"Philadelphia then LA."
"Hmm... hold on, the Philadelphia flight has been delayed and we'll need to rebook your connection."
Never a good start, especially to a 2-day, 7,000-mile trip. When I booked my plane tickets, I deliberately left some wiggle room in case things went wrong. Wow, am I glad I did that. Before even passing through security, the agent had booked me on a later flight from Philly to LA. A one hour delay didn't really concern me.
It was when the delay expanded to 3 hours I began to worry. Air traffic control in Philadelphia just kept pushing my flight out of Burlington back little by little. All I can say is, thank goodness the Burlington airport has WiFi. As the minutes and hours peeled away, it semed that our flight would take off around 2:30pm (as opposed to the original 11:30am). With my new connecting flight to LA scheduled to leave at 4:05, I knew it would be tight.
After finally boarding the plane and getting out to the runway, the captain came on the air with "some unfortunate news." Air traffic control had pushed our departure time back yet another 20 minutes. At this point, the prospect of making my LA connection looked bleak at best. As promised, we took off 20 minutes later, but we ended up in a holding pattern over Philly for another 30 minutes. At 4:10, I ran off the plane to check on the LA flight, only to be met by a gate agent who handed me a ticket for my new flight at 6:00. All that wiggle room I had left was now gone. It was this flight or bust.
I grabbed myself a Philly steak (what else could I eat?) and camped at the gate, praying that my bags would be correctly re-routed to arrive in LA with me. At this point, things got significantly better. Upon boarding, I was pleasantly suprised to find that I was in an exit row with 4 feet of legroom. The flight took off on time (or close to it), and I even got to chat with a few computer chip salesmen returning home from a business trip in Stockholm and our flight attendant, Joe, who's been working for US Air (formerly Allegheny Airlines) for 30 years. All in all, it was a comfortable flight.
I'm now safe and sound in a hotel nearby the LA airport, where I will be returning tomorrow bright and early to fly first to Hawaii and then to Samoa. Travel day one - success.