A Postcard From Airport Hell

In what has been a week of travel mishaps, two scribes are coping with the pitfalls of modern travel. Earlier in the week, Politico‘s Roger Simon, en route to Iowa, had his luggage lost courtesy of United. For a good 24 hours it was touch and go whether or not Roger would ever see his underwear again. Thankfully the airport delivery service brought his bag to his hotel. Apparently when he called the 800-number they scoured O’Hare Airport for his bag and found it.

By Monday night Roger was already cracking jokes.

“Yes, I was reunited (no pun intended. or maybe so) with my luggage after journalists far wiser than me said to tweet about it with @united in message. Allegedly United actually monitors tweets. Could this be true? I don’t know, but Andrea Mitchell was gracious enough to tweet back that I could still do her show Tuesday with a two-day beard and old clothes. So I still love the Friendly Skies. And I probably won’t whine about anything else for several hours.”

All in all, a happy ending: “I am reunited with my underwear,” he said by email. “And it gave everybody a chance to tell me stories about when Kerry/Bush/Mondale etc. lost their luggage.”

But on Tuesday Agence France-Presse’s Olivier Knox was not in such uplifted spirits. He left his in-laws home near Philly in duress — meaning his son Nibbles was sobbing about his father being in Des Moines for his birthday. But that was just the beginning of the reporter’s rocky road. Knox’s original Delta flight at the airport? Canceled. He sprinted to catch a new flight. This seemed promising until high winds caused further delays. Next up: While waiting on the tarmac, a woman brought onto the plane in a wheelchair turns violently ill. A seizure perhaps? She must be taken off the plane. The oxygen they gave her on board requires extensive paperwork. This means a roughly two-hour delay.

Knox is appropriately respectful about the ailing woman. “She was definitely having a worse year end than I am,” he deadpanned in a phone interview today with FBDC. He said it was the first time in his 41 years of travel that he’d ever heard flight attendants make a formal request for a doctor on the plane to please get to the back.

Once the flight landed in Detroit, Knox’s connector to Des Moines was — you guessed it — long gone. It was late evening. The airlines booked him a hotel room at the Sheraton. Knox admits he made a rookie travel mistake: “I did not have all my toiletries. I feel like I should apologize to my plane mates.” But looking on the bright side, he said,  “I’m fine. I’ve had my five shots of espresso this morning so I’m in okay shape. The guy who tried to jump the line in Starbucks this morning made it within an inch of his life.”

On a more professional note, Knox expressed concern about coverage. “All of this would be funny except that I think the boss is a bit annoyed that I’m not in Des Moines,” he said. “Frankly, I’m annoyed that I’m not in Des Moines. I’m worried about getting to Des Moines in time to file stories.”

At some point Simon weighs in on Knox’s situation and remarks, “I would rather walk than take Delta. Your experience is one reason why.”

Amusing Knox tweets from the past 24 hours include the following: 1. “I don’t mind gate changes. I mind unannounced, no-one-with-a-Delta-tag-can-help gate changes. Phone rep ultimately helped.” 2. “Day Two of “Get Me To Des Moines.” Your move, Delta.” 3. “Waddayamean “you’re not in the system” ?????!!!!!?????” 4. “CNN panel show blaring right now at Detroit Airport. Like a dinner party to which you want to serve the tainted salmon mousse.” 5. “If you’re just tuning in, I’m on Day Two of trying to get to Iowa. Apologies for the narcissism, trivial jetsam, and travel rage.”

Knox’s flight is scheduled to leave Detroit today at 12:20 p.m. “I don’t want to jinx it,” he said. “Who knows where my checked bag is? Allegedly it is on this flight.” In a somewhat breezy tone, he added, “Fairly routine disastrous air travel experience. You have to laugh a lot.”

(We’ll check in with him again when he reaches Iowa.)