Escape from Cinci

Waiting at the Airport

The above photograph is appropriately entitled Waiting at the Airport by Chrissy. It is used in accordance to her Creative Commons license.

Depending on your measure, we’ve either been extremely lucky, or extremely unlucky in our choice of travel days. As you know, yesterday, southern Ontario and the northeastern United States dealt with the consequences of a major snowstorm. Today, as my father picked us up for the ride to the airport, roads were still partly snow-covered, but the sky was clear. The ride into the airport was uneventful. Indeed, there was hardly any traffic en route. We commented that there was no traffic on the 401 going the other way. Later, we saw a phalanx of snowplows, leading a mile-long back-up of traffic like the pied piper.

We got lucky with a parking spot close to the terminal, and the wait at the check-out counter wasn’t severe, but the airport was crowded. The after-effects of yesterday’s storm was still being felt, with cancellations and delays still being made up for. We met a young family trying to get home from Raleigh, North Carolina. They’d flown in from Singapore, and were unexpectedly delayed overnight in Toronto due to the storm conditions. They were good humoured about the whole thing.

“Nice country you have here, what we’ve seen of it,” they said.

“Welcome to Canada,” we replied.

We’re flying Delta to Des Moines, which means a connection in Cincinnati is required. Unfortunately, delays are still multiplying across the Delta network. A maintenance issue delays our flight out of Toronto by an hour, and when we get into Cincinnati, we’ve missed our connection, and no new connection has been rebooked for us. The gate agent on duty can’t do anything for us, and instead points me to a bank of phones which connect us directly to Delta’s reservations centre.

I notice that there’s a crowd.

Approaching the kiosk, I notice one phone is off the hook. A good Samaritan picks it up and hands it to me, saying “use this one. It’s been on hold for twenty-five minutes.” “Oh,” I replied. I pick it up and am about to hang it up when the guy dives in, saying, “Nono! It’s still on the line!” And I realize, somebody has abandoned it in disgust. The guy has saved me twenty-five minutes of being on hold.

The long and the short of it is this: we’re in Cincinnati, and the next flight available for Des Moines leaves at 8:50 tonight. The catch is, it’s a standby, and there are six people ahead of us on the waiting list. Failing that, we have a confirmed flight for 9:15 a.m. the next morning. Calling around, the agent did find us seats on a flight to Cedar Rapids, which is about a three hour drive from Des Moines. However, calling my mother-in-law scrubbed the idea.

We were lucky to fly out today, because “Snowmaggedon” describes a situation where four major snowstorms hit southern Ontario in the span of a week. The first was Tuesday, the second was yesterday, the third is Sunday and the fourth is next Tuesday. But weather moves from west to east. Toronto’s Sunday storm is currently approaching Iowa as we speak, and blizzard conditions are being reported in the drive between Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. So, as my mother-in-law lives within ten minutes of Des Moines airport, getting to Des Moines is key.

The question is, what will the state of Des Moines be later tonight? Or Cincinnati the next morning?

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Assorted Other Travel Stories

The security personnel at Pearson International Airport were very kind to us, as I’m afraid Vivian had a little bit of a meltdown going through security. She did not like the fact that they were searching through her favourite backpack, and the metal detector scared her, and she did not like the security wands. In the end, she grabbed her backpack, ran back through the security detector and cowered at my feet. All things considered, the officers were very understanding, though I suspect that it helped that Vivian was cute.

Likewise, the noise of our plane freaked Vivian out that she refused to take her seat or put on her seatbelt. That took some cajoling, and some long term hugging. Eventually, she fell asleep, curled at my lap.

We’ve been able to meet this day with good humour, and in the end, that may be key to our survival.

(Update: Sunday, 10:18 p.m.): We made the standby flight yesterday evening and were in Des Moines and safe in our guest beds by midnight. Thanks to all of you who sent good wishes. Des Moines missed most of the snow, but has gotten all of the cold. It’s Fahrenheit zero here with additional wind chill. We’ve spent most of our day indoors, catching up on our sleep. This is much appreciated.

Thanks again to the people of Cincinnati airport who had the foresight to include a children’s playground inside their terminal. For weary parents, it is a definite godsend that other airports would do well to emulate.

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