Personal Accountability and a Flight to London

by Lou on May 11, 2005

So here I am, at 5:30 AM, second in line at the Palm Springs airport, ready to check in. My routing is from Palm Springs to Houston where I am scheduled to change planes for a flight to London. Unfortunately, that flight to Houston has been canceled. According to The Factotum Behind the Desk, thunderstorms in Houston last evening canceled their scheduled flight into Palm Springs, hence there’s no plane available to fly back to Houston with me and what’s becoming a growing line of irritable passengers beginning to queue up behind me.

The Factotum Behind the Desk offhandedly repeats the thunderstorm story.

Thus begins a conversation:

Me: Were thunderstorms still in the area at 2:00 AM?
The Factotum Behind the Desk: No. The skies were clear then.

Me: So why didn’t Continental send a plane out here so you’d be able to meet this end of your schedule?
The Factotum Behind the Desk: There were thunderstorms.

Me: I thought they were gone by late evening or early morning?
The Factotum Behind the Desk: I just work here. I’m sorry.

Me: But you guys are responsible for meeting your flight schedules, and the airline ought to have some sense of personal accountability.
The Factotum Behind the Desk: It was a thunderstorm. We couldn’t do anything about that.
Me. Sure you could. You could have sent an empty plane from Houston to Palm Springs once the sky was clear so that you could meet your schedule. But you guys decided not to do that. You decided to simply walk away from your obligations to all these passengers. If that’s where your business ethics and sense of customer service stands, it’s as bankrupt as your balance sheet.

The Factotum Behind the Desk: We’ll try to get you on another plane. We don’t have to do that, but we’ll try.
Me: Thanks; they’re reserving a place in heaven for you as we speak.

The Factotum Behind the Desk: No need to be sarcastic; I’m a very nice person.
Me: I’m sure everyone behind me in this rapidly growing line will be happy to know that.

The Factotum Behind the Desk: growls to herself.
Me: ::sigh::

She hands me a piece of paper and I’m off to the Delta Airlines ticket counter to get boarding passes on a flight to Atlanta, where I’ll change planes for a flight to London, arriving at Gatwick a relatively short time after my Continental flight was set to land.

A quick call to the folks at Lion TV and I’m assured they’ll call the driver who’ll meet my arriving flight and get him to show up at the Delta flight, not the flight from Continental.

When I present my boarding pass and passport to the screener, he informs me that I’ve won the lottery and was randomly selected to have my luggage screened. I’m led through a special line where I unpack my laptop, and remove my shoes. That’s no problem because I never fly anywhere these days without wearing my quick-release shoes, but then I’m gone over thoroughly with the screening wand as I watch my clothes being unpacked from my suitcase by another TSA employee and screened very thoroughly.

I asked the screener why I was selected and she informed me that last-minute ticket purchasers meet their selection profile. So there’s the rub. Because Continental was unwilling to honor their obligations by providing the flight I booked and decided instead to make arrangements for me to fly to London on another airline, I’m chosen for a random screening too. When it rains, it pours. I’m sure the Factotum Behind the Desk knew this, and was grinning silently as I walked off from my encounter with her and over to the Delta counter to get my new ticket.

I’ve always been able to sleep on planes, or anything that moves for that matter, so I nod off right after dinner. The movie wasn’t compelling enough to keep me awake and I wanted to get some sleep because when I arrived in London it would be morning and I’d have to function on their time schedule, not mine. So operating on the theory that “When there’s nothing to do, do nothing,” I scrunched around in my seat and slept most of the night away.

This flight arrived at Gatwick, which is further from downtown London than Heathrow, but seems a more user-friendly airport. At least clearing customs was quick and easy with the exception of a person who got tangled up in Rover’s leash, and tripped over the dog who was positioned at a pinch-point in the hallway, sniffing everyone and their bags as they walked by. But the working hound found no drugs on our flight and I optimistically made the odds 3-to-1 that the driver would have gotten the message about my flight change and would be there to meet me. My cell phone isn’t enabled for use overseas, so I was really hoping he would, and he was. He made it through rush-hour traffic into London and seemed to know every possible shortcut to avoid traffic congestion on the motorway and deposited me at the Copthorne Tara in Kensington an hour later.

The only thing on the day’s agenda was a production meeting, where we reviewed plans to get all the filming done in three days, and scrutinized the detailed call sheets that tell each participant where to be and at what time. I’m to appear on the set at 9:30 AM Wednesday, which means I can sleep in, although my body is still telling me that this rather humane starting time is really 1:30 AM California time.

More play by play to come. Tune in tomorrow…………

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