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.