I’m staggering across the American Midwest this week, buffeted by successive waves of winter storms. My entry via Minneapolis / Denver managed to avoid the storms that pounded Washington and Boston Friday. From the perspective of Colorado, it was hard to understand what the fuss was all about; a foot or more routinely falls and people just cope. It may have become a big story in part because it was an easy story: reporters just had to poke a camera out the front door and start talking.
A second storm hit Denver the morning I was leaving, promising a couple of feet in the mountains. My flight to Cincinnati got off a half hour late after a thorough de-icing, arriving with 20 minutes to spare before my next flight. Alas,, not enough time to lope from Concourse B to A, and the agent closed the gate as I rounded the corner. “We close at 6 minutes; you arrived at 5”, she told me matter-of-factly, then offered me a hotel for $60 overnight until the next plane at 7 am.
Right, sorry, but Delta’s problems are not supposed to become my problems. And once I’m stranded anyway, I’ve got nothing better to do than work for a better deal. In this case, I was able to get a free hotel room, but failed to squeeze out a meal voucher or a room closer to the airport. Clearly, 100,000 air miles flown in 2009 doesn’t carry the weight that it used to.
I was still cursing Delta for closing the gate in front of me too: there was a time that airlines held a plane a few minutes if people were trying to make tight connections. Amazingly, my luggage did make the flight and arrived in Chicago long before I did.
Five hours sleep and back in the air: descending at sunrise into a misty Chicago frozen against Lake Michigan. The Colorado storm hit Illinois this morning, closing both airports and making tomorrow’s flight to Atlanta, then London, problematic.
All along the way, airline and security personnel seem to be on a new vendetta against mp3 players. Customs agents stopped me to ask me to remove the buds from my ears before joining a line to clear immigration. A flight attendant asked me to remove a player from my coat pocket because she thought she heard sound coming from the earbuds (really, in my overcoat pocket?).
As delays ripple through the system and passengers pile up at airports, I suppose everyone is running a bit short-tempered. But it’s probably the worst time to extricate people from their cocoons for some security-chat and random- rule-enforcement.