Here's my account of getting home. In retrospect it wasn't nearly as stressful as I made it out to be going through it. I think I just was ready to get home!
16 December 2009.
For those not in the know it's election time in Dominica, which means nuttiness. Dominicans also have an odd sense of humor and like to mess with people's heads. Put the two together and you can be ensured of a stressful experience! We left for the airport around 10:30 to make sure that we all got our seats on the plane (LIAT has a bad habit of over-booking). On the way to the airport the island exploded with rumors of the airport closing. Two people called us as said that taxi drivers were cancelling bookings because of "rumors." Idiotic! if you ask me.
We got to the airport and found that everything was business as usual. Checked in and then proceeded to sit around...and sit around...and sit around...and -- you guessed it -- sit around some more. Our flight was SUPPOSED to leave at 3:15. Well, 3:15 came and went and there wasn't even a sign of our airplane (knock me over with a feather). People were starting to get antsy because almost all of us were trying to get to San Juan that night, and many of us had connections to make that night (I was overnighting out of necessity). I took it upon myself to calm my own nerves I guess more than anyone else's to speak with the check-in agent. Of course, there was NO LIAT representative behind security... what a great way to run an airline...NOT! Ok, so, in a nutshell I went out of the secure area and back up to the check-in area. I bypassed the line and went straight to the agent and relayed our concerns and she (shockingly) appeared interested and concerned. Basically, she told us that the plane was still in Barbados and that it should arrive around 4:30. I also asked about our connections and twenty minutes later I was told "operations is aware of the situation and should hold the flight." That was probably about as good as I was going to get so I just had to let that one go! Why I had to extract this information out of them is a fight I guess I'll have to save for another day!
So, back to the waiting lounge and sure enough, at 4:40 the plane lands. Twenty minutes later we board the plane and they're literally pulling the door up and removing the chocks as we are buckling our seat belts! The flight was a short one -- thirty minutes -- to Antigua. I was relieved to be going to Antigua because if all else failed I could get home from American Airlines. It wouldn't have been cheap, but I could have trotted down to the American Airlines ticket counter and bought myself a one-way ticket to Atlanta. Getting home for that night in 8E's Bar and dinner at The Diner was that important!
And the pilots seemed eager to get the plane on the ground. On the ground was a VS 744! Antigua airport is actually quite busy and sees heavies from Virgin Atlanta and British Airways among others. It sees a slew of LIAT flights, but LIAT and the Antigua Airport Air Traffic Control have a rather tenuous relationship (partly responsible for their omnipresent delays). This is my second and hopefully last time transiting the Antigua airport. There are just more efficient places to change planes.
I would have liked to snap a few more pictures of it than I was able to get but we were herded off the plane, onto a bus, and driven 100 yards across the tarmac to another Dash 8. We were basically shoved into that aircraft, and were met by a much friendlier FA than on the flight into Antigua. As before, we were buckling our seat belts as the plane was moving out! To their credit they know how to make up for a delay! Once onboard LIAT is quite comfortable. There is good legroom and the seats are comfortable. The FAs usually appear to give a rip
We fly uneventfully for about forty-five minutes and we land in Tortola. This stop was not stated on the flight itinerary but apparently was necessary for a "security check." I still haven't actually looked up where Tortola is so all I know of it is that it's a runway somewhere about thirty minutes flying time from San Juan... So we're on the ground there, and the FA explicitly states that passengers bound for Puerto Rico are to stay on, and sure enough, three or four people trot off the plane...luckily for them I knew them and alerted the FA that they had indeed deboarded and probably wouldn't care too much for being stranded in Tortola. Lucky for one of them I'm a nice person because I honestly couldn't care less if she fell off a cliff and got shredded by mermaids... Was that a little harsh????
After twenty minutes or so in Tortola and a passport check we take off into the night and head for San Juan. The flight was very uneventful. The only thing worth mentioning is that I listened to Proud Mary from Tina: Live! about four times and bought a Coke from the FA (for 5 XCD) to keep me awake. We flew over San Juan and I was amazed at how many baseball fields there are there! We landed with little incident, and then made our way off the plane. We had to wait a few minutes until we were ALL off the plane and were then escorted into customs and immigration. Immigration was a breeze because we were the only flight arriving at the time and I had made a beeline for the front of the crowd. No issues there.
