March 16, 2014

  • The Trip Home…..the Spirit Airlines Experience

    My itinerary said that the plane was to leave at 1:36 PM so I was earlier than I really needed to be when Tim and Rhoda dropped me off at the Aurora Airport the morning of Feb. 21st.  I had printed my boarding pass the night before so I was supposed to avoid the long line and the $10 fee for having the Airline personnel print one for me.  The line was long so I asked the lady standing at a kiosk what I was supposed to and she took me around the line and to another lady on the right of the check-in counter.  The second woman looked at my boarding pass and passport and said it wasn’t the right one so printed off a new one, then took my suitcase that I was checking in.   She kept the old one so I didn’t get a chance to compare the two….so much for printing out beforehand.  They encourage you to do that to save time but if they have the wrong stuff printed out, it really doesn’t save anyone time.

    They directed me downstairs to the security area.  I took off my fanny pack, sweater and shoes and placed them in a tub and put my backpack into another.  Then I went through the little archway that screeched because of my hairpins.  I had to stand spread-eagle as a young woman patted me down.  Piece of cake, nothing to it… I went to reclaim my paraphernalia but lo and behold they had seen something in my backpack.  They sent it back through and decided to search it.

    Oh no, my little folding scissors that according to the website are perfectly ok since they were under 4″ in length.  I protested but to no avail.  There were 2 or 3 of the agents checking them out and commenting on how they were folding….trying them out.  I wonder if they had ever seen anything like that before.  They told me that if I didn’t want to part with them that I could take them back upstairs and have them put them into my suitcase.  I opted to do that because they were very nice and handy little scissors.

    When I got upstairs I was informed that my suitcase had already gone.  Rats.  A fellow at the counter offered to put them into his suitcase but he was going to Las Vegas so we didn’t do that.  Later, I wish had as we met up later on in Ft. Lauderdale.  Now what to do with them?  I put them back into my backpack.   (I didn’t think of putting them into my hair to go off with the hairpins.  :-) )  Anyway, back through security.  This time they not only took the scissors out but took my seam ripper and the little  knitpicker  and took them from me.  I didn’t have a choice in the matter so had to swallow my disappointment.  It did make me feel somewhat better to think that the Guatemalans are resourceful people and I could almost guarantee that none of those items really got thrown away.    In fact, I’ll bet that one of those agents is the proud owner of a nice pair of folding scissors.   If not, and they did get pitched, there are a lot of dump scavengers who would found them.  :-)

    Once I was out of security, I headed down the long hallway to my gate.  I was met by 2 passengers that told me that it was really warm down at our gate so they were headed the other way to a cooler place to wait.  I went down to the gate and it wasn’t long until I realized the wisdom of those women.  It was not even 11 o’clock yet so that meant a suffocating wait if I was going to stay there.  I ended up going to the other end of the hallway too and bought a meal at McDonald’s for lunch.   I found one of those  large golf-cart type of conveyances that had an empty seat and sat on that for awhile before going up closer to the McDonald’s  where I found a draft that helped lower my body temperature a good deal.  The place was absolutely stifling.

    The 3 hour wait got longer and longer as the time for departure came and went.  We didn’t know what was going on but finally we were told that the plane from Ft. Lauderdale was delayed.  Oh yeah, that was rather obvious.   As soon as it arrived and the passengers were off, we boarded.   I had been in that airport about 8 hours and was ready to get going.

    There were a number of people that were sure they had missed their connecting flights but when we landed in FL.  we found out that the other planes were held back for them.  I sometimes have to wonder if that was wise because it seemed to have caused one big gigantic problem by making everyone delayed.  It seems like it would’ve been easier and cheaper to take care of a few passengers by putting them on another flight than to mess up their entire schedule.   As it was, there was some push to get certain passengers through customs as soon as possible so the planes that were waiting could fly.

    I got through customs and claimed my luggage about the time my flight was scheduled to leave.  The time was 9:30 PM.  Those of us who were to leave for Minneapolis/ St. Paul were told to go to Gate 6.  We congregated there and then were directed to Gate 10.  So, we went down there.  We had plenty of time to wait as we were told (eventually) that the plane from MN was delayed because of the weather.

    I called home to tell Vernon that I was delayed about 5 hours in Guatemala City and I wasn’t sure when our plane would actually leave for MSP.  He was getting ready to leave home for the airport but I was hearing that the roads were very treacherous and that some of the highways were actually shut down.  I didn’t feel good about him starting out in that stuff.  If Vernon says the roads are bad……they ARE!!!  I just had a bad feeling about it all.  I told him not to start out if the roads weren’t safe.  I’d rather wait in MN than to have him risk his life to pick me up.   Finally at about midnight, I told him to just go to bed.  We had no clue what time we’d leave.

