The Plane Truth

I have been out of commission for a week; part of that week was expected and enjoyable while the other half was a nightmare. I am going to keep this as factual as possible since emotions can run high and exaggerate. I would include footnotes and a works cited, but that’s a little much for even the English teacher in me. Our family left last Thursday evening to begin our trip to Frisco, Texas, to enjoy the FCS National Championship Game where the mighty NDSU Bison were playing the Towson Tigers. We left that evening because we heard the weather would get worse over the course of the night and wanted to be close to the airport; this was a good move as those who did travel early Friday morning discovered white out conditions and slippery roads. Our flight on Delta Friday was uneventful to Minneapolis where we met up with another family member to all fly together to Frisco. The flight was delayed which caused us to miss the pepfest at Dr. Pepper field-first $45 gone out of our pocket. The next day was postcard perfect except for the wind, but as North Dakotans, we are used to wind and that’s not going to stop us from having a great time. We met and visited with people from the opposing team, met other rabid Bison fans, and had a blast tailgating. Without a doubt, NDSU nation knows how to tailgate with the best of them and a good time was had before kick off. The game itself was fantastic with the exception of the sandlot disguised as a field; it is amazing how both teams didn’t end up with a dozen sprained ankles. It looked like a horse race when they were replacing the divots; they should have put fancy hats on the men and called it good. Sunday we headed to the airport to board the plane and this is where the fun ends-abruptly. We are now at the segment where a flashback is needed to explain what is to happen next, so cue the music and fade to black…
We booked our tickets in early December; we had that much faith our Bison would take us back to Frisco and were correct. For some reason, seat assignments were not made and so on the 23rd I called Delta and asked about this and the man reassured me not to worry, there was no concern and my son would have a seat. When I asked him why my son has a paid ticket but no seat, he gave me a vague answer about not being able to give everyone a seat until the day of the flight. This makes no sense to me. We paid for three tickets EARLY, so therefore should have three seats. He told us to go to the gate as soon as we got to the airport and all would be fine. As a final thing to know, my sister was in the same boat-no seat assignment. This is important to know in order to fast forward to Sunday…
We got there so early there was no line, so my sister started one and spoke to the agent; she gave her an exit seat and then it was our turn- suddenly, there is no seat for my son. My sister asked them if we could switch seats so I sit in his and him in mine and no, that was not an option. My sister then asked if she could volunteer to bump since it was oversold, but no, if she did, my son wouldn’t get the next seat-whomever was above his status would. Does anyone see a problem here?! They asked for volunteers many times, offering a measly $400; I say measly because Minneapolis was offering $600 on the way there.  No one volunteered because the amount was so low and everyone wanted to get home before the big freeze. Surprise, surprise, when the dust cleared, there was my twelve year old with no seat. If you want to bump an adult, fine, but to bump him was unacceptable. Why didn’t I bump myself and let him fly with his dad, you ask? Because he works in the western part of the state and had work at 6 am, four hours from our home-it wasn’t an option. Not only does he get bumped, but then I do, too, which means I have to give MY seat up to someone else. We were at that airport from 9:30 am until 3 pm, waiting, waiting, and waiting for another flight and all the paperwork. They put us up at a hotel and while I will not say the name, I will say this: of the four hotels in that cluster, ours was the lowest class of them all. I did not expect to stay at the Ritz, but the Ritz cracker wasn’t my idea of fun, either. The bed was impossible to sleep on, and that’s when I knew the flu was coming….
We got up very early Monday morning to get on our 7 am flight only to find it cancelled during the freeze out of 2014; they got us on a flight the next day and after complaining about the hotel and the food vouchers, relief was granted. For anyone who has ever flown, the airline gives you $6 to spend on a meal which in the real world would be no problem. But in airline food, that’s a bag of chips and a water. A meal is $10-13 at the fast food places-we aren’t talking about the sit down restaurants like Friday’s. By now I have flu symptoms; fever, running/congested nose, achy, and tired; we go to our new hotel where I sleep for several hours and my son watches TV. This is not much of an adventure for him and I know this. A problem we are having is the lack of transportation; we turned in the rental car on Sunday morning back when we were living in la-la land and there are no buses near the hotel. We finally figured out a way to get to the airport via their shuttle and then a bus took us to a mall which had an aquarium, movie theater and shopping. If you’ve ever been sick one understands walking around is not fun. At all. The aquarium was going to cost $50 for us to see and if I had been healthy, this would have been ok. We decided to see a movie because I knew I could sleep in the dark theater if the need arose. This was our bright spot; we went to see Frozen in 3D and loved it, as in, top five movies of all time loved it. The snowman and reindeer steal the show and I can’t wait to buy the movie.  