Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 5, 2009

Las Vegas Part 1 - Getting There
As I've already mentioned briefly, the trip to Las Vegas was fantastic. Getting there, however, was an entirely different story. What was supposed to be a straightforward trip with a brief layover in Denver turned out to be a traveller's horror story.

We left on Thursday morning from Waterloo, made a brief stop in Cambridge, and the four of us were at the airport in Toronto at just after 10 am. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1:20, so we were in good shape. After finally figuring out how to work the self check-in kiosks, we got through security and settled in at the airport bar for some drinks and some lunch. A perfect way to start the trip.

After a few drinks, Tony (in his entertaining manner) starts going off rather loudly about how we should enjoy ourselves since the plane is likely going to crash and we're all going to die. You may think that I might have misinterpreted what he meant, but I'm pretty sure I got it loud and clear when he said "the plane is likely going to crash and we're all going to die." Not very cryptic. He then went on to call the plane "a flaming sausage tube of death" and other semi-humourous nicknames. It would seem that he has a bit of anxiety about flying, and this is the way he handles it, but he would neither confirm nor deny this.

Now we're getting ready to board the plane, and he is still going on and on about the plane crashing, and he insists that he's going to continue after we get on the plane as well. So, once we board, we see that the 3 of us are all sitting together in one row and Tony is sitting across the aisle with these two twenty-something cute girls. It couldn't be more perfect. It was like a custom-ordered scenario to keep the ranting under control.

So, Tony finally gets on the plane and takes his seat, and is very gentlemanly when he introduces himself to the girls. He is back to his usual charming self (albeit still hammered, as we all pretty much were), and not talking incessantly about the plane crashing. All is fine, and we all get introduced to each other. The girls, Meagan and Melanie, are on their way to Vegas through Denver as well.

Everything is going along just fine, the flight is pretty normal, the drinks are flowing, Jer and Dave and I are playing cards, and all is right in the world, when the captain comes on to tell us that there is a storm in Denver and we can't land yet. We're in a holding pattern circling above Denver until the storm breaks and we can land. No big deal, our layover is just under 3 hours, so we're not too concerned about missing our flight.

After a while, we still haven't started our descent, and the captain comes back on to tell us that we're being diverted to Colorado Springs since we don't have enough fuel to continue circling above Denver. That's just what anyone on a plane wants to hear isn't it? "Not enough fuel." So, in an instant, we're all stone-cold sober again, trying to figure out what's going to happen.

So we land in Colorado Springs, and we're told that we will be staying in the plane on the tarmac while we refuel and hopefully get back in the air right away, and head back to Denver. Immediately everyone starts pulling out their cell phones and blackberrys to try and find out some information, and within 5 minutes of landing, all anyone can talk about on the plane is "Did you hear Michael Jackson died?" (with a side order of "Oh, and Farrah Fawcett died, too.")

Half an hour goes by, then an hour, then 90 minutes, and just around the two hour mark, the captain tells us that the weather is still bad in Denver so we can't leave yet. Now keep in mind that the beverage service has stopped once we landed, so everyone who was drinking is now sober, and getting aggravated. Plus, there's no food on the plane to order since the sandwiches didn't get refrigerated for the short flight and now they can't serve them.

Some more time passes, and then the captain comes on the intercom again and says "Well folks, when it rains it pours" and proceeds to tell us that when he opened his window to sign for the fuel, it wouldn't close, and now is stuck open! So, a collective groan comes over the passengers as he explains that a mechanic is on the way to attempt to fix it, but if it can't be fixed, they're going to put us on buses and drive us to Denver.

Now we're all pretty certain we're obviously going to miss our connections, even if they are delayed in Denver due to the weather. Now everybody is getting in a sour mood, we're stuck on the tarmac in Colorado Springs for over three hours now with no food, no drinks, and no sign of getting anywhere soon. The flight attendants start handing out whatever food and snacks they have, including going into their own personal stash to hand out, but people are getting angry anyway...and hey, did you hear Michael Jackson died?

