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April 30, 2007

Excuse of the Day

I’m stuck in an airport with no WiFi and I can’t get out.

Last week posting was a little light while I was sailing although I did find usable WiFi every night but one thanks to my superpowerful Ubiquiti card and antenna.  Due to sparse Sunday ferry schedules,  I got to the Saint Thomas airport (STT) at eleven AM for my 2:50PM flight which was fine by me.  I was apprehensive about my connection in Philadelphia because the US Air flight from Saint Thomas has been seriously late almost every day for the last two weeks (too much information is a bad thing) due to late inbound equipment.

Although I couldn’t find usable WiFi, I was delighted to see the inbound flight roll in on schedule to the minute.  I repacked my laptop, arranged a book where it would be easy to get onboard, located my boarding pass, and sauntered towards the gate a decent interval after the last inbound passengers disembarked. Just about then the speaker crackled as the gate agent raised it to his lips.

“Attention everyone in the boarding area for US Air flight 1012 to Philadelphia; there is a problem with the equipment.  We’ll have an update for you in half an hour.”  The captain was behind the counter on the phone to a maintenance base.  I tried to eavesdrop but the terminal was too noisy.  He was communicative, though, after he got off the phone.

“An access panel fell off.  Wouldn’t kill anybody or anything but can’t fly it that way.  Didn’t know until we were taxiing in.”  He didn’t explain where this access panel used to be located.  After a few more calls, he told us that it wasn’t something that can be fixed here. Hard to  believe that a 767 is going to stay here forever but it sure isn’t going anywhere tonight.

There are no flights out of STT – even to Puerto Rico – available on any airlines until Tuesday.  So US Air is allegedly sending another plane down which will depart here at 11:10PM and arrive in Philly about 3:30.  US Air is gonna provide hotel rooms there but no specifics.  Now please line up for rebooking of connections.

Long very slow line but I’m near the front.

Whoops, no flights available all day tomorrow from Philly to Burlington, VT.

Cell phones worked on and off when the system wasn’t overloaded by 206 stranded fellow passengers and, in parallel with the agent trying to fly me and some other Vermonters to Albany and bus from there to Burlington, she was on the case and did a better job.  No Continental Airlines flights from Newark to Burlington tomorrow, either – last week was school vacation; but she booked me on JetBlue for early tomorrow morning.

I booked a Hertz in Philly for 4AM and plan to drive over to JFK just before the traffic begins.  If this all works, you may see this post tomorrow.  If not, it’ll  be even longer before you see it.

Some of the pillars have electricity and I’ve seized a seat near one so my cellphone and computer will stay alive.  Can’t leave the airport to look for WiFi because this is a sort of international flight and customs is closed for the night so there’d be no way back in.  Wait!  My cellphones says 1X; that usually means I can use Verizon wireless for data.  The 1xEVDO card is in the slot.  The software sees the network; it connects…but it can’t authenticate.  Tech support verifies in only seven minutes that the network operator in St. Thomas doesn’t support data roaming.  Wonder if they charges me roaming for the 611 call?

Our boarding passes are usable as $10 vouchers at the only coffee shop this side of customs but they ran out of food.

Oh yeah, while I’m complaining.  I’m very itchy and am not someone you would want to sit next to on a plane even if the plane were on schedule.  I got tangled up with a reef yesterday and properly punished for endangering the coral.  The red spots have turned into little yellow bubbles. 

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