Call it the curse of the Minneapolis return flight. It’s an hour from Minneapolis to Chicago, once the airplane gets in the air. Unless, of course, it takes longer.
Last Thursday, my 6:45 pm flight to Chicago eventually got me to Midway at about 1 am. It reminded me all too much of what happened last year, in early November 2003, when I flew the same flight on the same airline – ATA, lately bankrupt. That time, storms over northeastern Illinois were so intense that we couldn’t land at Midway. For a while, the plane circled around southern Wisconsin. Then the pilot informed us that we had to land for fuel at the Rockford airport – a second or third choice, since he also said that other flights were putting into Madison and Milwaukee.
Rockford, Illinois, as you might know, is a city northwest of metro Chicago, and under normal circumstances its airport handles only cargo flights. So once we landed there, as one of about three or four passenger jets diverted there, we had to stay in the planes for a couple of hours, since the airport had no amenities for passengers. It was a full flight and contrary to what you might expect, mildly festive there on the tarmac in Rockford. At least, no one was raging at outrageous airline fortune, though maybe we should have: it was getting stuffy in that plane. Outside, it was raining, and the other waiting planes were lined up, lights blinking against the dark, but otherwise indistinct.
At about 10:30 or so, after two hours or so on the ground, we were able to leave Rockford for the 20-minute hop into Midway. Getting in around 11 wouldn’t have been too bad, except that I missed my connection that evening on Southwest to Detroit, where I had to go the next day for another conference. Southwest booked me on an early flight the next morning, so I got to go home to sleep for about five hours or so. At least Lilly was asleep the whole time, so I avoided the hullabaloo of coming home unexpectedly (I’d told Yuriko, however, so she wouldn’t think I was a burglar – told here by cell phone from the ground in Rockford. Almost everyone on the plane had a phone.)
It wasn’t quite like that this year. But it took a long time to get home, all the same. More on that tomorrow.