Monday, January 25, 2010

North Carolina Part Deux-Fini

I learned something on this trip: bad weather=more fuel needed=heavier plane. Airlines don't know what the weather on any given day is going to be in advance (would that they did... it would save a lot of us much trouble and worry), so all of the seats on any given flight are for sale, and sometimes all seats are booked (usually by people who actually want to get where they're going according to the timeline promised).

However if bad weather hits (storms, or as was the case all weekend: high winds and lots of turbulence in addition to snow or heavy rains), planes need more fuel, not only to fight the wind (as it takes more gas to drive against a strong wind, than it does to drive with the wind at your back bumper) but also against the possibility of having to circle airports because of weather related or other kinds of delays (as also happened this weekend).

So when an airline employee announces that a plane is oversold, it's not necessarily that they sold more tickets than seats (though I understand that does happen on occasion), it's more that the plane cannot ferry that many passengers safely on that particular day, under the current conditions. And that everyone who was slated to board, actually showed up (which doesn't always happen- connecting flights are missed, weather delays people coming in from other airports, people forget when they're supposed to leave, they don't allow enough time for security clearances... any number of reasons).

And when they ask for volunteers to defer their flights, they're giving people the opportunity to decide for themselves if the promise of free food and a free ticket is worth a later arrival. But mark my words, if no one volunteers, then the required number of people will be removed from the passenger list. It happens that I didn't hate remaining in Atlanta for an additional 7 hours on Friday. I wasn't thrilled about it, but there were families with children, and older folks and people who had important meetings they needed to get to. I wanted to be in Greensboro in the afternoon, but it was only imperative that I arrive before Saturday morning so I could hold my workshops with Barbara and my other new BFFs. Atlanta has a lovely, lively and interesting airport, and I now have safely stashed a  flight voucher that will get me just about any place I want to go for free. A fair enough trade.

All of this leads to last night, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I'd already spent a couple of bumpy flights, from Greensboro to Detroit (which has a gorgeous airport- with fountains and psychedelic light shows along the moving walkways, and lots of good food), and then Detroit to MSP (on the biggest plane I've ever flown- so much headroom that I couldn't reach my reading light without standing up).

It had been a long day, with progressively worse weather as I moved west and north, which was not totally unexpected. Greensboro had wind and rain. Storms in Atlanta caused flight cancellations (which made my mysterious Detroit connection a lot easier to accept- maybe airlines DO know what the weather is going to be in advance). Detroit had wind and snow. Minneapolis had snow and snow and snow and wind (and a Vikings game blasting from every monitor in the place- you didn't have to watch the game to know how it was going) (or how it ended).

When it was finally time to board in MSP, the agent regretfully announced that the flight had been oversold (code, I now know, for overweight) and asked for volunteers to stay overnight and fly out in the morning since that was the last flight of the day. They were offerring $300 flight vouchers (I wonder how they decide how much to make the voucher- I got $400 in Atlanta), meals and a motel. I called my husband to see what he thought about the deal ($700 in plane tickets would get us both just about anywhere we wanted to go together), but he had already left home for Aberdeen to run errands and he said that drive there had been hairy, and that he would rather I got on the plane if possible.

So I didn't volunteer. Three others did, however, and we boarded. And sat. And sat. And sat. And finally, the captain announced that we were still overweight and would two people like to volunteer to defer. Luckily, two people did, and we finally got off the ground, and into the bumpiest flight I've ever taken.

The puddle jumper that makes the run from Aberdeen to MSP is a small turbo jet. It doesn't fly nearly as high as the big jets, and it's much lighter, which means it jumps around a lot more in turbulence. Even smooth flights aren't smooth on that plane, and last night's was... well... not white knuckle, but also not sleep inducing.

We made it to Aberdeen about 30 minutes late, but intact, and deplaned to high winds, blowing snow, and cold (above zero, but nasty just the same, especially after a couple of mild days in North Carolina). The drive home was hairy indeed, with white-out blizzard conditions here and there. We rolled down our driveway at about 1:00am, and I collapsed shortly thereafter.

And this morning, it's blowing and snowing even more, which makes me wonder if those kind folks who gave up their seats so we could get home, will actually make it to Aberdeen today at all. I sure hope so.

It's good to be home, I'm pooped but with lots of wonderful memories. I also have about two weeks of work to do in the next 6 days, before I fly out to Yuma. Such is the life...

Oh, and I did a little knitting on earlier planes and in assorted airports...

Artfully posed on the carpet at MSP, Gate A9 - these yarns were purchased at the Sock Summit. I got the mate cast on, but then dozed for awhile before boarding (and there was no knitting on that bumpy flight)

P.S. We were lucky - the MSP flight to South Bend, IN at the next gate over, booted 10 people from its flight. Not all of them volunteered.


MorningGlory said...

Thanks for sharing all of your travel stories, woes, etc. As a homebody who would rather travel through your words..they are most enjoyable.And I keep learning new what 'overbooked' might mean. Interesting.

Melissa said...

I'm so glad you made it back okay! I was thinking about you yesterday and wondering how it was going.

And it's great to see your Sock Summit sock looks great! Hearing you talk about socks and seeing the ones you had on Saturday has made me want to pull out my tiny dpns and start in on another pair!

I'm so glad you came to NC and spent the day with us. It was amazing!!

Mary said...

I, too, live vicariously through your travels!!! A bumpy airplane ride would put me in the john for the entire trip. Whewww! I do love all the pictures you post. It ususally provides a sharp contrast to Maryland, where I now live, and western New York, where I was raised.

By the way, I just got your sock book from KnitPicks and absolutely love it. You really packed it with patterns. I'm glad to see that you used a lot of the KnitPicks yarn but also included some others for variety. I love the Nordic and Winter Blues socks. I also noticed that our local library has a couple of copies of your book. Way to go!

Mary Keenan said...

SO glad you had a safe trip and a fun workshop! I loved hearing all about it and seeing the pix :^)

Linda said...

Glad you're safe home. I don't always comment, but I do enjoy reading about your travels and various projects.

Kathleen Taylor said...

Thanks MorningGlory, Marys, and Linda! and Melissa- it was wonderful to meet you, and I am thrilled that you're considering socks! Woohoo!

Gramma Phyllis said...

Glad you made it home safe and sound. Loved the sock, that is the type that inhabit my sock drawer. BUT I wish there was a way to detour the weather away from the Great Lakes. We here in Western NY are getting tired of all the lake effect snow you keep sending our way.

grandma 13 said...

how do you get your knitting needles on the plane? I thought they would frown on that. Don't fly that much, but would love to bring my knitting along if I did. Glad you made it home safe and sound.

Kathleen Taylor said...

grandma 13- I've been in a lot of airports in the last 6 months, not a one has even looked at my needles, and I board with nickel sock dpns (sharp and pointy). I even have spares in my knitting caddy. I don't try to take scissors in my carry ons, but as for needles, they seem to be okay everywhere.

Barbara said...

What can I say? It was an experience of a lifetime! Can't wait 'til you come to NC again!!