I was faced with my first canceled flight of 2014 this week, but never imagined spending 17 1/2 hours in the terminal. Fortunately for me, I was stranded in Denver which has a wide variety of offerings for food, entertainment, and shopping. Unfortunately the timing of this cancelation with mid-winter break on a Thursday, added a complicated dynamic I could have never foreseen.
The cancelation happened as they typically do. Several delays with news of maintenance issues that may take up to 2 hours to service…but “please don’t leave the gate area.” After the wait, the dreaded announcement hits the 200+ passengers, who all run to the desk at once to be rescheduled. I myself called jetBlue and was told there was nothing until 11:35pm. It was only 11:30am! What was I going to do for 12 hours. The only flight available the next day, was also the red eye. I grabbed the seat, but had a plan to get out much sooner.
As I searched online for any airline offering a 1 way ticket out, I noticed my 11:35pm flight was now delayed to 12:35am. I kept thinking ok, I have to get out of here. I’ll just book something for tomorrow morning on a different airline and find a hotel. First problem…no rental cars available. Second problem, no hotels available near airport, and third problem…flights started at $1000+ for a one way ticket the next day. I was stuck.
I decided I would have more luck if I went back out of security and talked with an agent. I walked along the rows and rows of airline counters fully staffed, until I came to jetBlue…all shut down and no one working. It was the middle of the afternoon. Why in the world would they be closed? The kiosk would not let me check in. I could not check in online. And, I had discarded my morning boarding ticket. The very nice Southwestern agent explained they close from 11:30am until 8pm every day. So now, I’m stuck outside of security with no way to get in, and over 6 hours until I could check in.
There were several venues outside of security thankfully. After spending a couple hours working until my laptop died, I went on an adventure. I ate some great nachos, had a couple beers, ate a great sausage sandwich, had a couple more beers, watched a movie on my iPad, and had a couple more beers. Nap time!
After a good 2 hour nap, the jetBlue desk was open! Now my flight was delayed until 1:15am! The very nice agent gave me a voucher for $12. So generous. Regardless, I was excited to get back through security, discover some new venues, and use my voucher. I arrived to terminal C, and everything was closed. Back on the train to terminal A. The only thing open was McDonalds. Great! With nothing open, I found a seat near the gate and waited another 4 hours until boarding.
The experience has left my empathetic to all my traveling friends who are stuck. I just hope none of you are stuck in an airport for this long, ever! On a final note, I did receive an unprompted letter of apology from jetBlue along with a $25 credit for my next purchase. I need to watch the movie The Terminal with Tom Hanks tonight. It will make my adventure seem trivial.