Wednesday, December 31, 2008

5. Are Planes or Trains the only choices?

Having just spent a total of three days traveling to and from Maine, when the original plan had only been to spend two (one each way), a little comment seems appropriate. Particularly since it includes a mode of transport that has not got a lot of recognition in the discussions of our collective energy future.

We left our home and had a two-flight connection up to Maine for Christmas. When we got to Detroit, on the Sunday, there appeared, at first, to be no problem – we reached the gate for the connecting flight and were settling in for the hour wait, when we noticed that a line was forming at the desk. A quick bit of eavesdropping and it appeared the flight was cancelled. Checking around and one of the women in the line I hastily joined commented that she had already spent a day in the airport since her flight from Saturday had been oversold, and she was still trying to get on a plane. Looking at one of the departure screens I saw flight after flight into the North East being cancelled.

Long story short – we could find no chance of the carrier (Northwest Airlines) being able to put us on a plane to our original destination before, at the earliest, Wednesday. And there were no promises that we would not be spending the entire season camped out at Detroit Airport. So instead I had them put us on the last flight to Boston that night. (Boston Airport also has an efficient conga line.

We spent the night at a local hotel there, and the following morning checked for ways back up North. Planes – not a chance, trains – well there was one as far North as Portland, but it was rapidly filling up – so how about a bus?

It turned out that Concord Coach has a service that leaves Logan Airport every hour. So we toddled back over there and waited for the 11:25 bus. It came, but it was already full. So here is the difference between planes, trains and buses – the driver of the bus got on the phone and told us waiting folk that there would be a second bus along to pick us all up in 20 minutes. Yep they put on an additional bus (and maybe a second, since there were still folk waiting when we climbed on that relief coach).

There was no hassle, the seats were comfortable, as was the coach, we just got on and drove off. The terminal in Portland was clean, and the folk very friendly in dealing with the additional influx of folk, and it was a whole lot cheaper than the plane (except that we had already paid for that). Net result we got to our destination about 24 hours late – but we did make it.

On the way back today we again ran into an ongoing problem at Detroit – all our flights, and those of several other folk on the plane – have relatively short times to make the connection from the first plane to the second. Yet each time we get to Detroit we have had to wait for about 15 – 20 minutes while they find someone to attach the jetway to the plane. Luckily (Ha!) this afternoon the connecting flight was also delayed so we did make it . . . but still.

And now, only three-quarters of an hour late we are home, after a most enjoyable Holiday, hope that you had one too.


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