Traveling with children is always stressful. Especially if it involves air travel. With road, you have the latitude to be a little flexible with your time and control the velocity. With air travel, you are pretty much shackled in terms of what can be done. A typical routine would involve
- Get ready 4 hours ahead of the flight
- 2 hours ahead of time at the airport. (3 hours if it is international travel)
- Go through serpentine security check queues. (if you are lucky if no global security incidents have occurred in the recent past then you will be spared the pat-downs)
- Then if you are not a lucky First Class traveler then get ready to be transfered to another queue in front of the boarding gate.
All of the above are best case scenarios. Then if your flight comes and leaves on time then that is all you probably will have to endure. But if you are as lucky as we were this week, then you will have more fun at the airport. (Hooray!!! #1)
After all the scampering (or was it scavenging not sure) that my wife did to find and co-ordinate our travel plans for a long overdue vacation, we found the best flight that would leave Oakland at 6.10am. As you can imagine, that was not our preferred time. (remember shackles). So we somehow cajoled our kids to sleep early the previous night so we can get up around 3am and leave for the airport. Surprisingly that went much smoother than we had anticipated. Despite the seemingly weird practice US Airways has of putting all the families with kids at the tail end of the flight, we got situated nicely in seats and the flight started moving on time. The pilot even (prematurely) gave us good news by saying that we might be leaving early and reaching early (Hooray!!! #2). But that was probably the last good news for the day, as the flight only mustered enough wherewithal to reach the tarmac. After which all we saw was a parade of Southwest Airlines flights that kept passing us by. 30 mins past our flight take off time, the pilot said the flight is being canceled due to mechanical failure and we were asked to deplane. So back we were, half drowsy by now, at the boarding gate. 3o minutes later, we were told that a 800 number has been setup to help us find alternatives. I saw some getting refunds and changing plans. We were in no mood to go back home. Remember this vacation was long time coming.
The agent on the 800 number was busy looking and offering me various possibilities from Oakland, admittedly trying to get us to depart from the Oakland airport, to no avail. As if the journey was not already horrendous, the options presented to us were not any better. Then I asked her why can’t we fly out of San Francisco – even if it meant us driving out to San Francisco Airport. “Oh I never considered that” she said and started looking at options there and as luck would have it, we were given a choice between going to San Francisco and taking a Delta Airlines flight 7 hours later or flying another day. And so we ended up coming to San Francisco and when we got there, our luck shined on us again. From what were family seats together in US Airways, we were now given separate seats. All four of us separate. I know, I know. We made the choice to fly instead of choosing to flying another day. They did the best they could given the circumstance. Why am I still bitching then? This is why – if having separate seats were not enough, all four of them were middle seats. There was no way my young son was going to sit in between to complete strangers (and probably I would not allowed my daughter to do the same). We asked the desk clerk at the boarding gate and then the attendant (I refuse to call them air-hostess for obvious reasons). She said “I am sorry we cannot do anything but I totally understand your problems” (Did she?) and then got busy with whatever she was doing.
Then my ever industrious wife got into her act and some how convinced the person next my son and a family two seats behind them to move around in what amounts to a three way shuffle and got hers and the two kids seats together. A major league baseball or NBA GM would have been proud of such a three way deal. Don’t think I would have ever done it. Heck I would have not even asked them (and not got the kids next to one of us). I am too much of an introvert – more happy to give up a good seat than ask for one.
And so we ended up reaching Detroit after 18 hours air travel. Did I mention shackles before?