Flying is fun and exciting; oh, yeah! Follow the agony of four people and a little boy trying to reach the Quad-City International Airport in Moline from Texas:
At 4:05 a.m. on an early morning before Christmas, Ashley and Matthew McGowan arrived at Houston International Airport with their son, Ben, who will be 2 in February. They were heading home for the holidays with her family — my son and daughter-in-law — in the Quad-Cities. Their flight was not to leave until 5:22 a.m., plenty of time. They already had their tickets. All was well until they tried to check in. There were 250 people in line in front of them. Some had been there since 3 a.m.
“There were only two people at the check-in to take care of 250 people,” says Ashley. “It was an impossible jam. Maybe half the people made it through the line. We didn’t. The plane had to take off with only half the passengers on board. We were told to walk across that big Houston airport and check in at another counter to catch a flight from Houston to Denver that would eventually get us from Denver to Moline.”
It was a long walk, says Ashley. “We walked with two suitcases, a car seat, a stroller, a diaper bag and our little boy, Ben. On top of all that, we were two pounds overweight in luggage so we carried the extra in a plastic bag. Besides, I am six months pregnant. We were worn out by 8 a.m. and no one was at the counter for the flight to Denver out of Houston. We waited. Airline personnel finally arrived; Denver attendants and airport personnel were wonderful, as great as those in Houston were rude.”
The flight that was to begin at 5 a.m. in Houston was supposed to end at 10 a.m. in Moline. The McGowans finally arrived in Moline at 4:30 p.m. Ashley adds an aside to their misery: The flight from Houston to Denver was not the most pleasant she’s ever taken, and she has just about flown around the world. “We were in the last row of the plane, the last seats, right next to the lavatory. Stinky!”
Annie’s 34-hour trip home
It all sounded so simple, Annie Stern of Bettendorf and her brother, Jim, intended to fly from San Antonio, Texas, to Moline by way of Atlanta. They left Texas at 11:15 a.m. on Dec. 17, landed on schedule in Atlanta to learn that the place had been hit by that bizarre power failure.
Her plane and others idled on the tarmac. Passengers had to stay on board, grounded, with water and chips and not much else. At 2:15 p.m., the pilot announced, “We’re going to stay put here for a while.” Passengers would be on the plane until 8:30 p.m., listening to Christmas music. At 8:30 p.m., they were finally allowed to enter the terminal where everyone was told not to stray and await further instructions. But Annie and her brother sneaked out, making their way on escalators that didn’t work, to board a commuter train. After 12 stops, they were at a Sears store where they rented a car. They drove to the outskirts of Atlanta, spent the night with a friend, and drove 12 hours to get home to Davenport. The trip lasted from 11 a.m. one morning until 8:30 p.m. the next night. Annie figures it was close to 34 hours.