Friday, August 28, 2009

My worst trip to the US - On my way to Purdue

This has undoubtedly been my worst trip to the US. Oh boy it was all going wrong right from the start. Well I thought that my flight was at 2.15 AM so I planned to get to the airport at 11.45 PM which would give me 2 and a half hours (which is most often than not more than enough). Well we got to the airport around 12 and I proceeded through the security checks to the checking area. Believe it or not the queue was soooo long and I was standing at the entrance to the checking area. I would guess that there were around a 150 passengers ahead of me. To my great relief I was not alone there were several other passengers on the same flight to heathrow around me. Having traveled before it was pretty clear that at the pace the queue was moving I wouldn't get to the checking desk in time. So i went up to a Sri Lankan Airlines ground hostess and inquired about the situation. She didn't seem concerned and simply said that most of the passengers in the queue are on the same flight. Well Sri Lankan airlines should take the blame for putting passengers into that situation. The heathrow flight was to leave at 2 AM and another flight to Rome via Paris was to leave at 2.45 AM and these dumb idiots (Well thats the most decent word that comes to my mind at this moment) were checking in all these passengers on the same queue. I don't think it can get any worser. Anyway around 1.40 AM (there were still more than a 25 passengers ahead of me at that time) they gave priority to the Heathrow passengers and checked us in. Cool so you checking with just 15 mins to go. By this time I was well aware that the flight would not leave on time, to make matters even worse my transit at London was just 2 hours.

Well so I checked in and went through immigration and to my surprise the gate was just at the point where you end immigration. Normally you would do up there stairs and through the duty free area and head towards the gates. Now it was pretty clear to me that this was something new and I heard on news that they had opened up the Airport viewing area just a week ago. This move shows how silly the Sri Lankan authorities are. In order to make use of the viewing area they make a new gate (well renovate the old one) and take passengers on a bus to the plane (Just like they did in the good old days). Well the viewing area makes no sense cause now they have the air bridge which they didn't have back in the time that the viewing area was in place. Having spent so much money, time and effort in a air bridge they abandon that and go back to taking passengers by bus to the air craft. Oh god people cannot do sillier things than that.

Ok so I make it to the aircraft at 2.15 and it was 3 AM when the flight finally left. This meant that my transit time was now cut down to an hour. Luckily there were no other hiccups and I was able to make the connection. This was the first time that I was flying Virgin Atlantic, the flight took off 10 minutes before schedule (I was just wondering, were they able to transfer my luggage in 50 minutes?) and was on track to land at Chicago O'Hare airport at 1.30 PM. 35 minutes out from O'Hare the captain speaks and says that we have started our decent and that we would be on the ground at the scheduled time. Cool, my next flight to Indianapolis was at 6.05 PM so I was making plans for what I would do in O'Hare. Roam around the duty free shops, grad some lunch and maybe have a nap as well. I was watching the flight path on the screen and I noticed that we were making a u turn, well this normally happens at busy airports where you have to roam in the air till you get a landing slot. We went in a circle twice and then the captain comes online again to deliver some news. Well the news was not good at all, he said that the weather down in O'hare was rotten and that there was a storm and that we would have to divert into Milwalki for refueling. So we land in Milwalki around 2 PM. The gentlemen next to me said that we wont be in O'Hare for another couple of hours at least. OK that got me thinking, will I miss my connection? The captain came online and said that we are waiting for a refueling truck and that it would take 20 mins to refuel once the truck arrives and that we should be good to go. Although that news was very encouraging the refueling truck didn't arrive for more than a hour and it was 4 PM when we got off the ground. Whew I thought I've had it all and whats next? So we land in O'Hare by 4.30 and start taxing to the gate. The captain comes online again and says that there is a Air Mexican flight at the gate assigned to us and that the gate would be free anytime between 5 and 25 minutes. My flight was at 6 and by this time I was very concerned as to whether I would make the connection. It was 5.30 when we got to the gate and with just 30 mins to go I had almost given it up. Nevertheless once I got off the flight I start running to the immigration area in a bid to get through immigration and run to catch my flight. Well well it was not to be so, when I got to the queue there were more than 200 passengers in the queue. I gave up hopes of making my connection (Although I was harboring hopes that the American Airlines flight might be delayed too :)). It was 6.30 when I got through immigration, so I go to the baggage belt and look for my bag. I also was on the look out for a cart to get my luggage on to but there weren't any available so I thought that I will first get the luggage and then look for it (Cause I may not need one if it had not arrived :)). There was no sign of my bag and the conveyor was still so I asked the guy over there whether there was more luggage to be unloaded. Just then he asked me my last name and checked a piece of paper and said that both my bags are in London. Cool, so I have no baggages to carry, that made it even easier, so I went through customs and went to the American Airlines desk and asked a guy there about my flight. He said that it has been canceled and directed me to the American airlines desk. So I change terminals and go there to find a 100 people in the queue, all of then been on the same boat (missed connections). Luckily you could call American and request for a re-booking, so I went to there customer service line and tried it out. They said that the other two flights for that night were overbooked too and that the next available flight was at 3.45 PM the following day. I was planning to be at the university that night in order to attend the orientation session on Monday. Next I tried calling Chamikara and discussed what could be done. My options were, Ask Virgin Atlantic for a Hotel and take the 3.45 flight the following day, Try my luck with the 8.30 PM shuttle for Purdue (This was already overbooked otherwise I would have been on that), stay at Chicago and take the shuttle the following day. When I checked with the shuttle there was one available for 12.30 PM the following day. So I went back to Virgin Atlantic and requested for a Hotel, They were kind enough to give me a Hotel room and meals at the Marriot in Chicago. So I stayed at the Marriot and got the shuttle the following afternoon to Purdue. The shuttle normally takes 3 hours but guess what the shuttle had to detour due to an accident on 65. To make matters even worse there was another accident on the alternate path too. Phew is there anything else to happen?

Well at last it was 5.30 PM when I got to Purdue. I was glad that Chamikara was there to pick me up. Well I had planned for delayed luggage and carried cloths for a week in my hand luggage :). So I didn't have to sleep under bed sheets like a few of my friends had to do once. Well they would be laughing there guts out now if they were reading this. Well thats not the end of the story though but thats more than enough for this post....