Monday, April 30, 2007

God help those at JFK

Since H is a pilot, one of the perks is I can fly for free. I have to fly stand-by or in airline speak - "SPACE AVAILABLE." So it is really a bit like Vegas, baby... But it is a great way to go and hey I am always up for a bit of airport roulette.

Let's just say that Sunday, someone really powerful had it out for those folks who work at JFK and the passengers who just happen to be passing thru. The airport and well all roads leading to the airport were insane. Cars everywhere. I counted two car accidents, one major and one minor.

So once I entered the Delta terminal, I knew it might be mayhem, but at least I had arrived in one piece. Now, since I am flying for free, I try to bother as few people as possible and when I hitch a ride on United - I have no problem checking in at the Kiosk. It is always smooth sailing with our United friends. Delta, yeah not so much.

I hyphenate my last name. (News flash, I am such a trend setter, as no one else seems to do that.) So the Delta kiosk always tells me I do not exist. Really, mmmm interesting. So then I have to work with a ticket agent and then they seem to never know how to code me in their system, because again, I am such a trend setter and happen to be married to a pilot and attempting to use our benefits.

So after all of that I went through the security line, which contrary to normal, was well organized and running smoothly. Cool! Score 1 point for the TSA at JFK.

Then I hustle to my gate, I have 20 minutes until the plan is supposed to leave. Naturally the gate is at the very back of the terminal. The little planes seem to be using Gate 23 and 25. Now, this is where the insanity started happening. The brainy folk at Delta JFK are trying to board 2 to 5 small planes at the same gate at the same time. Huh????

They have TV monitors, which are supposed to show you which flights are boarding, but for whatever reason, they were choosing to not use them. So one gate agent is calling out flight numbers and cities and the other is trying to take boarding cards, for multiply flights. People are pushing and shoving and for reasons I cannot understand, people who are not on the flights being called are rushing the gate as well. It was a picture of anarchy really. And me without my camera.

I just decided to hang back and watch. It was really sensory overload for me, the energy, people pushing and yelling. A quiet slow boil - inching us towards a riot. Then they call Columbus, so I head that direction, trying to hang back - since I will be the last allowed on - if at all. My eyes drift to an Asian couple, who are looking ever so dazed and confused. Then the gate agent with the intercom - calls their names. The man pushes towards the agent taking the boarding cards. The guy with the mega phone calls them again and sternly warns that they need to come forward or their seats will be canceled. The Asian man is still talking to the woman who is taking the tickets. This is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

Then I step forward and ask it the stand-by passengers are going to get on or not. The gate agent was flustered and confused and frankly in over his head. He threw up his hands, told me no and then walked away.

Meanwhile the Asian couple was complaining about not getting on, as the other gate agent tried to tell them that if they had come forward, they would have. Newsflash: they had come forward. Hello!

I just walked over to the ticket counter and got another stand by seat request for the later flight. It took over 30 minutes, as again, no one knew how to code me is the system and they were all confused as to how to print me the stand by card. Really am I the only one out there using the benefits?

So I grabbed some dinner and tried to settle down for a spell. I had over a 3 hour wait. Shortly, it became clear to me that for my mental health, I needed to relocate to an area away from the gates 23 & 25. The din was almost painful now and the yelling and crowding was getting worse. Every flight was being delayed, was over sold, was being canceled. It was a nightmare. It should also be noted that the weather was almost perfect.

So I moved and settled down and wrote a bit and read some.

Closer to 7:30 pm, I moved back to the war zone. It was still a mess. More flights being delayed. More flights being oversold. (Serious, I do not get this. There are 50 seats. You should only sell 50 tickets.)

Columbus, seemed to not be oversold nor delayed. Cool! I might yet get home in one piece. So the agent calls Pittsburgh and Columbus. Again, why??? One at a time makes the most sense to me. He also says all stand by. Normally this means I have been cleared, ie - given a seat. In any other airport that means they take my request card and give me a boarding pass. Yeah, not at JFK. (now known in my head as JUST FREAKIN' KLUELESS) So I wait and wait and wait. I ask the guy taking the tickets. He says wait. So while waiting, I was joined by a pilot in uniform. He is waiting too! (for another city, but waiting close to the agents nonetheless.)

So as all the people file past me, I ask the gate agent, "Will I be getting on?" He answers that he has no idea. Ok, it is simple, subtract the number of people who have boarded from the number of seats. Easy! So I wait, I am nervous now.

So the pilot says to me, "Are you a crew member?" I explain that H is a pilot with X airline and that I am his wife. The pilot loudly says to the gate agent, "Hey, is she getting on? She is one of the family. You need to give her a seat if there is one. We take care of our own." What Family? The mob? But I am at least glad, someone is taking my side. I mean, if left to the gate agent to decide, I might stand a better chance walking home.

The gate agent clearly is uninterested in helping me, but the pilot is tall and dark and looked pretty tough. So the gate agent checks the computer, prints me a boarding pass - my ticket out of the riot zone - and sends me on my way. I get seat number 50. Oh this is my new favorite number.

So I made it home, after midnight on Sunday - but it was in all well worth it, I had a great time. But please, do yourselves a favor and avoid JFK - they are Klueless!

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