Posted 6/12/19 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Every time that Lisa and I have to board an airplane, I always remember that old saying of “when you have time to spare, go by air.”
This past week, we headed to Phoenix, Ariz., to attend our son Justin’s graduation ceremonies from his internal medicine residency at The Mayo Clinic before he begins his next year’s duties as a chief resident. It was another proud day for us as we watched Dr. Shipman make his way across the stage as he ended one step and began another in fulfilling his dreams of becoming a cardiologist.
The flight to Arizona should have been an early indication to us that all was not to go smoothly. Our scheduled departure was delayed as the plane arrived late to Williston and was overbooked on its flight to Denver. Which meant that the crews didn’t have time to clean and restock the plane. And of course, it also meant we had to sit through the long process of the airline trying to coax people to give up their seats in exchange for future travel vouchers.
Fortunately, we made it to Denver with just enough time to make our flight to Phoenix. And our brief trip to Phoenix was everything that we could have asked for except for the 100+ degree temperatures.
But our return flight back to Williston on Saturday didn’t go near as well.
To say that it was a complete breakdown would be an understatement.
It started in Phoenix, when just pulling away from the terminal, our pilot announced that a storm at the Denver Airport resulted in no planes arriving or leaving for about an hour. That definitely presented us with a problem as we had a 45 minute window in Denver to catch our plane to Williston.
Needless to say, after taxiing the plane back to the airport and deplaning we finally got back into the air about an hour late. The airline staff told us there was good and bad news for those of us with close connection times. The good news was that since our plane joined a long list of other planes that couldn’t get into Denver, there was a very good chance, our connecting flight’s departure would also be delayed.
But as we would soon learn there was more bad news than good news to follow.
The first piece of bad news, as we would ultimately learn, is that our flight from Denver to Williston was impacted by the delays but actually left early.
After unloading in Denver, we joined thousands of travelers at the service counters trying to find alternative flights to their destinations.
In our case, more bad news. There were no flights with open seats flying into Williston until Tuesday. (It’s great to be in the Heart of the Bakken.)
We could, our service counter person said, choose to fly standby with no guarantee of getting on a flight or choose to fly into some other airport. Again, more bad news. There were no open seats flying into Dickinson, Minot or Bismarck. But we could fly into Jamestown or Devils Lake or Billings, Mont., as well as Sioux Falls, S.D.
We chose standby with the Billings option. Unfortunately, as we later learned, our helpful customer service representative failed to confirm our standby seats and had Lisa flying to Billings and me to Jamestown.
We knew that it was going to be a long night.
Then we remembered our checked baggage. The airline told us that since we no longer had a flight, it was sitting in a room. More bad news, the wait to retrieve the luggage could be up to two hours.
So, with nowhere to go and not being able to find a hotel room, Lisa and I braced ourselves for spending a long and miserable evening sitting in the Denver airport.
But after spending hours bumping into bad news after bad news, we finally got our break from the last customer service representative around 1 a.m. She was able to confirm our standby seats to Williston and even provided us with some blankets, water and snacks.
But more importantly, she told us that three of the passengers who were booked on the flight to Williston also missed their connections due to the delays in Denver and couldn’t possibly make the 7:55 a.m. flight on Sunday morning.
So with bloodshot eyes and sleep deprived, we finally arrived in Williston on Sunday morning safe and sound.