Topic of the Week: Winter Weather Sucks

I’m probably the only person in sun-soaked Southern California (it’s in the 80s today) who is really concerned about the snowy weather. We’ve been working basically nonstop at Cranky Concierge getting people rebooked since the beginning of the year as the airlines continue to see the south and east pummeled with nasty weather. I’m exhausted, and I haven’t even been on a delayed airplane. Make me feel stupid – let’s hear your winter weather travel horror stories from the last few weeks.


23 Responses to Topic of the Week: Winter Weather Sucks

  1. Greg W says:

    I was in Atlanta for some work meetings this week. We were supposed to fly out on Wednesday night but the ice-pocalypse caused all those cancellations so we got to spend a night at the Spring Hill Suites right on the train/tram line between the car rental location and the terminal. We thought this would be a nice convenient location to avoid the effects of the snow and ice.

    We went to the terminal to get some dinner on Wednesday night and the train car intermittently lost power but the train’s momentum kept it going until the next section. We arrived without any issues.

    On the way back to the hotel a train engineer was onboard fiddling with the controls. He was driving it manually to take it out of service for the night. My co-worker and I were the only other people onboard. We got about 1/3 of the way from the terminal to the hotel station when the train stopped and wouldn’t go any farther. The onboard heaters stopped working pretty quickly so it started getting cold and while we had coats and gloves, we weren’t really dressed for spending a lot of time outside.

    The engineer kept reminding central control that he had passengers onboard and could they get them off quickly. They didn’t listen to his concerns. There were mutiple other issues with other trains but while we were stopped there, another train passed us 4 or 5 times on the opposite track without stopping to pick us up.

    After about 2.5 hours of sitting out there they were able to bring in a diesel-powered train to tow us in. They would not allow us to walk the 1/3 of a mile to the station, nor would they allow us to get on the diesel train, where presumably they had the heater going. We were pacing back and forth in the train to try to keep warm. At this point I told the workers they had 15 minutes to get the train moving or I was walking out whether they turned off the high power rails or not. I then gave them a 5-minute warning. When the 5 minutes ended I said, “Time’s up. If this last attempt doesn’t work, I’m out of here.” At this point they started to get the train moving. With a couple more stalls along the way, we finally got to the hotel station 3 hours after first boarding the train.

    I went to bed with my fleece jacket on and didn’t warm up enough to take it off until 4 AM.
    We flew out just fine on Thursday afternoon, once the temperatures rose to above freezing and everything started turning to slush.

  2. Charles says:

    I travel regularly for work through the Midwest. I have been on the road five weeks so far this year, and this week (of all weeks) was the first week this year where I got to and from work on my regularly scheduled flights

  3. CP says:

    Was to fly AUS-DFW-DCA yesterday; stuck in AUS until Saturday. Not terrible, as things go, but shocking how EVERYTHING is full today.

    Probably the most annoying: I could have gotten a flight from MIA-DCA or MCO-DCA today. But there was no way to get to Florida from DFW last night–everything was sold out.

  4. I’ll take snow any day of the week over the water bills you guys will soon be paying in sunny California.

  5. We’re expecting record setting high temperatures here in Phoenix. But I remember what it was like experiencing ice storms.

    I once flew TWA from Phoenix to Madison, Wisconsin through St. Louis. On the return flight, the weather conditions had gotten so bad in St. Louis (ice storms) that my flight was cancelled. The next day, I arrived at the airport and was routed through Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was so cold (and usually is) in the Twin Cities that all they got was cold and snow, with which they’re used to dealing. I ended up in first class. I didn’t complain.

  6. MeanMeosh says:

    My only winter weather horror story of the year didn’t involve travel per se, but rather, trying to get to and from work. This was in December during the ice storm that shut Dallas down for a couple of days. My internet crapped out the night before, and naturally TWC would provide no information for when it would be back up (thank goodness we didn’t lose power, at least). The roads weren’t horrible, so I decided I might as well try going to the office so I could get a few things done there. I live pretty close to a DART light rail station, but the entire light rail system had also been knocked out by too much ice on the lines. No real problem getting downtown, as DART had shuttle buses running. It took about half an hour longer than a normal ride on the light rail, but pretty seamless overall.

