I flew into Springfield, MO, (SGF) on the Fourth of July to visit Megan’s family reunion in nearby Branson. Although I joked a bit on Twitter about the shows in town, it really was a nice place to visit given its close proximity to the huge Table Rock Lake and the gently winding highways through the Ozarks. More about that later.
The flights on this trip were nothing special, so let me summarize with a stream-of-consciousness exercise:
I had a broken IFE on SEA-ORD and complained to the flight attendant, who admitted she knew about it, that it had been broken on the three flights before that, that she hadn’t bothered to notify maintenance, and then told me to watch my neighbor’s TV. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of an email leaving my outbox and on its way to 1KVoice…
ORD was hot! No matter where we went in the airport, it was hot and sticky. I even saw a maintenance worker checking the air conditioners with a remote infrared thermometer. It was my first time using the United Clubs in ORD, and they did not impress me, particularly the one in Terminal E/F near our outbound gate, so we went back to the one near Terminal B check-in while we waited out a three-hour connection. The bartender had a great German accent and gave me more gin than tonic in my glass.
ORD-SGF passed without a hitch. We boarded, we arrived, we found ourselves at the quietest airport ever. Seriously. Amarillo is noisier. Medford, OR, is noisier. It’s brand new, we were traveling mid-week on a holiday, and even though our plane was nearly full there were few other people in sight. That gave us time to check out the mini art museum near baggage claim, which had some surprisingly good pieces for an airport.
Getting the car was even more unusual. Even as an Executive elite with National, the best I was offered was a Volkswagen Passat. Whatever, I don’t need anything bigger, but it was always lurching between 5 and 30 miles an hour and strained to go any faster than 50. The A/C was left on high the entire trip (though we needed it) or else it would start blowing hot air. I’ve never seen such a bi-polar vehicle! In the parking lot where we picked it up was more bizarre silence. I heard birds chirping, and in the distance was the quiet hum of the terminal’s rooftop A/C. Otherwise, I heard nothing. And there’s no guard post! I drove out of there assuming I must have missed a sign, and on the return I just parked it wherever was convenient. I’ve never seen this before at an airport location
On our return, I attempted to do a same-day change since Megan’s family was leaving earlier than I had expected. No dice. Although seats existed in our fare class on the first segment to DEN, availability showed only F8 Y4 on our connection to SEA. In other words, there were potentially 12 seats available in coach, but because United refuses to process its upgrade list in a timely manner, I was SOL. I called three agents who wouldn’t confirm me on the first segment because there was no space on the second. Instead, we waited in Springfield all day before heading to the airport for what turned out to be a very delayed flight.
SGF-DEN was delayed an hour due to a late incoming aircraft from DEN, which was delayed because of a thunderstorm in St. Louis (side thought: does anyone ever write that as Saint Louis?). Although we would normally miss our tight 45 minute connection in DEN, that aircraft was delayed even more due to a missing crew in Tampa.
We had a great flight attendant, Boudreaux, on our regional jet to DEN, making me realize that lately I’ve had more positive experiences with the employees of United Express than I have with United. It’s unfortunate, really. It compelled me to book my first non-Star Alliance flight in three years the other day, and it would have been on American except that I really needed a nonstop and went with Alaska Airlines. Upgrades be dammed.
Once in Denver, everything was shutting down for the night, and the United Club had already been closed for an hour. So I got Megan a coffee, sorted out our Singapore Airlines reservation on the phone, and waited for our plane to arrive. It finally came in at midnight, and we were home in bed by 3 AM–23 hours after waking up in Branson. During the flight, I enjoyed the delightfully snippy conversation among the flight attendants about how “this is not our job,” “I don’t care,” “why do they make us do this,” and so on. Way to go front-line staff. At least Boudreaux was able to keep a smile on his face all by himself on a plane-full of upset people.
By the end of the trip, I was just glad to be home. And at least I got to sleep in. Megan had to be in the office by 8 AM, giving her about three hours of sleep. Sort of. Getting to sleep in isn’t necessarily going to win you any points when you have to put up with a grumpy fiancée, but at least she did make up for it with a box of See’s. Which I am now happily munching on instead of making myself a real dinner.