It was an early start to the day – up at 05:00 to catch the 05:30 shuttle to the airport. After the previous day’s experience with the shuttle we weren’t taking any chances. When dropping my bag at the baggage drop I was asked if I would like to take a later flight in exchange for a US$200 voucher. I immediately turned it down as I couldn’t see how that was going to work with two connecting flights following this; the final being international.
Once through security I had breakfast at the cafe at the side of it, though it was hard work asking them if they’d make it without egg. Their mother tongue was Spanish, and unfortunately their English was limited, though probably not as limited as my Spanish.
The first of my flights was to Houston and took 150 minutes to get there, though for the geographically inclined it might be noted that it’s in the wrong direction! This was because I couldn’t get a flight directly to a hub airport that would connect to Birmingham and so with what options were available the best option was to fly south first.
When I arrived in Houston I found my next flight had been delayed enough to mean I had only thirty-three minutes to get to my connecting flight out of Newark and on to Birmingham. By the time I’d spoken to the service desk to make sure this tight connection would still work it had then been delayed further meaning I had only seven minutes. The international flight wasn’t going to happen, or at least was unlikely to.
I spoke to the United service desk again, and they were less than helpful as they said they didn’t know how they operate in Newark, but then wouldn’t call them to find out. The best they could do was to put me on hold for another flight out of Newark, but it was one which would not include my checked luggage. Why it wouldn’t I had no idea as an extra thirty minutes should be enough to transfer a suitcase – it has been in the past.
After a while I decided to speak to a different United representative at the gate, and they told me the reservation was a waste of time as there was too little difference in time between them. Instead he got me a confirmed seat getting me from Newark to Heathrow – not the ideal airport, however it was a way back home. Whilst having this conversation with the service desk the flight was delayed by another sixteen minutes – proving I’d made the right choice.
The flight took off ninety-one minutes late and upon arrival I found that the flight to Birmingham had been delayed by forty minutes. There was a chance to make it. Thankfully some kind passengers let me in front to get off the plane quickly, though even with that and running to the gate it was closed when I got there.
However I still had a backup plan to put into effect – I went to the service desk, and got given a new ticket that would get me to London Heathrow instead. I just needed to get a seat assignment at the gate, which after a short wait was soon confirmed. I was going home.
It looked like the airline staff were pushed to their limits though in trying to cope with the situation caused by the high winds. A lot of passengers seemed unhappy with their seat assignments, but to their credit the staff kept their cool.
It was a long flight, but they served both dinner and breakfast during the course of it. For some passengers the faulty entertainment system was an annoyance for them that they continued to complain about. I’d seen the issue with the system though and potentially knew how to fix it – but doubted I’d be allowed to due to regulations; unlike the time I disinfected the computers on a ship in Antarctic waters.
For dinner I had one of the worst tasting curries I’ve ever come across, and for breakfast they served a croissant with a yoghurt. During the flight though I know I actually managed to sleep for at least thirty minutes based upon the songs playing from my phone that I’d missed.
United may not have been able to get me back to my starting location, but I’d finally made it back to England with my luggage. From a trip that had finished it’s first week with a break-in and it’s second week with a missed international connection. It was certainly an eventful trip, and in this time we’d hiked over ninety-five miles, and driven for many more. At least now though I’d seen everything I wanted to of California, and of Utah.