Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dealing with Flight Claustrophobia and Travel Delays

Yesterday I flew into New York City for a Sunday engagement. The flight from Portland, Maine was in a small jet. It usually takes an hour. Security lines, usually long in the summer, were non-existent. Alas, that was the only easy point.

First was news of a delay in take off due to rain in Newark. A neighboring flight to Washington DC took off on time so perhaps the rain had moved North from DC to New Jersey, I thought.

I've learned to scrutinize announcements about flights after last summer's experience. My 7 and 1/2 year old niece and I were flying from London to Boston. Three hours into the flight, an announcer surprised us with the news that the flight had turned around and that we were flying back to London due to an incident in Boston. My first thought was 9/11--a terrorist attack in Boston. Shortly therafter, we heard from the cabin crew that no one was allowed to leave seats and that names would be put on a list to visit the bathroom. This seemed odd and certainly not connected to anything in Boston. Everyone around us had children and we were doing our best to add names to lists for everyone's children to visit bathrooms. When we landed back at Heathrow, our plane was shunted off to a far runway and London Police vans drew up next to the plane. The police took a man and two female travelling companions off the plane. We were then given overnight accomodations and resumed the journey the next day. Jossie was miffed that she lost a day of her holiday :)

We later learned that one of our passengers was on a no-fly list in Boston (there may be different ones in other US cities and none at all in other European cities) and that names of passengers were only sent to the landing city after the flight took off. He was questioned in London and subsequently released. I understand that this policy is being revisited.

Back to yesterday. The 1.30pm flight was rescheduled for a 2.30pm departure. Someone had the bright idea of putting passengers on the plane anyway so we sat on the runway between 1.30 and 4pm when we finally took off for Newark. Perhaps on the runway we were poised for a quick take off once the Newark air-controllers could fit us into a busy wet Friday evening in New Jersey (so the frequent changes in our announced departure time implied).

The moral of the story is that even if you don't have a lot of toothpaste in your hand luggage, a good book or charged ipod is essential even for a short flight. I had the former plus the Boston Globe, the WSJ, and the New York Times, and two Sudokus from the Guardian classified "hard." All these helped the claustrophobia of being cooped up in a small plane for five hours. Here are some other ideas from the Washington Post.

Meantime back in New York City, Penn Station was shut down for 2 hours at the rush hour and LIRR passengers leaving the city were requested to travel on the eline to Queens to pick up connections. Newspapers reported that a boy had been killed on the LIRR tracks.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a horrendous trip, but I'm glad you made it okay.

Anonymous said...

As my roomie in grad school used to say, 'Oh joy, oh rapture.' After five hours cooped up in a puddle jumper, I think you might have almost wished to have been raptured up out of ME to NY.

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