    I am not even sure what time the MSP flight did come but they scrambled to board us as fast as they could.  I think it was about 2AM.  We all got on the plane and were all situated when the flight attendants told us to gather our things together and de-board.  There was several upset persons muttering about the delay and the young girl sitting beside me said a few choice words as to what she thought of Spirit Airlines.

    We all traipsed back into the terminal and wondered what to do now.  We were told that the pilot and co-pilot had timed out and it wasn’t legal for them to fly for so many hours.   We were assured that the airline was going to try to get another set of pilots.    About 45 minutes a cheer went up when two pilots walked in.  Yay!!  But our cheering died out when we were told that now the flight attendants were now timed out.  Yells of:  “We can go with out flight attendants.  Let’s just go!”   We were informed then that it would be illegal to fly without the flight attendants, but they were trying to round up another group for us.  So, we settled back to wait.  By then a lot of us were on first name basis with each other.  :-)

    At 4 Am Spirit Airlines announced that our flight had been cancelled and we were to go collect our luggage once more and then go to the ticket counter to find out what was going to happen next.

    Before we did that however, another flight was cancelled after the plane had been boarded and the people brought back into the terminal.  What transpired was like watching a movie first hand.  There was some VERY irate persons on that flight, believe me!  Whereas our plane load wasn’t very happy, these guys were extremely vocal about their displeasure.  One man, who, by the way, had 2 young children with him, watching his every move, began to curse and yell at the personnel at the counter.  It was short of becoming a free-for-all and it wasn’t long until about 7 policemen showed up to keep order.  The man came close to being arrested and fortunately calmed down enough to avoid arrest….but I had to pity his children who has a hot-head for a father and will not learn from experience how to control their anger.   Someone from our flight told those angry people: “Hey, we’ve been there, done that 2 hour’s ago, but none of us went ballistic.”  :-)

    Anyway, we claimed our luggage and went back to the ticket counters.  I decided to wait for the line to thin out before I went through.  Finally I realized I’d never get through if I didn’t get in line.  We were told that Spirit was ordering a plane for us and it would probably leave at 7 o’clock.  Later we were told it was 7 PM not AM!

    By that time, new passengers were coming in to catch their early morning flights.  I heard someone ask “Why are there so many people lying around sleeping?”   After I was through I found a place to lie down in the hallway that was sort of out of the way.   Most of the chairs were full.  Each chair had armrests so it made it difficult to just lie down on them.  Some people wormed their way under the armrest to take advantage of several seats at a time.  There were people sprawled out all over.  I don’t know how many were on our flight but with 2 plane loads there were a lot of people camping out.

    A regular camp out.  :-)

    A regular camp out. :-)


    This couple from northern MN taking advantage of the floor


    Making himself comfortable in a corner


    Welcome to Spirit Hotel.


    People, people everywhere!


    Trying to get a few winks of sleep

    I woke up a couple of hours later and found that my neighbors were a family from Nepal who live in Duluth.   They had a 6 year old daughter who was one of the politest, well-behaved children that I know of…..especially on this flight.  She should’ve had a pair of wings.  :-)   Anyway, after exchanging “Good Morning” I made the comment that a Mall would be a more interesting place to spend the day than in the airport.  I didn’t think much about it until later when the mother asked if I’d like to go along with them to a Mall for the day.   She said that her husband was renting a car and they planned to go to the beach and if I wanted to, they’d drop me off at a Mall.

    Dr. Puskar, Puja and Pari Kefle, my Nepalese friends from Duluth, MN

    Dr. Puskar, Puja and Pari Kefle, my Nepalese friends from Duluth, MN

    By then, I was ready to see something besides that airport so I took them up on the offer.  So, off we went.  I was amazed at how well Puscar Kafle knew his way around Fort Lauderdale.   They drove to a high class mall, dropped me off and said we should meet there again about 5PM.

    Most of the stores weren’t even opened as it wasn’t 10 o’clock yet.   I walked around and finally found to my delight on the 3rd floor, a rest area tucked back in out-of-the-way with several couches with nice big green plants for some privacy.  I laid my backpack on the floor and stretched out on one of the couches and fell asleep.  Since I was on the top floor and the place of business closest to me was a Children’s theater where kids come and do their own acting—obviously nothing was going on there that day.  Another was a dentist’s office so the traffic was almost nil.  A couple of women were doing their walking for exercise but the place was absolutely perfect for what I needed.  Later, I was able to charge my Nook there too.

    I had a hard time getting back up…..after I was awake I lay there just doing nothing and enjoyed it so well that I made it last a long time.  I wish I would’ve soaked up another couple hours of that but I finally got up, shouldered my backpack and headed out to see what the Mall contained.   I ended up downstairs at the food court.  I thought I’d grab a McWrap or McBurger of some kind but this place was too ritzy for that so I went to a smorgasbord and got a salad which I paid for by weight.  It was delicious.

