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It had to happen

Updated: Feb 18

Monday, 13 February 2023, traveling

"We're screwed."

Sue's two words sent a chill through my body. After all, we'd had a good Uber ride to the airport, the driver entertaining us with tales of how Aston looked many years ago, chock-a-block bars and lounges. At PHL we zipped through security, found breakfast for Sue, and snared seats to pass the hour-plus until boarding.

I left Sue to relax as I took a walk, figuring a brisk stroll from terminals A to F and back would give me good exercise before twelve hours of sitting on my duff in airplane seats. As I neared E, my phone rang - the display said 'Beautiful Sue'. "Yes. my dear?"

"We're screwed."

Flight 566 to L.A., she explained, was now delayed for three hours due to a maintenance issue (with no guarantee it would fly at all). Even if it did, those three hours meant missing our connection to Maui.

Time for a quick stroll back to terminal A. An agent on the phone had just told Sue there might be a flight leaving in a half-hour that had only two seats left, but she'd have to check at the service desk. Seven people already waited in line there, so I asked each of them (to Sue's embarrassment) if we could hop the line - luckily they all agreed.

The agent quickly checked our options. "You can catch a flight to Austin, and connect there to LAX to get on your Maui flight. But that's at gate C25, and they'll close the doors in 10-15 minutes. You might not be able to get there in time."

"Any luck?" asked people in line as we left the agent. I gave them a terse, "Yes, maybe," and took off down the A concourse, with Sue following as quickly as her bad back and hip would allow. I passed several parked carts with no drivers, then saw an airport employee in a suit walk by one. "Can you drive this?" I asked him. Of course he couldn't, but he found a cart with driver and stopped if for us.

"I can't take you to C terminal, but I can get you close." We hopped on, then got off at the moving walkway to C. At the end, Sue sent me running to the gate to hold it for us, and she would get there ASAP.

At C25, the last people in line were entering the jetway. Breathlessly (and with parched throat, since I'd not had time to fill my water bottle), I identified myself. The agent printed out our new boarding passes and ushered us on - the last people to board.

NOT an auspicious start. We might be on our way, but our bags weren't. They remained at PHL, patiently waiting for 566 to take off. If it doesn't... and if it does, we still won't get them until tomorrow (hopefully). I had not planned to bicycle down from Haleakalā tomorrow in my travelling clothes, but so it goes...

AUSTIN: We'd worried about having to traverse the whole airport to reach our next flight. That crisis did not materialize, as our next flight was on the same plane, same gate. I worried about a tighter connection at LAX, since our flight in would land after our next flight had started boarding. To get more info, I approached a gate agent directly across from our gate who had no passengers engaging her. "Could you give me some more info? Our last flight got delayed three hours because of plane problems, and they switched us to these other flights, and I'm worried about our connections..."

"Hmmm. That doesn't sound like our flights." she said. "This is United - were you maybe flying American?"

Ooh, what a sharp cut! I thanked her, and wandered over to an idle American agent. She confirmed that the flights were still as scheduled, leaving us little leeway. I also asked if flight 566 ever left Philly, and she said it had, at 2:15 EST. She then said it would land in LA at 1:30 PST. Fascinating: if true, that meant they turned a six-hour flight into one lasting just over two hours. I guess the maintenance must have installed a new SST engine on it.

Unfortunately, the agent had assigned us seats in the last row of the plane to LAX. If we had to wait for the entire plane to empty before we got off, we could kiss our chance of making the next flight goodbye. So with our second flight winging it over Texas, I pushed the call button. Luckily I had given the attendant a rose, which made her sympathetic as I explained my dilemma. She quickly came up with a solution: 30 minutes before the flight ended, she would move us up to seats 9E and 10E, in the rows immediately behind first class. That would get us off quickly. Whew!

LAX: Our flight landed 20 minutes early. Since it took only ten minutes to walk between gates, we arrived before boarding had started. We moved in behind the people lined up to rush onto the plane, and waited. And waited. After 20 minutes, I asked the gate agent, who said they were waiting for one more flight attendant.

Shortly after, they began letting people in. We had an upgrade to seats in row 8, the first row behind first class in the Main Cabin Extra section (meaning extra leg room), which made for a comfortable flight. The plane took off over the ocean, but for the first time in my memory, the plane did not circle around but kept heading west. Within a minute, it had risen above the cloud layer, and a carpet of clouds stretched between us and the horizon.

I read a bit, edited some essays, and tried to melt away the stress of the long day. As the sun dropped low in the sky, I snapped pictures of the glowing colors reflected in on the clouds.

When the light finally faded, so did I, napping away the last hour or two.

MAUI: Wake back up, get our bearing on the island. How quaint - much of the airport is open-air, with palm trees growing around the site and birds flying in the terminal. Even at 8:30, the temperature stayed comfortable in the 70s. In the main hall, two storefronts for the Kahalui Trading Company, ads touting snorkel, evening and dinner cruises, or signs encouraging women to "Be an Amazing Maui Babe!" attracted our attention. At the Sixt Rental Car counter, they gave us a BMW hybrid. We filled out a request with American for them to deliver our bags tomorrow, and moved on to our night's lodging. Time to turn this vacation around!

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