Act III: Leaving Texas
After the ordeal of getting to Houston for the holidays and our near-miss in actually being able to celebrate the holidays, the rest of the trip back to Texas was blissfully uneventful.
Our schedule had us flying out of D/FW in the wee early hours of Sunday morning, but I knew it was an easy drive to the airport, so I wasn’t terribly worried. However, due to a planning error that was entirely my fault, I didn’t have us leaving our friends’ place until what turned out to be a little too late. The drive to the airport was just as quick and painless as I had envisioned. But by the time we dropped off our rental car (which actually took almost no time at all) and were dropped off at the terminal by the airport shuttle, we ended up getting in line to check our baggage about a half an hour or so prior to our departure time. The problem was that if you were checking baggage, you had to have been processed no later than 45 minutes prior to departure time (security regulations and all that), meaning we—and a few others—had missed the cutoff time. And what this meant was that we were summarily bumped off of our original flight and shunted off to another line to be rebooked onto a later flight. (Our US Airways jinx for this trip lived on, apparently…)
The flights out of Dallas were showing as all-full (of course), so we got to hear those magic words once again: “flying standby”. Instead of flying through Philadelphia, our standby flight now had us connecting through Charlotte, where we would then pick up a flight from there to Manchester (our home base). So off we went to go sit around at the gate (again), hoping (again) that there would be a couple of available seats. But once again, our luck or karma or whatever held up, and just a few minutes prior to departure, we were called up and given seats on the flight. Amazing.
Once we got to Charlotte, our connecting flight (for which we were once again on standby) wasn’t leaving for a few hours, so we decided to stop by the US Airways customer service desk to see if maybe there was an earlier flight back home. And let me tell you, the difference between the US Airways customer service desks in Philadelphia and Charlotte was like night and day. Maybe it was the whole Southern thing, being in North Carolina and all, but the woman helping us out couldn’t have been friendlier or more accomodating. Oh, and competent—very, very competent, which in and of itself put her miles above and beyond Philadelphia. She said that there was an earlier departing flight, but (a) it connected through Philly, and (b) in the end, it didn’t get into Manchester any earlier. I muttered out loud, “I have no desire to ever fly through Philadelphia again”, to which she replied that she completely understood. It turned out there weren’t any earlier flights, but she was at least able to confirm seats for us on our current flight (yay, no more standby!).
I’m still very bitter about how we were treated by US Airways on our inbound journey through Philadelphia, but I am now at least partially convinced that it was the fault of the Philadelphia crew, not (necessarily) that of the airline as a whole. And all because of this one woman behind the customer service desk in Charlotte, NC.
Oh… the actual flight back home was completely uneventful and not noteworthy at all (i.e., the way a flight should be), and I am really looking forward to being able to fly out of Manchester’s airport again in the future.
Aside: While camped out in Charlotte’s airport waiting for our flight home (by the way, I think Charlotte is one of the nicer airports to be stuck in if you’ve gotta be stuck in an airport), I managed to fulfill one last quest that I’d somehow managed to miss while back in Texas: getting hold of some decent BBQ. Specifically, getting hold of some decent brisket. For whatever reason, people up in the Northeast just can’t quite get the hang of brisket—I’ve found decent ribs and pork and whatnot, but the last couple of attempts at brisket have been miserable failures. (I can tell you where not to go for brisket in northern MA and southern NH, however.) Anyway, one of the airport eateries advertised themselves as a BBQ joint, and given that I was still technically in the South, I figured it was worth a shot. And oh yesyesyes, some decent brisket. Better than decent, actually—it was the smoky, juicy, fall-apart-with-your-fork tender brisket that I have yet to find up here in New England. So yes, I will have pleasant memories all the way around about Charlotte’s airport.