We were lucky to catch the bus just as it was leaving (it only comes to the mall once an hour) and made it to the airport at 5 p.m. We decided to use one of our vouchers to get salads to go and eat them at the hotel. I called the hotel at 5:15 for a shuttle and another mini-nightmare begins. Yes, I know it was bitterly cold in the Midwest, but it was cold in Dallas, too; too cold to be standing outside waiting for a shuttle when you are sick. We stood by the doors waiting, we stood outside waiting, and after-I am not making this up-twelve phone calls to the hotel, at 7:18 the driver finally picked us up. After settling in at the hotel, my sister texts me and lets me know my flight has been cancelled; now why don’t I know this? Delta is supposed to notify me via text for changes. I pick up the phone and am on hold for two hours and sixteen minutes before I go downstairs where the computer is located conveniently next to the open doors…where it’s really cold. I’ll say this much; it keeps the riff-raff off the computer! There I saw my cancellation and the rebooking for the next day. We got to the airport, held our breath, and got on a flight to Minneapolis. I made the mistake of thinking we were out of the woods and would make it home on an airplane that night. They switched our gates and the crowd got bigger and bigger. If you’ve flown to a small airport you know the planes they use aren’t big. We looked at the stand-by list and saw 30 names; I made a comment and the young man next to me said there was fifty that morning. By now the teacher in me has to talk to these people and I am astounded at how long they have been at the airport; it is Tuesday evening and they have all been there since Sunday. They spent the last night on the floor and had no luggage; at least we had our carry-on luggage and didn’t check bags so we could change/wash clothes. I felt really bad for all of these young people and asked them why they didn’t rent a car to Bismarck; all of them were too young to do so. The airline didn’t ask for volunteers to bump and that was my first niggle of worry; then our board time came and went. Five minutes before we should have taken off they announced it was cancelled and people ran. Where were they running? I had never experienced this, but took a look at my son’s face and…not sure what I felt. He had tears in his eyes and whispered, “I want to go home. I don’t want to miss another day of school.” Those who are moms out there will understand this next feeling; I was ready to jump in that plane and fly it myself. We went down to the counter and were last in line. Everyone was on stand-by…for THURSDAY. What happened to Wednesday?! I checked my ticket and was in the same boat. That’s when we decided to drive-Minneapolis to Bismarck is not a big deal when you live up here. There were two young men who needed to get there and had been stuck at the airport since Sunday; one was from Las Vegas and the other from New York; they asked if they could ride and I said yes. Here’s the thing; I wasn’t worried for a minute those two had any weapons on them because they were IN the airport and had gone through security; their biggest weapon of mass destruction was probably the underwear they had been wearing since Sunday. When I see a young man like that, I think of our two sons who are around that age; I would want someone to help them just as I had the ability to do.We went to the rental place and I convinced the man that Grand Forks and Bismarck are very close together mile-wise, and he rented me the last SUV-at nearly $500. Yikes! Sometimes it’s good people don’t know the geography of our fine state, because someone is going to get in trouble when the rental is that far away. At 7 pm we began our journey and I drove to Fargo in three hours; don’t ask. By then, adrenaline was wearing off and fatigue setting in, so I told the guys we would drive to our farm, spend the night, and leave in the morning for Bismarck. I may have made it to Bismarck, but we live two hours east of it, and I did not want to be on Highway 3 at 1 am by myself. My husband got the bedrooms ready and we all fell asleep-again, not worried about these two strangers. They were happy to be in a bed. We got up and I fed them some kuchen-neither had ever had it and they weren’t leaving the farm without some in their tummy. Both said they had called their families and told them what they were doing and at first, their families reacted the way others did, but hey, we are NORTH DAKOTANS and open our homes to those who need it. Both were well mannered and thankful for getting to Bismarck before the next epoch.  We got to the airport without incident, they got their bags, and I got to speak to an agent. She directed me what to do, and when I finish this, I will begin dealing with Delta. The neatest part of this adventure? The young man, who plays for the University of Mary football team, had never been on a farm. I’m glad he got to experience one here. Ours doors are always open. I will leave you with two very different pictures; one I got off the TV of my sisters and I dancing during half time and the other of the two young men we rescued from the airport. You never know where life will take you!