The window ends up getting fixed, and it looks like we're about to get in the air again, but there's another delay, and the airport at Colorado Springs refuses to give us a gate, so we're stuck. We can't get in the air, and we can't get off the plane, and we sure as hell aren't getting to Las Vegas tonight, barring a miracle.

So, after about 200 hands of Chinese poker, Meagan and Melanie frantically making phone calls to anyone and everyone they can to try and find out what's happening, and Tony smugly repeating "Told ya" over and over, we finally get in the air again after sitting on the tarmac for five hours. (Keep in mind that 4 of the 6 travellers in this story are smokers, which certainly wasn't adding to the overall mood.)

We get to Denver around 8:30 pm, and find out that we can't get a flight to Las Vegas that night, so the airline is putting us up in a hotel and has already booked us all on flights the next day. Meagan and Melanie were in line in front of us, and we heard the booking agent tell them that they were staying at the Hyatt, and that their flight the next day was at 2:20 pm. Great, there goes a whole day of our vacation. Once we get up there in line, she gives us our voucher for the Hyatt, and our flight information...which we were expecting to be the same, but now are shocked to find out that the 4 of us are booked on a 7:15 am flight. This is obviously great news, but now we have to tell the girls, who we've become friends with in this traveller's nightmare. So we try the good news/bad news route. "The good news is that we're all staying at the Hyatt! But the bad news is that we're leaving 7 1/2 hours before you." They were (rightfully) not impressed, but decided they would try standby in the morning and we all just headed to the hotel to try and get some dinner and some rest.

Seems like this would be where the story ends, right?

Ha ha.

So we take a shuttle to the Hyatt, and the ride is quite entertaining with Tony telling jokes the whole way (even the one about the thirty-six year olds). Once we get to the hotel, however, we find out...wait for it...there's no rooms! Yep, that's right. Air Canada in their infinite wisdom has sent us all to a hotel with vouchers for accommodation without checking to see if rooms are available. And according to the Hyatt staff, they do it "all the time." So now we're stuck in the lobby waiting for this all to get fixed, and we're so hungry, we all start eating the apples out of the fruit bowl in the lobby.

The manager is very helpful, and within about half an hour, sets us up an another hotel nearby. So they drive us over there, we check in, and meet back in the lobby 20 minutes later to go get some food since none of us have had anything to eat yet. Keep in mind it is now 11 pm (1 am to our body) and nothing is open. We find out that there is one place still open, Otto's Cantina, which is a Mexican restaurant/bar which is packed with people in the same predicament as us because of flight delays. Otto actually came by our table and told us he'd never been so busy on a Thursday night before. Since Otto's was really the only highlight of the day, here's a link to the website. The food was good, even if the chips and salsa were by far the saltiest I've ever seen. Seriously, we would grab a chip and tap it on the table, and mounds of sea salt would gather in a pile on the table, but since we hadn't eaten in about 10 hours, and we had a table full of beer and other cold drinks, we didn't really care.

So we ate, we drank, we slept, we got barely any sleep, and we went back to the airport in the morning for our 7:15 flight. Meagan and Melanie came with us to try to get on the flight standby, but as Dave and I were two of the last people boarding, it still didn't look like they were going to make it, until we heard one of their names called as we boarded. We didn't know until we saw them running onto the plane right before takeoff, they had gotten the last 2 standby seats.

Then...on Friday morning, we departed Denver and finally headed into Las Vegas.

Good Riddance, Colorado.

(But at least we'll all remember where we were when we heard Michael Jackson died.)


Anonymous said...

Travel stories may all be the same but every one is hilarious after the fact. airplanes are as reliable as push button transmission cars.
oh and did you hear McNair and his Girlfriend were found dead? think of me when you think of the titans.

Anonymous said...

WORST FLIGHT EVER!!! It would of been ok if A) we could of had some more beer..B) if we could of at least got off the Plan C) if Tony would of just been quiet for like 5 mins and D) If Michael Jackson didnt die!!