August 20th 2012, our flight leaves at 8:10AM from SFO Domestic Terminal on US Airways to PHL and then a connecting flight from PHL to MUN and finally one last connection from MUN to ATH.
I wont say it was a bad omen because I don’t believe in that sort of thing and it definitely worked out at least initially to be a good thing. When our friend dropped us off we didn’t realize there were two Embassy Suites in South San Francisco. We were at the wrong one. Since Susan had done us a huge favor I didn’t want to call her back and ask for another ride so I asked the hotel staff if we could take the shuttle to the other hotel. Instead the woman at the front desk put on her customer service hat and called a car service free of charge and had us driven to the other hotel. When we arrived at the proper hotel we got to our room and started sorting out the bags. A knock comes at the door and the front desk had sent up a complimentary bottle of champagne. This is 100% awesome and what could have been a very shitty situation turned out to be a pretty good one. We went off to bed for a 530/600 AM departure to SFO.
SFO at 600AM is a total cluster already. There are people in every line. There are lines to get in lines. The security there is already on edge and new age hip business people are out in full force asking for ridiculous things from the front counter. We were able to check our lone bag relatively quickly and wandered to the security line. It was EPIC. A, “no joke you needed to get here two hours early because of security lines,” line. I did not have my preferred flyer card on me but it did say I had preferred status on my boarding pass so I went to the 1st class security line. When I got to the front I started to explain, “You see I don’t have my card but I have this, and you see she is with me, so, if I could just get…” Before I could finish even a coherent thought the fed up old asian lady working for TSA waved Shana and I through to the front of the security line. This was good news because I needed breakfast.
We land in PHL with time to spare. Being cautious Shana and I head straight for our departure gate even thought it doesnt leave for 2 hours. You never know. Sometimes when switching from domestic to international flights the airport will make you go back through security. Luckily none of this was the case so Shana and I got to grab a solid dinner at Chickie’s & Pete’s in the int’l terminal. Shana also got to try her first Yeungling beer. With 30 min to go before boarding, we head to our gate, ready to crash on the plane and wake up in Munich.
The boarding gate crew in PHL was definitely not clear on the concept of an international flight. Announcing everything in english only and then getting upset that the all of the old hard of hearing German people didn’t get that they weren’t in Zone 1 for boarding. We eventually got on the plane and sat at the gate, “waiting for a logbook” according to the captain. This was false. What was really going on was that there was a malfunction in the cockpit computer system. Our flight was moved from a 630PM departure to an 800PM departure.
We reboarded. Taxi’d out to the take off strip. And waited. Deplaned and back at the Gate, now with our departure time slowly drifting off in to the night. Now at 10:30. Now knowing for certain we were going to miss out connection from Munich to Athens we sprinted to the service desk where there was one person to now help the expanding line of very, very unhappy travelers. And she was new… as in, not entirely certain what she was doing. (We’ll come back to that later).
The maintenance team for the plane had to replace a circuit board in the cockpit computer which caused another computer system (The PES) to stop working. They had to replace this as well which would not normally take very long if you have the part. The PHL crew was unprepared and had to have the part flown in from Charlotte on another flight. The time was now 12:30AM the next day. All of the passengers we’re asked to board the plane for a third time. At this point you are probably thinking how much worse could this get?
The answer is much worse. Much, much, much worse… see Part 2 of the Luckiest Baggage Tag