The trip started out a little dicey, with me stuck at Pearson (Toronto) on Friday, with no end in sight. I'd been up since 3AM, unable to sleep for excitement, at the airport since just after 6AM. My flight didn't leave (supposedly) until 10:15 so I was happy with having plenty of time to navigate the ins and outs of the airport check-in, security and customs, as it was all fairly new to me. And then some, it seems.
I was flying United. I wouldn't recommend it.
Just before ten, they started boarding the flight. I'd just called the husband to say, "Hey, we're boarding, it's all good and I'll see you in a few days." Then they stopped us in the flimsy little tunnel that connects the gate to the plane and asked us to wait a few minutes. A 'few' (20) minutes later, they pulled everyone back up to the gate, saying there was a hole in the floor under the carpet ON the plane. I'm not sure how this was missed when the plane came in; holes don't develop overnight. They say it will take no time to fix.
The captain comes out rougly 30 minutes later and says that it's really indeterminate how long it will take and that it could be up to 4 hours or more. That man was so... so right. The women at the desk (who had opened their statements with "We're not concerned about your connections!") had anyone with checked baggage go *back* through Canadian customs, collect their baggage at the carousel and go back up to the United desk to book something else.
So I race back to customs, where I had a treat of a time trying to explain that no, I didn't leave the country; no, I really haven't come in a flight; yes, it's true, I've only been in Toronto! It wasn't until the customs agent heard several conversations around her with the exact same statements that she believed that the gate representatives had sent us back this way. I get the impression that this isn't standard protocol.
Bag in hand, I rush back to United's desk where they've promised additional staff to help us out. Additional staff must mean one extra wicket open. It took them almost 45 minutes to open up 4 ticket counters (total). I was lucky, my bag had been one of the first to drop onto the carousel, and I was about 10th in line. I had about 100 people behind me, and the line curved out into the concourse.
They rebook me but they can't get me a connection until 9:30PM, which meant getting into Madison around 11PM. So I call the friend who's picking me up, figure out how bad it is to get to Chicago. He starts driving. I tell the rep to forget about the connection, just get me there. So I'm on standby for a 3:30PM flight, and booked for 5PM.
In all this time, I haven't slept, I'm too wired, but I'm seriously flagging. I start to loose my shit a bit, and then I realize that I also haven't had anything to eat since the previous night Alright, back through American customs. "You've been through here once today." "Yes, my flight was canceled... only not."
You see, my original flight was not, in fact, canceled. They were still determined to repair the plane and get it moving. Damn good thing too, because the noon flight WAS canceled so those folks were also trying to get new flights out.
A few more back and forths with the US customs agent and she looks at me suspiciously, stamps my passport, and waves me through. I do the security again, and look at my boarding pass to find... I'm in the same gate. Well, at least I'm seeing new sights.
Some food investigation later, I sit my ass down at the gate and wait to hear if I've made standby. The flight I was originally supposed to be on has moved to the gate across the way and people from the 10AM flight, the noon flight, and the 3:30PM I'm on standby for are all scrambling to get on it because it's supposedly going to leave at 2PM.
It's a giant cluster fuck of people switching back and forth on flights, but I get told that I'm confirmed for the 3:30PM flight and get my boarding pass. I'm ecstatic. That 10AM flight that I was originally booked for? Left 5 minutes before the flight I switched to, simply because they got tower clearance first. I sort of collapsed into my seat, watched out the window for take off, then promptly passed out after having been awake for 12 hours at that point.
I made it to Chicago for just after 4:30PM. I was originally supposed to hit Madison, WI at 1PM.
The flights back were on time, no problems. The people in Madison were sweet, actually. I can only really complain about the manners of the folks I encountered in Chicago. When addressing customers, it is not appropriate to howl into the mic "HELLO! I'm talking to YOU! You need to MOVE TO [other gate]! NOW!" Especially since there had already been 2 gate changes, and still 2 hours to the flight. Also, talking over customers about how tired you are to that coworker behind the desk, not appropriate.