I get down to baggage claim, however, and find that one of the 7 liters of rum I had in my checked baggage had indeed busted. I saw the liquid stain on the side of the bag before it even got close to me. As such, I draped my jacket over the top of it when i was going through agriculture check. I wasn't brining anything into the country that wasn't allowed, but I just didn't want the visible liquid to instigate a search and hold me up. I was hungry and needed food!!! At the end of the day I would have had to pay duty on three or four of the bottles, but that's it, they would have let me bring them in. I made my way to the Hampton Inn about a mile away from the airport. Because of my Hilton Silver status I was upgraded to a King Suite. Woot! I opened up my bag to find the (hopefully) one bottle that ruptured, and ended up also throwing away two or three shirts that absorbed most of the rum. For what it's worth I hate rum but was bringing it home for some friends. You could have gotten drunk off the smell! I wish I had taken a picture of my white undershirt stained yellow from the rum. Great mental image I know!
17 December 2009
I left the hotel relatively early for my 10:00 am flight to Atlanta from San Juan. Checking in wasn't too difficult. I just had to run my bags through the USDA scan right past the front door, then made my way to the Delta counter which was all the way in the back of the check in hall. There didn't appear to be much before checkin at the airport, so I went through security. This was rather annoying because they have a sniffer and it was going very slow. The TSA also brought through several people in wheel chairs, which slowed things considerably as they had to get OUT of their wheel chairs and walk through the sniffer. Annoying more than anything, really. Once past security I grabbed a Coke and bought some lame book, The Charlemagne Pursuit" I think is what it's called, just to have something to do. I ended up reading about 100 pages of it. I'm not sure if I'll finish it or not, but it was nice to have. I probably would have read more BUT the film for this flight turned out to be Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I love Harry Potter! I caught a few pictures of the "action" on the ramp.
The flight was DL420. I subconsciously thought to myself if the flight number was indicative of the refreshments served on board...I was in Zone 4, seat 23C, so I boarded fairly early. This flight was slam full and it took a while to get everybody situated, though it was done with much more order than anything I've seen on LIAT. I saw a friend who had been on the flight from Dominica with me get on this flight. He was going to LA. We pushed back on time, and taxied all the way past the American Airlines terminal. There wasn't much action at the airport at this time of the day. Most of the American Eagle flights go out in the early afternoon. We jetted into the clear skies over San Juan, and toward home!
I purchased the fruit and cheese platter Delta had as one of their BOB options, and I must say it was pretty good, well worth the $6. I sat back and read for a little while before they started the aforementioned Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I had seen it a few times before (thank you Graboid video), but honestly, Harry Potter never gets old!
My seat-mates for this flight were a Flemish couple traveling home. The wife/girlfriend was reading a book in French, but it sounded to me like they were speaking Flemish to each other. I say Flemish because they had told me they were going home to Belgium. They could, however, have invested just slightly in some deodorant... The FA serving our section was fantastic! She was an older lady but was very pleasant and had an air of sophistication about here. I would've asked her how long she'd been working as an FA, but she was very busy, and Harry Potter had my attention!
We had some turbulence over South Georgia, and we made our approach over the western suburbs of Atlanta. On approach with us was a Delta 738. We landed on the South runways, it landed on the North runways. We did not land on the outer runway that runs over the Perimeter. It was a rather long taxi toward the terminal because the planes were landing in the direction of the E concourse, and that's where we left the runway. We slogged our way down to the T-side of Concourse A where we docked at A18 I believe. I was plane to baggage check in ten minutes, where my dad and brother were waiting on me. We had to wait a few minutes for my bag, and after the run incident in Puerto Rico I wanted to open up the bag and make sure that nothing else had broken. I didn't see any liquid stains, but the smell of rum nearly knocked me out when I opened the bag. Sure enough, another bottle had been broken. Oh well, life goes on. The good bottle intended for the following evening's festivities was intact!