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Mike Cline: Flight plans go awry

Permit me to share a few facts about a commercial airport in the state of Maine ó Bangor international Airport.
Now, first of all, Iím a bit puzzled as to why the word ěInternationalî is part of the airportís name, as no flights depart for or arrive from any location outside the United States. Maybe they believe the word ěInternationalî looks good on all the signs. Beats me.
In fact, on any given weekday, the airport has only nine arrivals and nine departures, all going to or coming from either New York, Philadelphia or Detroit. On Saturdays and Sundays, the total swells to 10 in and 10 out. And all flights are pretty much the smaller ěshuttleî aircraft size, 80 seats or less. Only two carriers, Delta and US Airways, service Bangor.
But I want to state for the record, that of all the commercial airports I have flown into or out of in my life, Bangorís airport is my all-time favorite. It has a nice feel to it. It isnít as tiny as one would think, considering the small amount of traffic it serves. As a plane lands, one can see itís pretty spread out. The facility has three gates for passengers. Strangely enough, the gates are not numbered 1, 2 and 3. I guess that would be too easy. The gate numbers are 1, 2A and 2B.
For passengers being picked up or being dropped off, their ride can pull right up to either of the front doors and park. No one runs out the door blowing a whistle and screaming at you to move your car. You walk in the front door, and there is the check-in desk. Here you can get your boarding passes, and you can check any baggage. Then itís up the escalator to the restrooms and a variety of shops, including several places to eat.
The security area is upstairs as well, complete with a very healthy-looking German shepherd attached to one of about six TSA agents. All the agents are all friendly and courteous. I donít know about Rin Tin Tin. We have remained strangers.
Last month, Bangor International Airport served as a destination for wife, Julie, and me. It was our third venture to the ěVacationlandî State in the past year. The first two trips were, for the most part, uneventful. This time was anything but.
Our itinerary was pretty simple: Charlotte to Philadelphia, one-hour layover to change planes, Philly to Bangor. Total time in the air was to be 21/2 hours. Not bad for a destination 900 miles away.
Mrs. C and I pulled out of our driveway at 8:30 a.m. for the Charlotte airport. Plenty of time. The plane doesnít leave until 11:20 a.m.
I figured we would get bogged down in heavy commuter traffic on the interstate, but we didnít, so we pulled into the airport parking deck around 9:20 and jumped onto the shuttle bus. We were in the terminal by 9:35.
I had already checked us in online, and we werenít checking any bags, so straight through the TSA security and a walk to our gate, naturally at the very extreme end of the concourse. I like those moving walkways they have in the airport. They come in really handy. Iím always tempted to cut a flip as I reach the end. But so far, a guardian angel at the last second has stopped me from being scraped off the concourse floor and taken to Presbyterian Hospital.
So, weíre at our departure gate by 10, a full hour before boarding. Looking good.
Things changed 45 minutes later. An intercom voice stated that ěboarding for service to Philadelphia will be delayed 15 minutes as ěmaintenanceî is correcting a situation on the aircraft.î
Why canít they just say the airplane is broken? But then, to end the bad news on a comforting note, we were told that the plane will still arrive in Philly in time for everyone on board to make their connecting flights. OK, not that big a deal, until …
An updated announcement said that ěmaintenanceî will need up to an hour to fix the aircraft situation, and that any passenger making a connecting flight in the City of Brotherly Love should proceed to Customer Service across from gate C-6 for assistance. Of the 300 or so passengers booked, Iím guessing 286 of us had to make a connecting flight, because after all, who would want to stay in Philadelphia?
So Julie sat with our bags, and I high-tailed it to get the help so desperately needed. Many of the passengers ran faster than I, so I watched as they immediately shattered the Olympic track and field records set by Jesse Owens getting to the help desk. I found myself in the canes-and-walkers section, chatting with other disgruntled customers. We listened to the two US Airways ladies talking with many of the folks ahead of us. They explained the alternatives to the people, and most seemed to be satisfied with their new schedules. It was a 30-minute wait before I arrived at the counter.
ěOK, where are you going?,î she asked.
ěBangor,î I answered.
ěOh, that may be a problem. Bangorís not easy to re-schedule,î she said.
She attacked her keyboard and quickly informed me that the remaining connecting flights to Bangor from Philly were full. She tried Philly to Portland. Full. She tried Philly to Augusta. Full. She started to check Boston. I said no. Thatís four hours to our destination.
The lady then said she could get us on a later flight to Philadelphia that afternoon and get us out on the first Bangor flight at 7 the following morning.
ěNo thanks, not interested in spending the night in Philadelphia,î I told her.
She then suggested rebooking us for our original schedule the next day, and we could go home and start over tomorrow.
Just as I was about to accept her offer, she said, ěWait!î I can do this for you. ěI can put you on a 1:30 p.m. flight to New York arriving at 3, and I can confirm you on Deltaís NY to Bangor flight at 9, arriving at 10:15 tonight.î
She added that she realized we would be sitting in LaGuardia for six hours, but she said that even though US Airwaysí two flights to Maine, one at 4 and one at 7 were full, we could go to the gates and try to get on via ěstand-by,î and we might get to Bangor sooner than 10:15.
This lady was a good saleswoman. I took her offer. Figuring we would get to Maine at 10:15 anyway, that was seven hours later than our original booking, and after all that had happened in the previous hour, that wasnít so, so bad.
So, it was New York City, here we come. As I walked backed to our original gate, I had the thought that the lady would probably get off work around 5, and by the time we were to board our 9 flight, she would have already downed four or five wine coolers and wouldnít know what day it was, much less what time.
We were delighted that the flight to LaGuardia was on time and without incident. So there we were, heading towards the departure gate for the 4 p.m. flight out, hoping that a little payback luck would surface, and weíd get on via stand-by, arriving in Maine in time for the homemade lasagna that was waiting for us.
Iíll spill it right now, that we didnít have lasagna for dinner that evening, and our plight worsened. But that will have to wait.
Mike Cline lives near Salisbury. His website, ěMike Clineís Then Playing,î documents all the movies that were played in Rowan County from 1920 through 1979.

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