Getting back to the Midwest from Slovakia is, at minimum, a three-flight journey. It usually took about twenty-four hours to get home if everything went well. This time, not everything went well.
It started innocuously enough, when the first ticket agent couldn’t print boarding passes for my whole journey. No problem, I thought. I’ll just have a gate agent print them for me when I get to Washington. The plane to Washington was slightly delayed. No problem, I thought. I’ll still make the Chicago flight.
I hurried through the terminals at Dulles, got my boarding passes printed, and settled in to wait. The incoming plane was delayed. No problem, I thought. I’m not on the last flight of the day; I’ll be fine. The plane arrived, and it was very quickly serviced to allow us to board. We all got on the flight, and I curled up to sleep.
Because of the delays, there was quite a long line for takeoff. The cabin crew turned on the in-flight entertainment for us while we were waiting. About half an hour later, they announced that there was some sort of fault with the plane: they were going to try turning everything off and turning it on again.
That didn’t work, and after another twenty minutes or so of waiting, we were asked to disembark. We trudged our way to the customer service desk to be rebooked, and about six people got on the last flight of the day to Chicago before the announcement came: We’ve gotten a new plane!
They hadn’t. I got back to my seat only to see my headphones still sitting there. Another fifteen minutes went by before the cabin crew confirmed that, no, it wasn’t a new plane and, yes, the fault still existed.
Back at the customer service desk, we all lined up patiently only to have the customer service agent snap at us, “This line is for passengers whose flights have been cancelled only. Your flight was reboarded.” She called the gate to confirm that we’d had to disembark again before she was willing to serve any of us.
I was rebooked for the next morning, but all the airport hotel rooms had gone. I slept on gate chairs. Finally, the next day, I boarded a working plane and, two flights later, arrived at my final destination – a mere fourteen hours late.