Woo & Hunter’s Wedding: Part 1—The Joys of Air Travel

Posted on Friday 1 September 2006

Today, I’m writing this post from my hotel room, down in Newport News, Virginia. I flew down this evening for a wedding tomorrow. I’m due to fly back on Sunday morning. The problem with air travel, aside from the security issues, is that trying to do so during the hurricane season can be challenging.

Yesterday, I received a phone call, and asked if I would be attending Woo’s wedding, in Newport News. Since I hadn’t received an invitation, I wasn’t sure what day the wedding was, so I had not made specific plans to get down here. Since I had promised Gee that if Woo got married, I would be there— after talking to Woo, I booked a early-afternoon flight, that should have gotten me down to Newport News before four. Then, along came Ernesto. Tropical storm Ernesto was headed over Newport News the same day I was supposed to fly down.

I left for Logan International Airport a bit after nine this morning. I needed to be at the airport three hours prior to my flight according to the TSA. My flight was supposed to leave a bit after two in the afternoon. The MBTA ride in was shorter than I expected, as a lot of people had already left for the long holiday weekend, and I arrived at the airport around ten-thirty.

When I got to the ticket counter, at Airtran, I found that my flight, the previous flight and the following flight had all been cancelled. I had been bumped to the last flight out of Boston to Newport News, which was due to leave around eight in the evening. I couldn’t check my garment bag yet, as it was before the four-hour pre-flight baggage check time window. However, the Airtran counter staff said they weren’t sure if the flight I was now booked on was going to be cancelled or not.

Great. I asked about flights the next morning. The earliest I could catch a flight the next day was around three o’clock. Since the wedding was set for five, and I had to be there early, that probably wasn’t going to work very well. It was either this flight, or I was going to break a promise to Gee—I hadn’t broken a promise to her yet, and I really didn’t want to start now.

So I went to the food court, got something to eat, and stopped by the newsstand and picked up something to read. I was in for a long wait. The long wait was horrible. It didn’t help that an alarm would go off every so often, a piercing shriek would keep repeating until the alarm was reset. It sounded like a door alarm for one of the security doors, but no one seemed to really notice that it kept going off. Not really a very good thing at an airport favored by terrorists.

One other thing I’d point out, is that Logan International Airport, seems to have a pretty bad track record when it comes to security. Two of the four planes on September 11, 2001 left from Logan. Richard Reid the shoe bomber landed at Logan. It seems to be a favorite of terrorists working in the United States—mainly due to poor security at the airport.

A few hours later, around four, I walked up to the Airtran counter again. I could now check my bag, since it was less than four hours until my flight. I got my boarding pass, and checked my garment bag, and headed off to the security checkpoint.

After going through airport security, I went to the gate for the flight. I still had almost four hours to go. I don’t see why the TSA requires you to be at the airport three hours prior to a domestic flight, instead of the previously required two hours. Granted, the security lines are a bit longer, but not so much that two hours isn’t sufficient time, especially on off-peak travel times.

Some of the new security regulations strike me as fairly absurd as well. The new prohibition on gels and liquids, seems to be geared towards making the airport vendors a lot of money, and inconveniencing the travelers as much as possible. My toiletries kit is down to basically just a razor and a toothbrush, since I can’t carry deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, or any of those items anymore. Of course, if the government could really just do the job of keeping terrorists off the planes, then the bans on liquids, gels, and lighters would not be necessary.

While I was waiting at the gate, I was speaking with a woman, and she opened up her pocketbook, and took out some lotion. She had four or five little bottles of hand sanitizer, lotion, makeup, and other “forbidden” items. Apparently, when she went through security, the people screening her purse, even though she said they went through it, failed to confiscate the bottles. Hmm… that makes me feel so much better about flying—seeing how well the security rules are really implemented.

Finally, the plane was at the gate, and we were allowed to board. This was about eight in the evening, a good six hours after my original flight was scheduled for. I was pretty sure I had missed the rehearsal dinner. Oh well. At least it looked like I would make it into Newport News today.

The flight was uneventful, even though we did fly around the remnants of Ernesto. The flight also had XM satellite radio on it, and that was nice, as the flight was too short to have a movie. I even got to keep the little headphones they gave out to listen to the radio service. Yay, a freebie.

When we landed at Newport News, the airport looked like it was closed. Apparently, the airport was operating on generator backup power, so only a bare minimum of lights were on. Spooky. From speaking to the gate agent, we were one of the very few flights that was allowed to fly into Newport News that day.

At the baggage claim, I spoke with a pretty Korean woman and her parents. I asked her if she was in town for a wedding the next day, as I had been told that a lot of Woo’s relatives were flying in that day. It turns out, she was from Boston, and was down in Tidewater to run in a half-marathon in Virginia Beach. I wished her luck, and told her to let me know how she did. She’s also planning on running in the upcoming Chicago and Boston Marathons. I hope she does well.

The cab ride to the hotel was interesting. The cab driver was pretty friendly, and talked quite a bit about the damage done by various storms over the years. He also talked about how Newport News was growing as a city, and how a lot of the development was going on around the edges, essentially leaving the heart of the city to wither. The city looked pretty wiped. A lot of streets were still flooded and the power was still off in many sections. I could only hope the next day would be better.

Once at the hotel, the Marriot Newport News at City Center which is a very nice hotel, I found Woo, Hunter and a good deal of their family and friends in the hotel restaurant. Apparently, the restaurant the rehearsal dinner was originally planned for had lost power and the hotel’s restaurant became the backup site. The rehearsal dinner was just finishing up. So, we crossed the lobby and headed to the hotel bar.

We hung out for a couple of hours at the hotel bar, and then I headed up to my room. The room was very nice, with two double beds, a 37” LCD HDTV, and WiFi internet. Too bad, I didn’t have my laptop with me. The photos in the room were all of a nautical theme…black-and-white photos of various hardware from a boat or dock. It was off to bed for me. It had been a long day—being at an airport for over nine hours is exhausting…

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