The day of the trip finally arrived. Stan and I were packed with two bags each, all set and ready to rock. I had thought about lugging my DSLR along, but finally left it at home in favour of a compact.
We were going to head to New York first (via Chicago), then board a bus to Boston and back to New York, then fly back to Chicago for the last leg before returning home.
So we made our way to the airport, and it finally felt like the trip had begun.
01 Feb 2011, 1100hrs AU
This was at Melbourne Tullamarine airport. Stan was in the queue waiting to check in, and this was when we got red flag number 1.
So the staff at the counter told us there was a (quote) “historically worst snowstorm ever in Chicago” with all flights cancelled, which basically meant we would not be able to transit from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York. After we asked about alternative arrangements, she went off to check with a supervisor and assured us that someone from United (or Continental) would be at the Los Angeles airport to take care of things, so we took her at her word and went on.
After all, what else could we do? Kicking off the trip with a flight to Chicago’s historically worst snowstorm ever – definitely the way to begin an epic trip.
Flying to the Big Apple from Melbourne is a tricky business. We had to transit at Sydney, Los Angeles and then Chicago, before getting to La Guardia. Of course, there are different options for transit but the SYD and LAX transits are unavoidable.
The short hop to Sydney was pleasant enough, but the flying barge that was to take us to Los Angeles was.. wow.
Let’s start with the onboard entertainment, which sadly was a single channel movie being shown on small overhead screens. It was at that moment that I truly missed flying on SQ. Not that I watched the shows much in recent flights, but having on-demand shows was always a good option if I had insomnia.
And over here, you have me getting ready to sleep.
You can only sleep that long before getting bored/distracted/disrupted, so I took to writing my journal in between naps.
Here’s the journal entry from that flight:
01 Feb 2011, 2207hrs AU
UA 747 = old, very loud & hard to sleep. recommend earplugs & eye mask.
½way to LAX now. lucky seat next to me is empty = more space.
Tried Andy’s method of x2 portion, flight attendant seemed to be pissed off – why? no f-ing idea.
Chicken & potatoes, chocolate brulee, salad & mini baugette.
Listening to Jimmy Ye = shiok. Still think it’s a pity he didn’t release more albums.
Watched the second half of Unstoppable.
Counter @ the back unmanned w water jug & box of mini pretzel snacks (salty stuff) labelled HELP YOURSELF.
Water jug empty, had to drink fr melted ice jug (basket).
Concluded once again, drinking juice does not really help in hydration. Water is still the best.
7 more hrs WTF.
Compared to SQ, UA’s reading light is like a spotlight, & prob annoys everyone else around you who is trying to sleep. Trying to use HTC flashlight now.
If you have never been on a long haul flight before, it’s definitely an interesting experience. The flight went on without end, and the seven hour flight from Singapore to Melbourne definitely seemed short in comparison. Taking this flight made me feel like I was in a flying metal box hurtling through the air at sizzling speeds, while throwing my body clock totally out of whack.
The good thing was that the flight did end, so we finally landed in Los Angeles.
We endured a 15 hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, and queued for nearly 2 hours at LAX customs. The Los Angeles customs was known for being a long wait, and a long wait it was.
I’ll continue with another journal extract, just to keep the original flavour of the journey intact. Sometimes, rewriting just makes things sound too polished.
1 Feb 2011, 2030hrs LA
- Landed, queue nearly 2 hrs @ customs. No item checks?
- Got thrown to United reservations w/ a piece of paper, & another for discounted accom. Spent 3hrs on payphone (toll free) & got flight rescheduled to LAX-DEN-LGA, LAX 0600hrs depart.
- Booked night stay @ Sheraton Gateway, $79. $11 for wifi wtf.
- Tried to take FlyAway bus to LA downtown, phantom bus didn’t appear? Ate @ airport food court, chicken don $6.25.
- Got proof from United for flight delay, possible $225 x 2! (covers hotel $)
Pictures follow in appropriate sequence.
LAX United staff basically gave us passengers two papers:
- One was a hastily printed slip saying all flights to Chicago had been cancelled due to snowstorm warnings, and we had to call the reservations department ourselves at to arrange for a reschedule of the flight. OR, check United website for updates. No internet access, check my ass.
- The other was a discount voucher for accommodation if we needed any. I honestly didn’t want to stay in LAX any longer than I had to, so I ignored this bit.
No explanations, no further assistance and that was all we got. Most of the my fellow passengers were equally clueless and left the airport within the first half hour, not too sure what happened to them.
I was determined to work my way through this though, so I found a payphone and started wacking away. It took the better part of three hours on the phone (yes folks, three hours) before:
- I managed to exhaust all the bloody automated options the voice recognition system was throwing at me.
- Spoke to a real human who said yes, earliest flight to Chicago was on Thursday (it was Tuesday then) and he couldn’t do much about it.
- Got my call escalated to the services director, a very helpful lady who was quite shocked at the way we were manhandled over at LAX, and managed to rebook my flight as a transit from LAX to Denver, and then on to La Guardia (New York). I’m really very grateful to Ms Moreno from United reservations (Chicago) for her help on this.
- Did I mention the fact that my call got cut off before Ms Moreno confirmed the itinerary change? A snoozing airport staff on a bench nearby got rudely woken up by my “FUCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKK!” of frustration because we were so close to getting it all done. Called back and fortunately it was all done, whew.
Being prudent, we went upstairs to the United service desk and got printed documents explaining the travel delay, just so that we could get some moolah back from the travel insurance.
Our stay for the night, Sheraton Gateway hotel. Not too bad, not too awesome. The best part was that it was close to the airport and had free shuttle service every twenty minutes, which was why I chose it out of all the discounted lodging offered on the pink slip.
Stan took the chance to check in and print our flights from the free internet terminal downstairs, while I goofed off and thought about possible options for the night. Downtown LA seemed like a good option so we decided to head there, grab some chow, have a look around before flying off.
After all, why waste a good opportunity?
Here you have the man in awesome video, summarising our situation.
Waiting for the phantom bus. There were a few guys waiting for the same bus, and every bus driver we asked said the same – it should have come, you guys missed it. No effing way we missed it, seriously.
Having chicken don at the Tom Bradley food court. Not tasty by any stretch of imagination, we were just looking for food at that point.
Unpacking for the night. Not too bad room really, comfy bed but lacking a few amenities like a safe and fridge. Having a shower really helped to wash the fatigue away, but the lack of a drain (?) in the bathroom meant we had to mop the flood up with towels after every shower – bad design!
We caught a bit of Celtics killing the Kings on the laptop (TV only had ESPN with no live coverage) and the awesome hot shower before hitting the sack. We had an early flight ahead of us after all.
What a day huh?
More to come in the next post.