A quick summary of how I got back to Madison, courtesy of our blessed air travel system.
The three of us were supposed to fly yesterday from Oklahoma City to Chicago and then onto Madison. We were projected to leave OKC around 610pm and then had a 50-minute turnaround in Chicago to get to Madison around 1015.
The first problem started when we noticed the flight delayed by about 30 minutes, claiming "mechanical issues." And then 645 became 7, and then 730. By this point, we realized that we'd have to get lucky with delays in Chicago to fly back to Madison, and the Dane County airport website says that (for once) there won't be delays on that flight.
So we start checking Van Galder's list buses from O'Hare to Madison, if it came down to that. Theoretically, if we flew out by 830, we could land in Chicago in time to grab the 11pm Van Galder and be home at 130. Around 730, we're told that they've found out an electrical part, and now just need 30-45 minutes to fix that up. Around 820, they're boarding the plane. So it'll be tight, but still could get home if things go right.
But as the night goes on, I see serious storms developing, as the northern offshoot of what caused the destructive tornado breakout in and around Dallas last night. >
Sure enough, as we push back from the gate, I see an electric light show in the sky, and after sitting around for about 20-30 minutes, the pilots decide to take us back to the gate and de-board us. Back at the gate, they call me and my group up to seewhat our plans are, as we need to be rescheduled after missing our connection.
At this point, there's no question to any of us that we are busing it tomorrow if we get to Chi-town. Not only because there are no seats guaranteed for us until Monday afternoon, but also because 3 hours to bus is preferable to going back to O'Hare 2 hours ahead of the flight, going through security, waiting around, and then flying another 45 minutes back to Madison....if the flight comes out on time.
But we have to get to Chicago. Fortunately, the storms move through enough that we can get back on the plane around 10:20, and after another delay to redo the flight plan, we are off the ground around 10:50, 4 1/2 hours late. After a lot of jostling for the first hour, we land in the fog around 12:40 am.
Now, it's time to get taken care of at the United desk. I figure any desk will do and we won't wait behind the 15 people in line at our gate. Except that it's nearly 1 am and no other courtesy desk has people at it. We go back to the gate after a long walk, tell the agents what we plan to do. And after they look at us sideways, they give us a voucher for a local Hyatt, $20 in food vouchers, and a voucher for the bus fare back to Madison.
But because a friend checked his CPAP to Madison, we've gotta go down to Baggage Claim to get that in our hands. After a half-hour of searching by the airline personnel, they find it and get it over to us.
So now we try to go to the hotel, but we have to wind through the underground maze at O'Hare that gets you to the shuttles that get you to the Hyatt, which is 10 minutes away from the airport. Then we have to wait for the Hyatt shuttle, which is only coming by every 30 minutes at this time of night/early morning. Now, we're running up at 215 as the shuttle comes.
We get over to the hotel, and we are checked in quickly by the Hyatt personnel (who do a great job, and even comp our free buffet), as they've apparently seen people like us get screwed over before. We agree for the 11am bus to get back to Madison in the early afternoon, but also with the ability to have at least some sleep.
After a solid buffet, we leave the hotel by 1015, barely get on the shuttle in time, then see the vehicle have to weave through the Calcutta-type mess that is going to the O'Hare terminals and then down to the shuttle/bus area underneath. The bus is on time at 11, and we're even ahead of schedule as we get to the stop in South Beloit.
Except we have to meet up with the other company bus that's taking people from downtown Chicago and Midway to go to Madison, because they need to get other buses back to Chicago. So we wait 20 minutes for that and for them to load onto our bus. Then in Janesville, it's a crew change, which takes another 15 minutes. So we end up reaching the Dutch Mill Park and Ride around 145 - only 15 minutes late, but we still have to get back to my car, which is at the Madison airport.
So we call a Lyft while on the bus, the driver arrives within 2-3 minutes of us, and we take another 20 minute drive back to the airport to pick up my car (cost, around $15). After dropping off my friend, I get home around 245pm...only about 15 hours behind schedule.
Morals of the story -
1. Don't take an evening connecting flight through O'Hare. EVER.
2. You may want to take a bus from O'Hare vs ever flying back to Madison to Milwaukee, if possible. Even if the connection seems to work, because the seats on the bus are better than the seats on the plane.
3. Busing is a whole lot better than driving yourself back from O'Hare. No tolls, and no concentration required. You know what would have been even better than the bus for that situation? A TRAIN!
4. I can't imagine having to fly regularly for a living. Seems like an absolute nightmare, although I guess you learn all the tricks of dealing with the delays and how to game your options. This has to be run better than how we're doing.
OK, back to normal tomorrow. Whether I like it or not.