Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
On Wednesday I finished my work in Houston and headed early to the International Airport intending to use free wifi to do work while waiting for my flight. I was shocked to find that it’s the only international airport in a developed country that I’ve visited that doesn’t offer free wifi! I regretted the early arrival as I waited 5 hours for my flight.
I had been watching a family, the mother was waiting at the desk for a response from airline staff, the father was sitting down, the 3 young children were running around. The children had a much bigger range than I would allow but the mother was clearly busy and not paying attention. Finally a nanny appeared who made an inconsequential attempt to reign in the children but she too seemed spaced out and they ignored her. Finally my American Airlines flight to Los Angeles was ready for boarding. I boarded before the family and then watched as the spaced out mother and nanny walked onto the plane with only 2 of the children. It took another passenger to tell them that one of their children was still running around the terminal. I wonder when they would have noticed! It was the father who dashed off the plane to capture their youngest son.
I was surprised by the casual attitudes of the staff to customer service but the 3 hour flight was comfortable enough. We landed in an old part of the airport at LAX and waited for a bus to a building where we waited for another bus to the other terminal. No announcements were made and we arrived at the main terminal over 45 minutes late. I had been texted while in Houston letting me know that my connecting flight to Sydney (QF108) was changed and my husband called the Australian number for me to discover that it was delayed by 2 hours.
I found the proposed gate for QF108 but was concerned to find no Qantas staff in attendance nor any signs that the flight would depart from there. As the time arrived for the delayed boarding (1:30 am) we were told that a further delay of 4 hours was unavoidable due to a technical fault with the air conditioning. The 300+ disgruntled passengers found as much comfort as possible in the uncomfortable and insufficient number of seats in the terminal. We tried to get warm in the air conditioned building but were not given blankets and pillows until 5am. We were told that no hotel rooms could be found for us in all of LA! When the flight was further delayed until 2pm I asked if we could all access the Qantas business lounge but was told that it was not possible.
I had a voucher to use the lounge so I finally gave up my socialist ideals and went in there and took the last seat, where I attempted to make a bed, and got as much sleep as possible considering the lights and noise of unhappy passengers. The lounge was very crowded but a vast improvement on the terminal building because there are hot showers with towels, toilets and food and drinks served there. As 2pm approached we were told that there were further delays due to the inability to gather a rested crew to staff the plane. We were then offered access to hotel rooms for 5 hours before needing to return to the airport. My hotel was in Long Beach California so rather than waste time sleeping I took the opportunity of a mini vacation, had a shower, donned my bikini and enjoyed the sunshine while I explored the beach and marina.
We finally boarded our flight nearly 24 hours late and had a comfortable flight across the Pacific Ocean. As we approached Sydney airport we discovered that it was closed due to fog and were diverted to Brisbane to take on more fuel. I took that opportunity to assert that I only had carry-on luggage and that Sydney was not my final destination so I was allowed to leave the aircraft and catch the next flight home.
I do not believe that no hotel rooms were available in LA and I think it is more likely that the prices were higher than Qantas was willing to pay. I do not think that Qantas provided a good level of information or service. I was credited with 10,000 frequent flyer points as compensation but that is worth less than $100. I do not think that is sufficient compensation for the discomfort, cold and sleep deprivation that we endured.