Another Day, Another Delay

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

I’m still in Chicago.  My 9:30am flight yesterday morning was cancelled because of the bad weather.  I had seen the news about the storm system, before I left for the airport, but there was nothing listed on the airport’s website to suggest any problem.  The airport was chaotic when I arrived around 7am.  Hundreds of people were queuing for check-in.  It’s almost as if United hadn’t realised that people were going to turn up to fly.  It was under-staffed and the staff who were there spent their time walking up and down the lines yelling instructions at passengers that were hard to understand.  They even started to yell at people telling them not to miss their flight because they were waiting in line – but they didn’t tell them how to check-in without queuing.

It took over an hour for me to get to my gate.  I got to spend a pleasant hour chatting to a friend who was travelling through O’hare that morning.  Once they left I sat and watched the “flight delayed” notifications turn into “flight cancelled”

I had to go the service desk to get re-booked for another flight.  I was lucky in that I beat a lot of the rush (later on in the day as more flights were cancelled the queue was 3 hours long), but they still told me I would have to wait 27 hours before I could get another flight.

I asked about compensation, food vouchers, hotels, but was told that there was nothing they could do.  The person I was dealing with looked quite put out and asked why I thought the weather was the airlines problem?  I told her it certainly wasn’t mine and did they really think customers who didn’t live in the city should sit in the airport for another 27 hours?  I was told I was free to spend my own money on a hotel but that they wouldn’t be providing me with anything.  The only thing they could do was put me on the standby list and maybe I would get lucky and catch a later flight.

By 5pm I knew there was no way I was getting to Pittsburgh on standby.  I was number 84 on the standby list. (This makes it sounds as if they were useful and told me what place I was on the list.  That’s not what happened.  I had to move around the airport as the gates kept changing for the flights to Pittsburgh hoping that the board by the gate would display a list.  I waited 6 hours after being put on the list to see my position on it.)

There were only two planes left to go to Pittsburgh, both were overbooked, and they only hold 66 passengers each.  I found out they were overbooked as the woman I ended up spending the day with rang the airline.  She was put on hold for more than 30 minutes but eventually managed to speak to someone who told us that the rest of the flights were already overbooked before the delays and cancellations.

Thankfully, I have travel insurance.  So instead of sitting in the airport all night, as the airline staff suggested I do,  I am at the hotel in the airport.  My new friend and I went shopping last night so that I would have something clean to wear today (the airline refused to give me back my luggage as I still want to travel to Pittsburgh).

I’m hoping that things are better today.

Tired and Travelling

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Sitting in the airport this morning I have that feeling you get when you’ve forgotten something.  Last night, instead of packing, I went out for dinner and to see the new Terminator movie.  By the time I got home I was tired, grumpy, and had a dull throbbing headache.  I just hope my camera lead is the only thing I’ve forgotten.  (I do realise that very few things are essential for travel but I hate re-buying things because I was stupid and left them at home.)

The journey to the airport is more annoying than I expected it to be.  I like the fact that our new apartment is closer to the airport but it still involves at least 20 minutes of walking and a couple of trains.  Walking through a packed Ueno station with luggage is not a pleasant way to start the day.

Japanese trains are clean and air conditioned so once I hauled my luggage into the train I was looking forward to relaxing for an hour.  When I found my reserved seat someone was already sitting on it.  This lead to a strange conversation where I showed a Japanese man how to read his train ticket.  A year ago I would have assumed that I was in the wrong place but now I’m fairly sure I can read a ticket.

Everything went smoothly at the airport until I tried to find the ANA lounge.  I think I’m just tired as I had difficulty understanding the directions I was given.  I did find it eventually.   I should really aim to get more than 4 hours sleep the night before I travel.  Maybe then my brain would function better.

Conference Travel

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

I have started to look at my summer travel plans.  This year things are fairly complicated with a mix of conferences and family commitments.  It’s possible that I will be in Pittsburgh, Toronto, San Jose, Belfast, Lisbon and London.  I am going to be away from home for longer than I would like.  I am aware, however, that I’m finding it harder to travel than before.  (I do hope that by the summer my medication will be sorted out)

I am pleased that YAPC::NA is going to be in Pittsburgh as it will allow me to visit some good friends.  There hasn’t been a lot of information about the conference yet but I expect that they will soon have a call for papers.

I have been looking at round the world flights as this could work out cheaper.  I’ve never booked one before because I usually end up having to hop back and forward between continents.  This is also true this year but given how expensive it is to get out of Japan it still might be my best option.  Getting to Canada from Northern Ireland is also going to be more expensive than before as there are no longer direct flights to Toronto.

There are benefits to a round the world ticket.  I can always call into Australia on the way back to Tokyo without any extra cost.  And I could also visit a few more places in America.  The only drawback is that I will be travelling on my own – and visiting new places by myself isn’t as enjoyable as doing it with company.

YAPC::NA – Morning 1

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Having to speak at YAPC::NA first thing in the morning meant that I was completely stressed out for the start of the conference. I don’t remember much about the registration process but it must have been really straight forward or I would remember. (Actually I’ve just remembered something about being given a glass which I no longer seem to have…).

I really like the venue so far – though I have only seen the main auditorium. It’s an easy room to speak in and the mikes and projectors work really well.

The only good thing about giving the first talk is that I can now enjoy the conference. It did mean that I didn’t attend the pre-conference dinner last night because I didn’t think I would be able to cope with meeting people. The people I did meet up with for breakfast and before the conference were all great and did help to calm me down.