they enjoy the zoo . . .

There is the couple whose miniature schnauzers outpace even me as they walk back and forth for hours across the terminal in their matching hand-knitted sweaters. (The dogs match, not the couple. I know. You were picturing it both ways, weren't you?) I watch their owners clean up a mess on the carpet--is it excrement or vomit? I overhear something about nervous stomachs. I hope the problem will be resolved before we take off.

9:12 pm airline announces the rescue plane is en route to Idaho Falls, and the new departure time is 11:45 pm. With the plane in the air, all of us cheer and cross our fingers.

There is this couple. No words needed.

And then there is the quiet lady in the corner, wearing a pink GAP sweatshirt. Occasionally she adds a quick comment to conversation, but she mostly checks her phone again and again, looking from the monitors to her phone and then over my head to the runway outside. I ask her what is taking her to Phoenix, and after a brief hesitation, she begins her story. Her father has been admitted to the hospital that day. He is in kidney failure and the doctors perform an emergency surgery that afternoon. It doesn't look good, and she is hoping she can get there in time.
Silence falls over the strangers who have become friends in these unusual circumstances. Suddenly, the schnauzers with the nervous stomachs and the lack of a house in Pocatello and a quick trip away from the cold and especially a baby shower all seem rather small to the rest of us. I bow my head and offer prayers over the next few hours--please let her get there in time. Please. I hope she makes it.

9:30 pm I exhaust Facebook, Instagram, email, goal setting, and casual conversation with those around me--time to start the movie. But I can't sit still, and I pace as I watch. I don't know how many times I make my route: walking from one corner of the terminal to the other, earbuds dangling from my ears and multiple dream levels on my iPad screen. People stare. Is it because they have nothing better to do and they have exhausted all of their options as well? Or is it because they're part of some dream concocted to invade my subconscious, and I'm now aware I'm sleepwalking? Can I kick myself awake?
11-11:30 pm As time passes, my mind mixes the movie world with the dream/nightmare I'm currently living. Suddenly, I can't keep my mind on the movie any more. I need to do something, so I start a text exchange with Brad and Lily to liven up my experience. As I continually pace. In my boots. At least I have boots, right?

"11:18 marks the exact moment my 14-hour deoderant stopped working. Lucky people who have to sit next to me on the plane."

Lily's response to that text was "Funniest thing ever!" and a quick video of her and her friends just out of the neighbor's hot tub. Sigh. Brad's response to that text was a quick "At least you're not here playing Catan with us. It's not good." Sigh.

11:30 pm and I have been in the Idaho Falls airport for exactly nine hours now. Where has the time gone? It feels like a mere seven hours . . .

11:36 pm I let out a hearty "YAHOO," when pre-boarding is announced. No one in the waiting area reciprocates my excitement, they throw me only exhausted stares. Where is Dom Cobb? This has to be another dream level. I don't remember how I got here any more.

And then I look out the window.
How long has it been snowing? Are you KIDDING me! After all this time, we might get stranded here because of SNOW?

11:45 pm all passengers are seated on the plane as snowflakes coat the runway, fully aware that their silent accumulation may require us to linger till morning. The pilot announces that Bonneville County is sending out a snow plow, and the de-icing truck is preparing to coat the plane just before we leave. New departure time is 12:43 am. I admit it. The thought crosses my mind more than once--Is this plane really safe? Or are they just so anxious to get us out of Idaho that they're willing to cut a few corners to get us home? They did offer us $50 credit on our next flight . . . Will there be a next flight?

12:16 am and it's now Saturday. I bet the pilot hates making the announcement he is required to make right now, just as our hopes are high. "Excuse me. The de-icer malfunctioned and was only able to complete one run around the plane. Please be patient as they fix it. We will be delayed another 15 minutes." People are too tired by this time to even complain. Most have headphones in their ears and travel pillows around their necks, trying to catch a bit of sleep.

The de-icer takes it final pass, and I watch the plow clear the runway. I shoot a final text to Brad. "I think we are really going to leave this time. See you in Phoenix around 3."

12:53 am we take off and the flight attendants give out complimentary drinks. Most passengers sleep or ignore the offer. Too little, too late?

1:25 am Inception is finally over. I know it's a long movie, but it kept me entertained on and off for the last four hours. Thank you, Christopher Nolan.

1:42 am the smell of booze and tomato juice wafts from the seat behind me, explaining the loud guffaws and uninhibited, slurred discussion of "Mary Jane, but I didn't inhale," for all awake to hear. The drunk airplane acquaintances make plans to meet and show each other a good time in Phoenix. "What beer do you drink?" "Come to my office." "If my husband were here, he would be cowering in the corner in embarrassment."

Now they're best friends. This is definitely part of my movie dream. 

1:58 am descent into Phoenix announced. Why am I not tired right now? I'm always tired at 8:55 pm. I can't sleep. Am I asleep? I want to sleep, but what if I dream? What if there's a spinning top on my desk and it never falls? What if . . . Questions stupefy my beyond tired mind. Did Dom really return to his family? Was it really that easy for Saito? Have these past hours been real? What is my subconscious trying to say?

2:16 am touchdown at Gateway airport. I may be tempted to kiss the ground when I get off this plane. It is twelve hours since I left Heidi's house.

3:23 am I crawl into bed, never happier to be home. By car, the trip from Rexburg to Mesa takes about 15 hours. I could almost have driven home faster.

By 7 am, I wake up, preparing to entertain 150 women and girls and celebrate a new baby girl.

Back home. Back to reality.


  1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles comes to mind. What an ordeal. At least you weren't stuck on the plane all that time. That would have been claustrophobic.

  2. I kinda wish you had slept in and not been there to entertain teens and celebrate a baby, let others serve you instead.

    Totally agree the employees having to make all those annoucements are to be pitied, the only thing worse than being a passenger on that plane was being flight crew. Gosh. I'm surprised they didn't need another flight crew to take over. Would have been nice if they put you in a hotel and on another flight the next morning.

  3. Holy cow!!!! You've convinced me (as have many others' experiences) not to fly Allegiant. You're amazing and so resilient.

  4. Sorry about your LONG trip...or dream! I laughed through most of your post. I can't imagine you pounding on the steel door...and everyone looking on. But, I CAN imagine what everyone was thinking when you grabbed your entire pizza!