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Air travel agony

     It was hard to leave Beverly Hills 90210. Literally. I was ready to come back home to Buffalo after 11 days in California at the annual TV critics meetings. After all, you can only interview so many television stars and go to so many parties before longing for the real world.
I suspect my 21-hour trip back home was a horror story that is being played out by scores of vacationing Western New Yorkers this summer.

I was scheduled to leave at 10:15 a.m last Thursday on Northwest Airlines. But on Tuesday, I got a call advising me that the initial flight to Minneapolis before changing for a plane to Buffalo had been canceled. I was put on a 12:40 p.m. flight Thursday to Detroit. Sounded good since it would have cut down my time between flights.
Being one that prefers to be early rather than late, I hopped in a cab at 10 a.m. Thursday and arrived at the L.A. airport at 10:30 a.m. Then I was advised that my flight - the one I was put on because the previous one was canceled - was also canceled and I had to be re-ticketed for a later flight. I was beginning to understand why Northwest has become nicknamed Northworst because of all its cancellations this summer.
With the line so long that I suspected it would take an hour to get to an agent, I called the Northwest 800 number and was booked on a Continental flight at 11:30 a.m. that would change in Newark for Buffalo.
Two problems.

I was a long way from Continental and I had four bags. I was advised to take a shuttle bus. After a few minutes waiting for it, I panicked, got a cart and wheeled it for what seemed to be a mile to get to Continental as my flight was boarding. Luckily, I also got an exit row seat, in between two native Israelis who work in the States and who were heading to Tel Aviv via Newark for a vacation.
But a not so funny thing happened on the way to Newark. The flight was delayed due to air traffic and weather. The pilot advised those with connections not to worry because the delays probably would delay the connections, too. One of my new Israeli buddies, who was going to be on an 11-hour flight from Newark to Israel, joked he'd probably be in Tel Aviv before I made it to Buffalo. I wasn't laughing.
We landed about a half hour late. Then it took what seemed like 45 minutes to get a gate. I headed to a Continental agent who advised me the Buffalo flight had left. Early. By a few minutes.
After unsuccessfully trying to get Continental to pony up for a hotel room, I had a decision to make. Should I spend $150 of my company's money to get a room or sleep in the airport until my 7:45 flight the next morning. Since I was on L.A. time and probably wouldn't fall asleep until about 4 a.m. and would have needed to go back to the airport at 5 a.m., I stayed at the airport. At least I had my computer and could write a couple of columns and watch a DVD of the highlights of last season's "Saturday Night Live." After all, I needed a laugh.

Friday's Continental flight left on time and arrived in Buffalo early at about 9 a.m. Now all I needed was my two checked bags. When I noticed that my garment bag had a giant rip, I had an unexpected reaction. I laughed. What a perfect way to end the trip. I discovered my prize leather sandals had fallen out of the bag, too. I filled out a damage and loss form and headed home.
I was in my door at 10 a.m., 21 hours after the journey began. I suspect the Israeli jokester probably was in his hotel room by then, too.
And you think my L.A. trip is all glamor. Can you top this horror traveling story?
-- Alan Pergament 

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