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July 28, 2008:

FLY THE FRIENDLY SKIES

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting on an aeroplane, flying back to Burbank, California, USA. The time? 9:31 p.m. Yes, Virginia, you heard that right. 9:31 p.m. We took off about six minutes ago. Yes, my one-thirty flight took off eight hours late. After getting up early, doing a two-mile jog, shaving and showering and packing, I then went to JFK. I arrived around 11:40, and, as always, JFK is the madhouse that no other airport in the United States is. The JetBlue terminal was jammed. Just prior to going through security, I checked the departures board and saw we were already delayed by twenty minutes. Before I could blink my eyes, that was changed to forty-five minutes. This did not bode well for a timely departure – little could I have realized what others and I were in for. It took almost thirty minutes to get through security, such was the length of the line (as opposed to the two minutes it took in Long Beach). I then went to the gate, which, even at that early hour, was jammed with people. We were supposed to take off at 2:15 with our delay. At one, I noticed that there was no plane at our gate. That did not bode well for a timely departure. We were then informed that our plane was, in fact, in New York (our plane originated its flight in Florida), but was circling. They predicted it would land within a half-hour, and then they’d clean the plane and we’d board. They were wrong. They kept our plane and many other planes circling so long that they then had to divert the airplanes to other airports because they were all about to run out of fuel. Our plane was diverted to Atlantic City, New Jersey. They then said that they could give us no new information. All of this was blamed on weather. The only problem with that was that except for two thirty-minute rainstorms (about two hours apart), the sky was clear. Gray, yes, but clear – no rain. Now before our usual suspects jump to their usual conclusions, I have been at JFK under much, much worse weather conditions – more rain, harder rain, and sleet and snow, and I have never been delayed more than a couple of hours and I have never had a flight cancelled. No, the simple and plain fact of the matter is that JFK is the worst and most ineptly run airport in the United States, maybe even the world. The fact is I was told by the gate person that between eleven and three no planes were being allowed to land or take off. Since the skies were clear for most of that time, one has to question the reason why. At about two-thirty they began canceling flights left and right and also right and left. Our gate person kept telling us our flight was not cancelled. By four, two other flights to Burbank were cancelled. One gentleman told me that that was good for us, because he was confident that they’d have to get one airplane into Burbank or it would screw them up so badly over the next few days it wouldn’t even be funny. He seemed to know what he was talking about. At five, more flights were cancelled. Our gate person kept telling us that we’d be first out, then another flight to Buffalo would follow us. We were also told our plane had left the gate in Atlantic City, but hadn’t left the airport yet. I finally had to get one of those disgusting packaged sandwiches – an “Italian” sandwich – it was awful but I ate it and had a Diet Pepsi with it. I then went back to the gate and sat on the floor, fuming and seething, not necessarily in that order. Around six-thirty we were told that the flight that was going to leave after us was going to leave before us. That made everyone real happy. I called Crista and Kevin to see if I’d be able to stay in one of their apartments should they cancel our flight. Both thought it would be okay. The big problem was that all of Monday’s flights were already sold out, so the earliest I would have been able to leave was Tuesday morning. I think you can imagine how happy that made me. The flight that got to leave before us finally boarded around seven-fifteen. We were then notified our plane had landed and we were diverted to a different gate. The de-boarded the passengers of the plane, then our flight attendants boarded and we all thought we had a shot at getting out of New York by eight. Unfortunately, there was one little snag – no pilots. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, after all of that, no pilots. The pilots were in Maine and wouldn’t be arriving until nine. That presented another problem – Burbank Airport usually isn’t open past eleven. However, we were assured that JetBlue would pay to have them stay open for our flight. When the did the announcement about no pilots, the reaction from the two-hundred really angry people was very vocal and very loud – I thought a couple of them were going to get violent. The pilots actually arrived at around 8:45 so maybe they were different pilots.

We finally boarded the plane and we took off a few minutes later (for once we didn’t have to wait on the runway, since there were no other planes taking off). I remember a time when “Fly the friendly skies” actually meant something. There are no more friendly skies. Airlines don’t care about their customers and treat them without respect. Airports like JFK should be closed down until they figure out how an airport should actually work. When I tried to re-book today’s flight a few days ago so I could get the bulkhead on the early morning flight (which actually got out right on time) they were happy to make the change – for a small fee of $165. I explained to them that I’d already had a flight cancelled in Burbank and that I’d had to spend a large amount of money to get out to Long Beach at the last minute. I asked her if she’d speak to someone higher up to see if the fee could be waived, based on what I’d gone through (as well as being delayed over two hours in Long Beach and then kept circling for an hour at JFK) – she did and was told no, they wouldn’t waive the fee. With that single stupid gesture they insured that it would be a cold day in hell before I flew JetBlue again. And, after this eight-hour plus delay today, do you think they’d offer a free drink to anyone who wanted one – you know, one free drink? Not a shot. THAT’S the JetBlue experience, baby, and not one I’ll be repeating anytime soon.

So, instead of getting home at three-thirty, I’ll be getting home at midnight, just in time to post these here notes. Fly the friendly skies indeed.

Today, let me tell you how little I’ll be doing. Unless it’s urgent, I shall take no telephonic calls, I may or may not answer any waiting e-mails, and I shall just sleep as late as I can, jog, eat, and do nothing. I don’t care what comes up – today is mine all mine.

The rest of the week I have meetings and preparations of the upcoming staged reading – otherwise I’ll try to take it somewhat easy.

We’re currently over Columbus, Ohio – I know that because I am tuned to the JetBlue Map Channel. I am exhausted beyond belief. I will be writing a little missive to JetBlue about my JetBlue Experience (or perhaps I’ll just send them a link to this here site – soon to be the most popular on all the Internet).

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, sleep as late as possible, jog, have something fun to eat, and do a whole lot of nothin’. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s everyone’s favorite – The Initials Gameā„¢. Remember, you’re on the honor system – no cheating and looking things up – you should know the person you’re naming – it’s okay to look them up if you want to confirm that they are indeed who you’re thinking of. Celebrities, sports figures, cartoon characters, fictional characters in books, plays, and film – well, you know the routine. And today’s initials are: D.B. Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst we all remember a happier time when it actually was fun to fly the friendly skies.

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