    The trip home was another story. The bus driver in the morning had no idea where the shuttles would be picking people up downtown, and nobody at DART would answer the phones, either. First I walked to the east end of downtown, where I remember seeing a “board shuttle buses here” sign. One bus driver came by and said he wasn’t going to Plano, but another bus would be coming behind him “eventually”. A second one came about 15 minutes later, puzzled that we were told this, because all shuttles were going from the west end of downtown. Luckily he was going there. The bus loses traction going up a hill about 2 blocks from the station, though, so the 10 or so of us on the bus then have to get out and walk the rest of the way. We get there, and are told that yes, shuttles are leaving from here, but you’ll just have to watch every bus that comes by, because “not all the drivers are getting out and announcing where they’re going”. Lovely. That bus station had an indoor waiting area at least, but over the course of about half an hour, shuttles came by covering every other light rail line, except the one I needed. I overhead someone behind me saying they had been waiting 2 hours for a shuttle to Plano, at which point, I said screw it and decided to find another way home. Fortunately there was an express bus leaving to another park-and-ride in Plano, where I figured I could take my chances on getting another bus to the train station, or just walk home. Lucky for me, the express bus made it without incident, and another bus to Parker Road came by about 15 minutes later, so I could finally rescue my car and get home.

    What is normally a one hour trip via light rain and then car from the park-and-ride took better than 3, but I was very happy to finally be home! What was arguably funnier was my hike the next day across frozen streets to a Dunkin Donuts about a mile from my house to get a coffee so I could steal their WiFi for a few minutes, only to find out that it was closed due to the weather, but that’s a story for another day…

  7. A says:

    Not a travel story but I had a sensor go out on my furnace when it dipped past -10F that night. 24 hours of cold, but at least the fireplace kept things somewhat reasonable.

    And nobody beats MSP at keeping things moving during winter weather. Flew out many times in weather much worse than anything the SE got this week.

    • In my experience, Fairbanks is very good at that too: I never had a flight delayed much less cancelled during seven winters of frequently flying out of and into its airport.

  8. Tom says:

    Traveling to Mia to catch. A cruise, routed sea-ewr-mia. First leg was great, skidded to a halt in ewr. Instead of getting in a huge line at the airport or spending hours on the phone, I hit the internet. To make a long story short(er), we are on Amtrak, heading for pit where we will spend the night and tomorrow fly pit-ord-fll and in theory, be 5 hours early for the cruise.

    • mermadi says:

      You are smart to leave early for your cruise. We see a lot of people at the ticket counter who fly out at the last possible minute for cruises. When the flight is delayed, it ruins the whole trip. If you leave the day before, the most you loose is the cost of a hotel for one night and a couple of meals.

  9. Kelly says:

    I actually had a good Atlanta weather story this week. I was in town Mon / Tues for meetings. Learned Monday morning that my Tuesday night UA flight was cancelled and I was automatically rebooked for Wed morning. Knowing what was coming, we got me on an AA flight Tuesdsay night (all other Tuesday flights on UA were sold out). Thankfully, i have a very smart admin who found me a hotel room at the airport with a 6pm cancellation policy so I had a place to stay (they sold out quickly). During a 2 hour timespan (the time it took to pack, drive to the airport and turn in my car), I learned:

    – The AA flight was also cancelled
    – The morning UA flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on a flight at noon on UA

    Then the miracle – a seat somehow opened up on the 6pm UA flight to Chicago – and my Global Services Status got me into it. It was even first class. Made it home earlier than the original plan and later learned that UA cancelled all Chicago flights the next day. Still do not know how that seat opened up but it does serve as a reminder of the value of having status on at least one airline.

  10. Gantt says:

    I work for a tour operator and we send 1000s of passengers weekly to sun spots in the Caribbean and Mexico. Our staff has dark circles under their eyes because they are absolutely exhausted. Our phone lines are completely jammed, everyone is unhappy and these storms have made our lives MISERABLE….Latest rounds of cancellations has some people departing or returning 4 days later than they were originally sheduled President’s week on top of everything simply creates an ugly situation.

  11. Eric in ICT says:

    I came through DEN in early Jan. during the first “Polar Vortex.” Last flight of the day, connecting from PHX to ICT. Aircraft was late getting into PHX, which meant we arrived at the gate in a 0-degree DEN at the time my connection was supposed to leave. Had to run the entire length of the massive B concourse (of course), about had an asthma attack. Got to the gate and it said my flight had left, but — thankfully — it didn’t even board for another hour. Finally got underway after they had to fix the deicing boots and then go through deicing; got home at 2:30 a.m., about 2 hours late and very tired, but thankful. Customer service lines were each about 100 yards long, filled with stranded travelers and gate agents didn’t have any info. Found out later from the United app that if I hadn’t made that flight, would have been stuck in DEN for 2 1/2 more days. For once, extremely grateful for a late flight.

  12. Ed says:

    For the benefit of those who are interested in this type of thing – here’s a website that will give you an appreciation of just what is causing the East Coast weather (as well as other locations around the world)

    http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/1000hPa/orthographic=190.02,33.05,211

    This is a a visualization of global weather conditions forecast by supercomputers updated every three hours, and ocean surface current estimates updated every five days

    You can rotate and zoom into one specific spot, manipulate, zoom and click on that spot to get wind speed.