    I made my rounds of the mall and decided to retire in my private spot until closer to 5 o’clock.  There was a young man sitting on the couch across from me who was sitting so still for so long that I wondered how he could do it.  The amusing thing was the poster on the wall behind him.  On it was a young man that looked very much like him.  I think he sat there for at least an hour.   I was so glad for my Nook.  I had downloaded all of Dave and Neta Jackson’s Trailblazer books onto it and so I had plenty to read and did get a couple of the books finished.  I also have the Bible on my Nook so was able to have my quiet time too.

    I tried out the Internet option and did get on Facebook but I had trouble navigating that.

    About 4:30 I went down to the area where I was supposed to meet the Kafle’s and wrote a letter to a friend.  Just as I was finished I looked up to see them coming.  They were looking for me and were about to ask someone to page me on the intercom.  They had tried to call me but my phone hadn’t rung.   What had happened was when we were on the plane the night before, I had been texting and it was going beep with every letter.  The young woman sitting beside me, (the one that had some choice words) had asked me in a very peeved voice to turn the sound off as it was irritating to her.  I told her I was sorry but I didn’t know how to turn it off and her boyfriend was kind enough to show me how.  What I thought I had done besides that was to put the ring on vibrate.  Apparently everything was turned off so when Dr. Kafle called me, I had no idea.  Well, we put that to rights pretty quickly.

    I found out later that they hadn’t gone to the beach after all but had parked in the Mall’s parking garage and took naps in the car.  Then they went and got lunch at a restaurant nearby and had come back to the Mall.  They found a nice rest area like mine on another floor and did the same thing I did!

    We checked in again at the airport and sort of stuck together after that.  The airline gave us food vouchers for 3 meals that day so we went “grocery shopping” before we got onto the plane.  I got an orange, water, chips, danish, etc so I didn’t need to buy any of the high priced stuff on the plane.  Btw—the 3 danishes I brought home for the children.  Mrs. Kafle said that we might as well take advantage of the food tickets, so I had $21 to spend.   They had $63 to use so she had a couple of big bags of food to take home.  :)

    They also said we could have a $50 travel voucher as compensation for our troubles.   By then I had racked up $150 worth of vouchers.  The only trouble is I only have 60 days to claim them and when I do, I have to redeem them.  I don’t have to fly right away, but the tickets have to be bought then.  I have no idea when I will need them, so am not sure if I will be able to use them, if I decide that I would travel via Spirit Airlines again.

    A number of us passengers were talking about whether we would travel with Spirit again.  Quite a few said, “No way.”  I am not sure.   It was definitely cheaper.  Was it worth it?  Maybe, I really don’t know.  In some ways I am glad for the experience… I know what its like to have my flight delayed and cancelled.  I know what it’s like to spend the night in the airport.   Broadens the horizons but I am glad I wasn’t traveling with young children.  I also believe that Spirit needs to inform their passengers as soon as they know there will be a delay and keep them informed not leaving them in the lurch.  On the other hand other people that I talked to said they never had trouble with Spirit before.

    I told Puskar that you get what you pay for with Spirit.  He laughed and said, “This time we got MORE than what we paid for!”

    It happened that the school where Pari goes had an unexpected week’s vacation so their family decided to go to Costa Rica for a week and a half.   They ran into a snag on their way down when they got to Ft. Lauderdale and were denied going on to Costa Rica because Puja’s passport only had a month of time left on it.  I am not sure why that caused a problem as they would’ve been back before it actually expired but they couldn’t go.  They decided to stay in Ft. Lauderdale for the week, and since their luggage got to take the vacation to CR without them, they had to find a mall to buy some clothes to wear.  Their luggage had just returned the day before our ill-fated non-flight so they had decided just to go home.  If they had known everything they would not have checked out of their hotel room that evening.

    Saying Good-bye.  She told me to look them up next time we go up to the North Shore.

    Saying Good-bye. She told me to look them up next time we go up to the North Shore.

    When our plane finally took to the air…..a loud cheer went up.  We were all in a celebratory mood.  I called Vernon and told him that we were actually on our way.  The roads were somewhat better so he and Kaitlyn were there to meet me.  We arrived at home about 3AM.  It was good to be back.  I had had a good trip.

    I titled my blogpost as a lesson in Faith and Trust.   There were several times during my trip that I struggled with trusting God… when we hit turbulence on the plane.  My first reaction was to be frightened and then God reminded me that I will die when He plans, not before and to rest in Him during the storms.  Same thing for the airconditioner over my head on the bus…..I had to trust God not to let it fall IF it wasn’t HIS will that I wouldn’t get hurt.  No sense losing my cool over it. (I did try to stay as far from under it as possible. )  So, when I did the zipline, I decided to have faith in the guides and enjoy it. And I did!  Also, through out that long 2 days of delays, I had to trust in God to get me home in His good time.


    PS.  I had trouble staying awake in church that morning.  :-)


    ~the end~

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