My wife and I, along with our two young children (five years old and seven months) had originally flown from Boston to Fort Myers on Delta airlines. Although the flight was somewhat delayed leaving Logan, the delay was understandable owing to weather conditions around March 17th in Boston. There had been an unexpectedly vigorous snowstorm throughout the evening of the 16th and well into the morning of the 17th.
On March 22, after enjoying our vacation in Florida, we attempted to fly back to Boston on Continental Airlines. This was to be accomplished by boarding a 4:30 flight from Fort Myers to Newark, followed by an 8:45 p.m. flight from Newark to Logan (flight 1198)
There were no weather problems to speak of in Fort Myers or Boston on that day. We would later find that a light rain was falling in Newark, but there was nothing that would seem capable of impacting air travel in any of the cities involved in our trip.
We arrived at the airport at around 3:45 p.m., and were told that our flight would be delayed with the result that we would assuredly miss our connecting flight. No explanation for the delay was offered, but we were told that Continental would try to get us on an earlier flight (flight 377), which was also delayed but which would be leaving Fort Myers within the hour.
About two hours later flight 377 finally took off, and we were happy to be aboard with a chance to make it back to Boston that same day. The woman at the check-in-counter and the stewardesses on the flight assured us that we would make our connecting flight to Boston, and that someone on the ground would help us. These assurances continued despite the fact that flight 377 was forced into a holding pattern at 8:40 p.m. that continued until around 9:20, for what the pilot himself described as mysterious reasons. The words of the pilot regarding our airborne delay were something very similar to the following: Well, ladies and gentlemen, as if to add insult to injury it looks like they're asking us to go into a holding pattern up here.it's a mystery to me why we have to do thisthere's only a light rain in Newark and certainly not a case of severe weatherlike I said, it's a mystery to me, and I apologize for the additional delay.
When we got to Newark we made the first person we saw aware that we needed to get to Boston, and they told us to get on a little golfcart-style vehicle which would get us where we needed to be, namely, terminal B. The golfcart only took us so far, however, and we were instructed by the person driving the transportation cart that we would have to board a monorail, or Air Train in order to get to Terminal B and our flight to Boston.
When we ascended the platform to access the air train, I noticed that the Departures/Arrivals monitors showed that the next departure for Boston appeared to be slated for 6:30 a.m. I asked a red-jacketed employee of the Port Authority if these monitors were always trustworthy, and he said that he was not completely sure.
Eventually we made it to Terminal B, but there was no flight departing from the gate that was listed on our Boarding Passes, nor any sign of a flight headed to Boston from any of the gates. In fact, the terminal was something of a ghost town. Finding an employee of Continental Airlines to speak with about our situation was difficult, but eventually we found a sort of crisis center downstairs in the lower level.
There we spoke to a heavyset woman who made it abundantly clear to us that, like it our not, we would in fact be spending the night in Newark. Because we had an exhausted six-year old and an infant with us, we hoped that perhaps we might obtain a hotel voucher for the night. The woman with whom we spoke told us that we should in fact be able to procure a hotel voucher for the evening, but that these could only be given out at the baggage claim center at Terminal C. This was a little bit disorienting, and something about it seemed strange, but after a little more discussion we packed up our carry on luggage and embarked once again on the laborious trek to the Airtrain to get back to Terminal C.
At Terminal C we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of stranded people betraying various levels of irritation and distress. One man was arguing vehemently with a bespectacled brunette of average height about his lost baggage. Other people were trying to get hotel vouchers as well. A surly young clerk informed us that we were not entitled to any form of complimentary overnight accommodation because the problems affecting our travel had been weather-related. Naturally we were quite upset by this turn of events, and we had a great deal of trouble constraining our emotional response to the complete lack of human compassion and common decency shown to us by the representatives of Continental Airlines.
The whole experience felt like something that might occur with some regularity in a Third-World country, but neither my fiance nor I had imagined that a respected airline like Continental could be accustomed to doing business in this way. The people from whom we tried to get help that night seemed to take a sort of perverse delight in communicating to us their own apathy, ignorance, and/or lack of accountability.
Eventually, however, we resigned ourselves to our degrading fate, and we attempted to make the children as comfortable as possible and to get some rest in a lonely corner of the airport. There was nothing to eat or drink in the terminal, nor anywhere suitable for reclining. Indeed the entire space seemed to have been explicitly designed to afford patrons as little comfort as possible in such circumstances. We spent a restless, thirsty, and somewhat frightening seven hours keeping vigil over our two young children.
The next morning at about 5:15 a.m, almost delirious with fatigue and subdued rage, we once again endured the humiliating passage through the dismal security gates to catch flight 1116. Finally we got home at about quarter to eight the next morning.
Hyde Park, Massachusetts