    The author is listed as Cameron Beccario @cambecc

  13. Dave says:

    Had a trip planned for Hartford last week and moved it to this week due to the weather. Tuesday it was SEA-ATL-BDL. On the flight out of SEA the captain was all excited about the weather and wanted to get everyone on to get to ATL as soon as possible. In the air, I kept receiving emails from Delta that the ATL-BDL segment was being delayed. I was feeling pretty certain that the segment was going to get canceled (as was the later flight to BDL) or the ice would come and cancel the flight. The inbound aircraft finally made it to ATL about 3 hours late. It was very strange at 8:00p on a Tuesday night, the airport was like a ghost town. People and planes that would normally be plentiful were oddly absent.

    The storm made it up to the Northeast on Thursday. I was visiting the state government which ended up closing for the day. Many people at the Marriott in downtown Hartford that really didn’t want to be there, but just about everything was canceled out of BDL and BOS (I am assuming the same was true for the NYC area airports as well, but nobody was talking about that option). Did not have a good feeling about my return flight on Friday. Happily I can say that I am writing this onboard my BDL-MSP segment which is running almost on time (we had to do a cart start due to a non-functional APU). Hopefully will be home in Seattle tonight.

  14. John C. says:

    My dad called me on December 29 to say he was coming out to visit for the week, but would stay with my sister. On December 30, he calls from the airport to ask me to pick him and his gf up and could they stay with me. Gee, thanks for the advance notice dad.

    They were supposed to fly home on January 6. The inbound flight was on time and it looked like they’d be able to get back to JFK on the redeye before the storm hit the next day. I dropped them at the airport and was enjoying having my house to myself again when my dad called to inform me that JetBlue cancelled their flight. Later that evening was when JetBlue announced they were shutting down most ops on January 7 to try to get out of the IROPS mess. The phone lines were of course jammed, but I was able to contact JetBlue via Twitter DM to rebook them on the next available flight, which was January 9. Fortunately that flight left on time.

    I love my dad, but as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘both fish and house guests stink after three days’.

  15. Arubaman says:

    It’s been 86 degrees and sunny all week here in Aruba! Cooked on the BBQ last night. Having trouble keeping the ice from melting. Excuse me, but I need another beer. Cheers, then!

  16. Donald says:

    Spare a thought for those employees struggling with this weather. Off schedule operations are a real
    burden. Overnights in cities running out of rooms. Traveling in vans on terrible roads, no place to eat
    and calls from crew sked, telling you to spend another night in the hotel. Canceled in base so the hotel
    is on your dime. They also consider that legal rest, so you may not even get home before your next
    series of flights. Wondering when you’ll see home again. Rampers on the ramp, sweating from the waist up and your feet freezing.

  17. mermadi says:

    I was in the Baggage Service Office Thursday night, no flights in or out all day so pretty quiet. Took a few claims from customers who drove from hubs. Somehow three people who couldn’t get through to reservations got the BSO phone number. I had nothing else to do (except learn to knit from a Youtube video) so I rebooked them. One lady was so happy she said she was going to post the phone number on Facebook. I begged her not to do that. Scared the heck out of me.

    • Heh.. This is an interesting strategy. Perhaps this is a tool to keep in your back pocket on horrible Irrg-Ops. (That is until the bean counters figure out how to add all y’all into the Res phone queue.)

  18. Kilroy says:

    Had a trip planned late Jan – early Feb to see family in Florida.

    JetBlue cancelled the flight out (HPN – TPA), first blaming it on the weather (this was a day or two after the storm hit), then on mechanical issues. I think the real reason it was cancelled was because as a midweek flight around a holiday, it didn’t have enough paying pax.

    JetBlue offered to get me from HPN – TPA 2 days later than I had initially booked. Was not going to work for me. I told them to try LGA, and wound out flying out on a ~1/2 full LGA – TPA flight about 8 hours after my original flight was scheduled to leave, but the addtl tolls to get to LGA and the costs to park there (I have a good place to ditch my car near HPN, from which a cab runs me $24 each way to the airport) cost me more than the $200 R/T I paid for my flights. Flight back from TPA – LGA was delayed a few hours, but otherwise uneventful.

    This was my first time flying JetBlue, and airline I’ve always wanted to try, and I am not impressed with them. Sure, their amenities and free checked bag are nice, but the CSRs I dealt with trying to rebook flights were rather rude and not overly helpful, and to cancel a flight from HPN for “mechanical” reasons they have to have spare planes ia short hop away n JFK, LGA, and/or BOS just doesn’t pass muster with me. JetBlue left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and I no longer see them as a customer friendly airline, just another airline with slightly better amenities that I won’t pay more for.

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