Sunday, February 19, 2017

Simple KALB flight can lead to KAVL if not busy KCLT -Lauren R. Stevens

By Lauren R. Stevens

Williamstown — Arriving can be joyful. Failure to depart is a bummer. Under routine circumstances and others, you get to know your airports — even their three-letter abbreviations.

Washington's DCA, for example, is so busy they can't get all the airplanes to the terminal building, so for certain flights, including to ALB, you board a bus that takes you to a plane parked on the tarmac. ALB, Albany, is compact, straightforward, with interesting Shaker exhibits, other art, and a useful enclosed corridor, over the road, leading to parking.

AVL in Asheville, N.C., small, all on one level, has friendly TSA, such as the one who said, "See that guy over there in the white shirt?" (another agent). "Kick him in the knee." Jovial at 5:30 a.m.! In terms of reading the departures boards, it helps that ALB and AVL are at the top, together with Aruba (AUA) and Atlanta (ATL).

CLT, an American Airlines hub in Charlotte, N.C. is large and when you need to get from the farthest point on Concourse B, where flights from ALB tend to land, to one of the splint ends of E, the departure gate for AVL, in 15 minutes, it's a challenge in spite of the moving sidewalks. CLT's trademark is its rocking chairs, rows of them along the windows, much used and much appreciated. Oh, and the odor of Cinnabun as you sit in a rocker.

Not many months ago, a plane broke down in Rochester, I believe, which set off a cascade that left me in CLT with no direct way to ALB, which I should have reached by 2 p.m. Instead, via DCA, I arrived after midnight. I regret I do not have pleasant memories of the three-hour wait in DCA, eating CBP (cardboard pizza).

One time at AVL when taxiing toward the runway you could tell that, in spite of trying, the engines just wouldn't rev up. Always ominous when the pilot announces "a slight delay." In fact the `plane had to be towed back to the terminal, where passengers debarked. Plenty of time for a careful look at the artistic map of the western North Carolina mountains on the waiting room wall before a substitute plane arrived.

Or the time that the captain, going through his procedures, noticed a "slight mechanical problem." He sent for a mechanic who, unfortunately, was located an hour or two away. The return to the airport is always a downer for the passengers, but they tend to be stoic. After all, far better an engine failure while on the ground.

One time no flight attendants showed. Although several passengers volunteered to serve, all had to wait to board until an official crew could be rounded up.

Or the time in CLT when the flight to AVL was listed as delayed, further delayed, oops, canceled, theoretically for "service" but I suspect because it didn't have enough passengers. Six of us rented a car to complete the journey, after the alternative offered, via ATL, wouldn't get us to AVL until the next day. American made good, by the way.

It's amazing how many planes fly to AUA. I'll bet they never run into problems and that the airport there is lovely. Maybe they'd even let you be a flight attendant.

At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.


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