6 Responses

  1. Jackie Simons

    Bless you Brenda! Maybe you should write a book on the good intent to see the Bison win for the 3rd time! You could win a Pulitzer. I am sorry for your discomfort and your son’s, but as you say, we don’t know where life will take us BUT WE DO GOD WILL BE THERE WITH US, TO PROTECT US!

  2. I might have you beat. I along with 62 NDSU fans were on SPIRIT AIRLINES to fly out of MSP at 6:20 am Friday. Flight delayed until 7:55. Our connection in Chicago was 9:10, 2 guys asked the 20 year old Somali kid at the counter (after we all went thru security) was the connection going to be a problem. He says “You will miss your connection in Chicago to Dallas” all 60 jump up and a near riot breaks out, soon a supervisor comes up (40 year old Somali lady) She says’ “there is nothing we can do” 2 of us call SPIRIT AIRLINES- they say “they are holding the plane for you” But these 2 “reps” refuse to agree that they heard from ATC (air traffic control) that we wont make the connection….

    62 of us are now faced with the fact of not going to Frisco period, they ONLY offer us refunds or tell us to fly to Chicago and try there (yea right 900 flights were already cancelled in Chicago SPIRIT DIDNT WANT US IN CHICAGO!!) so we jump in car, drive to frisco and stop in Kansas city and get on a plane there (12 ndsu fans did that, the rest WHO KNOWS)

    JUST INCREDIBLE HOW THESE AIRLINES DONT GIVE 2 POOPS about you. we had a blast at ndsu game, but driving 16 hours back and giving everyone a heart attack was plain BS!)


    1. I heard about that when we were in the airport on Friday. Airline travel is supposed to make life easier, not harder, yet they can hold an entire plane hostage (or in your case, an entire fleet) and there is no recourse. Glad most of you got out of there to watch our Bison dominate. I met you at Montana State back in ’10 when we beat them in the playoffs and enjoyed singing with you at the bar that night. Thanks for the story!

  3. Rita Vaughn

    Also a horror airline story from United in August. Flying to Colorado Springs from Grand Forks with a connection in Denver. Weather closes the Denver airport and we divert to Colorado Springs due to fuel issues. My husband and I think we are fine because that is our final destination. They deplane everyone but at first are not sure if we can stay, or have to fly back to Denver to fly back to the Springs. Of course, our connection would have been missed. Finally flight crew decide it is fine to stay, just go to baggage claim office with information on where we will be for our bags to be delivered. We had checked one bag and had 2 carry ons but the plane was too small to keep the carry ons with us and they had to be gate checked. So all our luggage is in United’s hands and that is where the trouble begins. The woman in the baggage claim office told us she knew nothing of the diversion, no one had called her, that is not how diversion is handled, and we could just go get back on the plane or drive up to Denver for our luggage because she did not care and as far as our carry on luggage, it would just sit on the jetway in Denver. Things went from bad to the very worst. Too lengthy and upsetting to describe. The end result was my lengthy letter to United’s customer claim department sent certified letter to be sure it was received. One month letter that same letter was returned to us, never signed for. These were expensive tickets and we were treated like crap with NO recourse.

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