The night before signing off the ship, I went to see the cast singers in Jazz Set for the last time. There were fewer guests in attendance than normal, but around 20 cast and crew-members showed up to support the singers. After hearing a fantastic set and enjoying my last cocktail in guest areas (a Washington Apple Martini), I changed clothes and went to the crew bar.
The cast and may of our other friends convened in the Staff and Officers Bar to watch the blooper reel… 5 minutes of mistakes on the stage, expertly but together by one of the guys in the cast. We then migrated downstairs to the main crew bar, and said our farewells, danced around, and sang at the top of our lungs. It was a great night, but considering we had cabin inspection at 5:45am, the party lasted a little too long!
I woke up at 5:00am to put myself together and do some last minute cleaning. By 6:00, I was waiting to go through immigration in Puerto Rico. We were loaded onto buses, one going to a hotel, the other going straight to the airport, and left the ship behind.
We arrived at the airport at about 8:00. I checked in my luggage, paying an obscene fee for a second, overweight bag. No one else was able to check in yet, so I waited outside security with my roommate and her boyfriend. When they were able to check in, we went through security and had one last drink together before I went to my gate. I was rushed onto the plane, and promptly fell asleep.
When I awoke, I was shocked to hear an announcement about landing. “Wow!” I thought, “I must have really been tired! I slept the whole flight!” Next, there was a video thanking us for flying American Airlines, and asking us to choose them again. The other passengers started laughing, but I was too disoriented to understand why. The next announcement cleared up the confusion. The head flight attendant came on the speaker, apologizing for returning to San Juan. The captain had noticed an “electrical smell”, so they decided to turn around and have the plane inspected, rather than risk flying for another 5 hours. As it turns out, I was only asleep for 30 minutes.
We disembarked the plane and were instructed to stay near the gate, in case there were any updates. Two hours later, they announced that the plane was being taken away from the gate for more tests, so I decided I had time to go find my friends. As I figured, they were still at Margaritaville. I walked up as my roommate and her boyfriend were saying goodbye. They were both shocked and confused at the sight of me! They told me where other cast members were eating, so I was able to go find some more friends. After communicating only with my phone for hours, it was nice to have some face-to-face contact.
I was getting antsy being far away from my gate, so I soon returned to see if there were any updates. I had missed nothing but a hand out of meal vouchers, but I still decided to stick around. I spent most of the next two hours talking with my Serbian beau. He was more disturbed by the situation than I was! After 4 hours at the airport and a series of inconclusive tests, we were loaded back onto the plane for a second attempt.
Once again, I fell asleep before takeoff, and once again, I awoke to an announcement about landing. This time, however, I was coherent enough to check my watch and saw that, again, we’d only been gone for 30 minutes. The head flight attendant came on the speaker and announced that we were returning to San Juan again, because the captain and some passengers had noticed the unusual electrical smell again. Once we were off the plane, other passengers said that they had actually noticed smoke coming from the cockpit. Whether or not this is true, I can’t say.
Passengers immediately started queuing at the ticket counter. Many of them had connecting flights, and had already been rescheduled 3 or 4 times throughout the day. I got in line, assuming we wouldn’t take off again that night. I called my parents, and learned that the computers were already showing that the flight would leave the following morning. 15 minutes later, that announcement was finally made, and we were instructed to see the ticket agents for hotel vouchers for the night. I got on Facebook while I was waiting and learned that my roommate and another friend from the ship were also delayed. I sent them a message with my gate number, and they waited in line with me for another 45 minutes.
All 3 of us were stressed and tired, so as soon as I got my hotel voucher, we went back to Margaritaville for a glass of wine. I waited with them until their plane boarded (7 hours late), and then went to the airport hotel. I was thinking the rest of the night would be easy, since the hotel was across from the American check in counter, but I was mistaken.
Upon arrival at the front desk, I was told that only 63 rooms had been booked, and they were already full. That was the last straw. After a long, stressful day, I finally lost my composure and started tearing up. The man working at the desk very kindly told me that the woman at the American counter could send me to a better hotel, so not to worry. I went to speak with her, was sent back to the hotel with a few more questions, and then was given alternate arrangements.
While she was making phone calls, I was told to sit and make myself comfortable. The only place for me to sit, however, was on one of the luggage scales! Probably because I was past the point of exhaustion, the scale was quite comfortable. About 10 minutes later, the woman handed me a voucher for the Marriott Courtyard 5 minutes away, a voucher for dinner and breakfast at the hotel, and 2 cab vouchers, one to take me to the hotel, and one to bring me back in the morning.
I went to the taxi stand, and again was forced to wait. Apparently, taxi drivers don’t like accepting vouchers because they don’t get paid right away. 3 cabs were filled before I finally was allowed in one. I had to wait for other guests going to the same hotel, so the driver would take me without complaint.
Once I got to the hotel, things got much better! I was given more coupons, two for the cocktail of the day, and one for the casino. Since I was so tired, I didn’t use any of them! I scheduled two wake up calls and inquired about the availability of cabs in the morning before I went upstairs to my room. The hotel was under renovation, and I could tell my room had recently been worked on. It was immaculate! I had two double beds, a large television and desk, a stark white bathtub, and a large bathroom. After speaking with my parents and my beau, I took a shower and crawled into bed.
At 5:00 the next morning, I woke, certain that the worst was over. There was a cab waiting for me when I went downstairs, and there was no line at the airport. I had left my luggage checked in the night before, since my flight number was still the same, so I breezed through check in and security. I was the second person to arrive at the gate for the 7:30am flight. Around 8:00, there was an announcement. The new plane that they’d flown in for us last night had mechanical issues, and they were waiting on a replacement part to arrive. There was no estimated departure time yet.
Rumors began circulating that it was actually the same plane that we’d already been on twice. I was not convinced by the conspiracy theories, but was not feeling comfortable with the prospect of another damaged plane. I called the crew travel hotline, and asked if they could put me on a different flight. The woman I spoke with was very nice, but she said since I was already checked in, they were unable to change my flights. I went to get some breakfast, and tried to be patient. I knew that I had no reason to get too worked up, since unlike most of the other passengers, I had nothing that I needed to get home for. There were many passengers missing school and work, so although I was frustrated, I comforted myself with the idea that it could be worse.
At 10:00, we finally boarded the plane. It was, in fact, a new plane, and this time, the flight was successful! At about 1:30pm, we landed in Dallas. Since I had gotten used to everything going wrong, I was surprised when my luggage showed up! My mom met me at the airport, and we stopped at one of my favorite restaurants on the way home. After the flight from hell, it felt great to be home!
Over the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to get a letter from the airline apologizing for the whole ordeal. They also awarded me bonus points to go towards a future flight. While this gift doesn’t change the past, it was a nice gesture, and does restore some of my confidence in them. I’m looking forward to using those points later on my vacation! For now, however, I’m happy to be home.