Get Me to NOLA – Part Two: A Middle Seat in Economy

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This is gonna be a histrionic, text-heavy post, I can just feel it. 

Faced with the prospect of spending 2 hours at EWR, I made my way to the Admirals Club – thank god there was one. Well, it was really a US Airways Club with the branding replaced. Everything about Terminal A in EWR is “US Airways.”

I thought maybe I could get some additional help with my routing and getting down to New Orleans in the Admirals Club. I explained that my check-in had flubbed and that I’d been separated from my companion. Not only that, but the plane had just left with my seat still available. And now, what were my options?

I said I was on standby for the next flight already. Was there anything else I could do? Any way to get a confirmed ticket – I’d even be willing to connect somewhere?

“The next flight to Charlotte after that one is at 1:15pm.” (7 hours after my original 6am flight, mind you.)

“I don’t want to wait that long. Could I connect somewhere else? Philadelphia, O’Hare…?”

“After the 1:15pm, we’re sold out for the rest of the day. You can try again tomorrow.”

Really. So at this point I was not feeling too great. So I grabbed some OJ, a yogurt, and a coffee, and wanted the Departures board like a hawk.

Before boarding, I made my way back to the gate agent before they got too overwhelmed for the flight I was hoping to get on.

“Just wanted to see if I’m having any luck getting onto this flight.” *presented my boarding pass*

The agent furrowed her brow and said, “Mmm. Hmmm. Ahhhh. Not looking too good.”

OK. “What can I do if I don’t get on this flight?”

While she plugged away at her computer, I pulled up flights on the American app. There was a 9:45am from LGA. I noted it mentally.

“Well,” she said finally. “You could always take the train to Philly. Yeah.” I’m not sure what kind of look I had outwardly, but I was thinking to myself, “You have got to be freaking kidding me.”

“You just take the AirTrain to [station] and transfer at [other station].”

“And how long does that take?”

“Two hours. If you leave right now…”

“But what if I get on this flight? And what about this 9:45am from LGA?” I read her the flight numbers.

“Oh, yeah. I see that. American flights,” and she chuckled to herself.

“Yes, American flights,” I confirmed.

“Oh, well that might work. Take a seat. But it’s not looking good.”

Moment of truth

It’s so weird how these little dioramas in travel play out. While I was hoping to get on the flight, I realized I was surrounded by at least a dozen other people trying to get onto the same, oversold flight as me. Woof.

Finally, they boarded. It was a $#!+show. Oh yeah. The agents were harried, and everything was a mess. Watching the boarding process of a large aircraft will make you lose faith in humanity, I swear.

After they bumbled around a little more, they called my name! “Mister Vaughn?”

I rushed up. She wrote something down on my boarding pass. Then, with what I swear was a vindictive look, she said, “Middle seat. 23E.” I was in such a fluster, I just took it and ran.

As I went to take my middle seat in economy, after I paid for a First Class ticket and stood by for a First Class seat, I pictured her laughing while I went to find my seat. But whatever, I just wanted to get there. And if I misconnected, I’d have to rebook and repeat this all over again.

Smoke and gas

After I planted myself in a middle seat in economy, which burned, as I paid for a First Class seat that flew away with me in it, I was seriously thinking if I could get a refund just for that segment. Is that a thing? Because I paid for First Class?

Anyway, we sat there.

And sat there some more.

And sat there for a whole hour, during which I was getting more and more panicked. “I’m going to misconnect if we don’t leave right now,” I though to myself. “Damn.”

This is a lie. We didn't make off until about 9:20am

This is a lie. We didn’t make off until about 9:20am

The pilot came on and said there was smoke coming out of the engine and fuel was leaking from it, too. That is was normal in cold weather, but they were checking it just to be sure. Comforting.

I tweeted American, because tweeting to US Airways is pointless, and thought they could maybe expedite my connection in some way as I had to switch terminals and was now in danger of missing my connecting flight due to the fact that we sat at the freaking gate for an hour while the engine leaked gas and blew smoke.

Useless. Note the time signature at 9:14am that the plane hadn't even taken off yet

Useless. Note the time signature at 9:14am that the plane hadn’t even taken off yet

The CLT-MSY segment was supposed to take off at 11:14am. We landed at around 11am.

My soul died a little as I waited for everyone to deplane from economy. I could feel my chance at making the flight slip away as people struggled with their zillion carry-ons.

Once finally out, I ran past everyone to a different terminal like a crazy person.

I boarded, thank god. I made it. Otherwise I think I would’ve had a conniption.

But then…

Haha, we delay you again

I’ve never had a problem with US Airways before this. But something about the operations that day, and maybe this is all in my own mind, had some sort of malicious, masochistic tinge to them. As if they enjoyed making the day hell for people.

My companion was already in New Orleans, waiting for me at the airport.

And yet we sat there. And sat there some more. And sat there for a whole other freaking hour.

Also incorrect. I didn't land until 2pm

Also incorrect.

There were no explanations given. The flight attendant in First was lovely, but the gate agents could not have been more unhelpful. Sitting there for another hour on that plane was terrible. We were plied with booze, thank god, but I felt bad for the FA… because she wasn’t getting paid. And I was delayed again. And we were all sitting there not knowing what was going on.

And finally… we took off for New Orleans.

When the plane finally got there, I walked into the airport terminal, promptly dropped my suitcase, and yelped, “Holy F**K!”

Bottom line

The “Get Me to NOLA” series was named in a foggy moment of clearly not forward thinking… because then I had to get back home to NYC. So there will be more. And it won’t be pretty. But I will get my chance to vent, dang it!

I tried to stay cool and take it all in stride, but damn, this was a frustrating flight experience – and I realize it could’ve been much worse, so I am thankful that I got there at all.

Has anyone had luck getting refunded for being forced to downgrade cabins? Just curious about that. And has anyone else noticed any animosity from American to US Airways and vice versa? There seemed to be some growing pains at both EWR and CLT. I say this as a very occasional US Airways, but frequent American, passenger.

To be continued…

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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