Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A day in the life of a business traveller

My spirits are always buoyed at the thought of going home after a long trip. This morning was no different. Off to the St. Thomas airport I went with a spring in my step and a smile in my heart. As I approached the American Airlines counter I pondered how I was to get myself out of the middle seat on the Miami – LAX leg. You see, my itinerary was atrocious. In order to get home early I had to move carriers and fly AA. So the flight path was STT – San Juan Puerto Rico, then SJJ – Miami, then Miami – LAX. The Miami – LAX leg is 5.5 hours in the air.

Back to the middle seat – in the islands it is custom to greet people with Good (Morning, Afternoon, Evening). Hey, Hello or Hi is not appropriate. A lot of locals will not even acknowledge your presence unless greeted as such. Service quality often depends on your observance of this. I approached the AA ticket agent with the proper greeting and engaged her in polite banter. I’ve long learned that you can catch a better seat when procured with honey rather than vinegar. My diabolical plan worked and I was moved into my preferred aisle seat. You see, my ticket agent once flew to LAX in a middle seat with an arguing husband and wife on either side.

I had arrived in the STT with plenty of time to check in and clear customs because even though the US Virgin Islands are part of the United States, they aren’t treated as such. After clearing the way thru homeland security I relaxed at the gate. I wondered why the inbound aircraft hadn’t arrived yet. Turns out it was delayed over an hour from San Juan. This was bad. My connection in San Juan was tight and the connection in Miami, tighter still. I approached the gate agent with a humble demeanor as I really wanted to get home today. After much searching and rebooking it was deemed that yes, I probably would miss that connection in San Juan and I was rebooked with the following itinerary. STT – San Juan, SJJ – Dallas, DFW – LAX. Arriving 1 ½ hour later into LAX. She asked me to come outside with her to identify my bag for transfer. I followed her & while out of earshot of other customer’s she presented me with my new boarding cards. First class from SJJ to DFW. Ah, honey wins again.

After a very turbulent arrival in SJJ, I thought I would lose my breakfast at one point, I arrived at my gate for DFW. As I sat waiting I noticed a maintenance guy go thru the gate 19 door. I didn’t pay much mind as it was an hour before my flight. Then a little while later 2 maintenance guys strode purposefully past me thru gate 19. Hmmm I remarked. This is normally a bad thing. ½ hour later 3 more maintenance guys paraded thru the gate. Now I’m thinking either the plane is on fire or the lunch room is around the same corner. I stopped worrying until the captain showed up and didn’t go on the plane. Instead he grabbed a phone and I started to worry. When a captain doesn’t board his plane and you are to board in 20 minutes, it doesn’t bode well. Later we received an explanation that the battery in the aircraft was dead due to a power failure in that area of the field. Working in St. Thomas for a week, I’m familiar with power failures and other outages. It’s a way of life. Of the four external power carts, two were out of service and one was dead. The last was otherwise engaged. We would have to wait.

As I sit in First class sipping champagne and eating my warm nuts, I think about my luck today and wonder if I’ll make the DFW – LAX connection. You see, we left San Juan late….island time, baby.

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