Some context: I’m Brazilian, but from 2007 – 2011 I lived in Boston where I went to university. As you may know, Christmas in Brazil is during the summer. We don’t have snow, or cold or anything like that here. Obviously, that is not the case in Boston. So traveling home at the end of fall semester was a chance to escape the cold and the snow and the short days, and get back home to family, friends, and heat.
There are many ways to fly to São Paulo from Boston, but the most popular ones are through New York, Miami or Atlanta. There is no direct flight.
In December 2007, I had the misfortune to have my flight delayed by heavy snow in Boston, making me stay stranded there for 2 extra days, getting home on December 23. I really hoped it wouldn’t happen to me again in 2008, and I took some precautionary measures like booking the BOSNY flight several hours earlier than the NYCBrazil flight. This was so that in case my flight got cancelled again, I could maybe take the train to NY and board my plane to Brazil, anyway.
Another important thing: in 2008, most people (including me) had “dumb” phones.
When the day came, I checked the weather forecast. Boston had had a little snow, but nothing too serious. Planes were flying out of Logan normally. I took a cab to the airport at around 2 PM and when I got there I managed to check in and the lady assured me assured my plane would be on time and all of that. Relaxed, I sat down, and waited for the time to leave. I could see the plane outside, so I thought that was that and I would be home on time.
Little did I know.
When the time came to board, nothing happened. Then, the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, your plane is ready but the flight crew that is supposed to man it is stranded in North Carolina. They will be delayed for about 2 hours.”
Fine. That was within my time frame, still, but having checked in and all that, my plans to take the train if necessary were shot. I would have to board that plane.
The crew was actually delayed for a lot over two hours. By the time they did arrive, I was completely panicking. My connection window just became something like 40 minutes. The lady at the counter assured me that I would make it, but even if I didn’t, she already scheduled me on the next flight out of NY – which was on the next day.
So I boarded the plane, pissed off, and off we went to NY. It’s supposed to be a 30 minute journey, but the time spent taxiing and waiting for clearance on the ground makes it closer to an hour. Not good.
When we landed at JFK, the TV screen on the plane went on. The flight attendant said that if our connection showed on the screen, it was still possible to make the plane. Mine was up there. It left from terminal E. We arrived at terminal A, pretty much on the opposite end of a croissant shaped major airport with no skytrain.
By now it was around 11:50 PM and my flight was scheduled to leave at 00:10. I never ran so quickly in my life, managed to make it to the gate, only to see the door closed and literally see the plane backing out and leaving. Some movie shit. I was so angry I didn’t even know what to say or do, but I learned that it’s best to be nice to the people who work for the airplane companies, and so I calmly showed the lady my scheduled ticket for the next day, and asked her if it looked OK and if I could just come back tomorrow. “I don’t know,” she said. “You’d better check at the check-in counter outside security.” So off I went.
I got there at 1:00 AM, approximately. That’s when I saw it – a long line of very pissed off people speaking (and gesturing) mostly in Italian.
What had happened there was that American Airlines had kept these people inside a plane, on the ground for 6 hours, with no food, before telling them that the plane was broken because of the weather and they would not be able to fly to Rome that night. This did NOT make a plane full of Italian people happy, and they were very eager to demonstrate this to the agents at the counter. One at a time. All I wanted to know was if I was truly on the flight the next day, but by the time all of them were done with their oscar-worthy demonstrations of indignation it was circa 3:00.
I finally got to the counter and received good news: yes, I was on the flight on the next day. The bad news, though, was what was making people even more pissed off: Apparently I’d have to go pick up my luggage since it was ticketed straight to São Paulo, but my flight left without me my bags. They were holding it downstairs, so down I went, where I found half of that same group of passengers who were instructed to do the same.
I had no idea where I would stay – no way would it be one of those shitty cots provided by JFK. I didn’t have proper internet access and my shitty phone barely sent SMS messages. Fortunately, I met a nice English man while in line waiting to pick up my bags. He knew of a hostel in Manhattan. I got to the counter at around 4:00 AM, where the man told me that not only did I NOT have to pick up my bags, I actually COULDN’T pick them up, because they were already ticketed to São Paulo. By this point I was just so beyond angry that I just started laughing at everything.
Anyway, the English guy I shared one of those sketchy black cabs (no yellow ones at 4 AM) to Manhattan, and we arrived at the hostel. This was around 5 A.M. I checked in, and the lady gave me keys and told me check-out was at 10 A.M, a statement that made me laugh much harder than she was probably expecting. I would certainly be paying extra to sleep in. Finally I got to the room, and just laid down knowing at least I’d fly home the next day.
“EVERYBODY OUT, NOW!”
That’s what I woke up to about three hours later. I remember opening my eyes and seeing a fireman, in full uniform, wielding an axe. “Out now! The building’s on fire!”
NO. FUCKING. WAY.
It was true. Something happened with the boiler and it blew up and there was a fire starting and they decided the best thing was to evacuate the whole building. I had enough time to quickly get dressed, grab my backpack and my phone, and walk outside where it was freezing cold. No one was allowed back in. Even worse, as I was trying to dial home to let my parents know about all that had happened after I missed my flight, some kids who were still drunk from the night before knocked my phone into the NYC slush and basically killed it. Nice.
Well, I didn’t even bother to check out. In the end I got a room at a Radisson hotel, for the day, where I couldn’t sleep because I was so afraid of missing my flight again while taking a nap. I got a new phone and some clothes for the day, too. Finally, at night, I did actually get on the plane, where my seat entertainment system didn’t work but I was so tired I just slept through the whole flight, anyway.
So, that one sucked pretty bad, and I learned that flights coming back from Miami were way less prone to snow issues. Never happened again.