Got to the hotel OK, late but better than the rest of the week. We worked all day and got back to the airport about 6:30pm Friday night for the 8:05 pm flight to Chicago. I'm holding a full fare ($772) ticket so no problem getting checked in. The flight is full because the 1:30 flight had been canceled and everyone was bumped to the 8:05 NW flight instead of other airlines. Memphis is a hub for NorthWest and with the number of gates, size of planes and everything full there were easily 7 to 8,000 people. And it looked and felt like it too.
Boarding was a bit late but I was on before 8:00 pm. As we boarded a woman ahead of me was telling a friend that she had heard about someone not stopping at security. I could understand the temptation as the security personnel were somewhat less than efficient.
At 8:15 we are expecting to push out but the announcement is not from the flight attendant but from a gate agent. There has been a breach of security and because the man was not stopped immediately all people are being evacuated from the terminal building and all passengers are being removed from planes and sent back to the lobby (and out into the parking lots) until security can sweep the concourse. Like a migration of lemmings we shuffle back into tee lobby and out into the night.
Northwest was consistent. They gave no information out, no announcements, all NW personnel used the "I know Nothhhhing" routine. A couple of passengers got up on the balcony and did their own announcements. It was a nice gesture but when the guy said there were 150-200,000 people stranded here he lost his credibility with me.
After a surprisingly short time they started processing people through security again. Normally the terminal closes at 9:00 so all the security personnel were on overtime and no happy campers. The crowd was amazingly calm and relatively good natured about the whole fiasco.
When NorthWest finally announced that "ALL flights will depart and no one will be left behind" we all cheered. I wanted to revoke my cheer when I found out it was a lie.
The Chicago and Little Rock flights had been canceled. Seems our flight attendants had worked enough for one day and decided to go home. However we could not go to the ticket counter. We had to go through security to the gate to retrieve our physical tickets, then go back the lobby and wait in line at the ticket counter. The next available flight was 6am Saturday morning.
Lines were long. It took about a hour to move 10 feet. A passenger who did get serviced came back and said it had taken the clerk over 10 minutes to get him a hotel voucher. The NW ticket agents were all on overtime and not looking happy. Some of them were closing their positions and going home while we waiting without moving. The student ahead of me in line was concerned about has box of iced Louisiana shrimp he was carrying home as baggage. For lack of a pot boiling water we were unable to help him.
Then the TV Newswoman and her camera person came up and interviewed several of us about "how we felt about the situation". The man behind me explained that he had agreed to "sub" for a colleague and take a "day trip" to Memphis (ie: no luggage) and deliver a proposal. He expected to get home and celebrate his birthday. The nearby crowd spontaneously broke into a happy birthday chorus. One of the few smile moments of the escapade. When she interviewed me I commented that the security beach delay was no their fault but their policy of "Non-Communication" was wearing everyone's patience and goodwill rather thin. Someone in line chimed in "thats why we call them NorthWorst Airlines". 15 minutes later a second TV crew showed up and I repeated the sequence. A shame that I got to the hotel after the evening News and never found out if I had my 15 seconds of fame.
If I had tee shirts that said "I Survived NorthWorst Airlines" I could have made a handsome profit.
About 11:30 pm I finally made it to the counter. After diligently trying to get me on the 6:00 am NorthWest flight the agent finally apologized and said he would have to put me on United. I allowed as it would be acceptable (while silently repeating "Bless you my son"). He gave me meal vouchers (valid for 24 hours) which were irrevelvant since everything was closed by now. Hotel voucher was for the Ramada. I then trekked out into the heat to find a long line of fellow passengers waiting for the lone Ramada shuttle van. Looked like 3 to 4 loads ahead of me. The birthday guy appeared soon after so we grabbed another and split a cab to the hotel. Checked in about midnight. Good news: the bar was open. I envisioned a quiet glass of wine to wind down before crashing. Bad news: $3.00 cover, meal vouchers not accepted & I could hear the disco music halfway across the hotel. Bedtime by default.
The morning 8:43 am flight home was uneventful. I got to share it with those who were "lucky" enough to be booked on the 6:00 am NW flight which had now been cancelled. as well.
Ah - isn't travel glamorous.......
ps: by Monday night I had experienced over 33 hours of flight delays in a mere seven days. A new record.