Our Diverting Diversion or My First Time in Pittsburgh

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While we were lucky enough not to be traveling through DFW this past weekend, Jeanne and I knew we were tempting fate with a return flight through Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. But obsessive checking of the weather in the morning and in-flight, indicated we might be hitting the airport during a sweet spot.

About two hours from landing, the snow looked like it was stopping, so then we’d just have to worry about our connection to DC getting delayed from the storms rolling through there. And if it was cancelled, we could always rent a car or take the train down.

PHL weather forecast Dec 8

So imagine our surprise when about an hour from landing they announce we were beginning our descent and we were being diverted to Pittsburgh, because no flights had landed in Philadelphia for the last 2 hours. I’d never been diverted before! (I’d also never been to Pittsburgh!) Twelve people got lucky – Pittsburgh was their final destination. DC passengers were also taken off the plane.

We’d checked and there was a 4:55 flight leaving on time in an hour. If we could get on it, we’d be in better shape than our original flight from Philly. Our reservation had been split that morning so we could get on the upgrade list, so we both were having to call the reservation desks separately to get rebooked.

Somehow I made it in the queue ahead of Jeanne, despite just being a Platinum, and was put on the 6:55 since the 4:55 was oversold. The system was so overloaded that we were both getting hung up on  several times before making it through, unfortunately by the time Jeanne did, the 6:55 was gone and she wound up on the later flight.

While this was going on, we’d headed straight to the US Airways Club, where the super nice lady handling all the stressed out passengers got us on the standby lists for all the earlier flights. Except for the 1PM flight that still hadn’t left (it was 4:15 at this point).

So we headed back down to be gate lice, fingers crossed that as the first and second names on the standby list, we’d make it on. We overhear the gate agents saying they had a plane, they had a crew, they were just waiting for the go ahead and they’d start boarding. Then the flight was delayed for 30 minutes. And 20 minutes later, it was cancelled.

Hmmm. At this point we head back to the club since we now had over an hour to kill until my flight. Over glasses of the premium bubbly (prosecco) Jeanne kindly bought us, we discussed our options. If our flights were cancelled and we couldn’t get on the early morning flight, we could just rent a car. It was about a 4 hour drive. Actually, if we left right then, we’d get home about the same time.

A look at Google maps, and helpful tweets from readers, informed us there was a massive accident along the route, so that wasn’t a good option. Well, we could get a hotel room at the Hyatt attached to the airport and then leave early the next morning and drive if need be. Rooms were $200+ a night (although $99 with our corporate rate). We figured it wouldn’t sell out in the next two hours.

And in the next two hours we watched both our flights getting pushed later and later. Jeanne ran up to the front to see about getting moved to my flight and discovered that the plane for the 1PM flight was actually enroute to Pittsburgh. No guarantees about a crew, but it looked promising and there were two seats!

The flight for my 6:55 flight hadn’t even take off from DC yet. So we gambled and switched. Two minutes later, the 6:55 flight was cancelled. Phew.

But then we had to find our flight, which was supposed to be departing in 30 minutes. The website said Gate 32, but there was no one at the gate. The displays at the gate indicated it was Gate 35. Jeanne asked and was told it was Gate 35 (it even had a plane there). We watched fellow passengers jogging back and forth between the two gates in confusion, worried ourselves that we’d somehow miss the gate change.

Then the announcement was made – it was Gate 32. And it wasn’t clear if the flight would actually leave. Checked the Hyatt – it had sold out in 2 hours. Oops.

Eventually the flight did leave. A quick 30 minute jaunt to DC!

Around the 25 minute mark we started circling and circling. 15 minutes later we started going straight for a long time. Jeanne and I started panicking. Were we being diverted again? What if we wound up in Richmond? Charlotte? Worse, back in Pittsburgh!

We circled again and then headed straight for awhile. We were so relieved to see DC landmarks from the runway! That’s when they announced they’d been about to divert us to Richmond when the weather cleared briefly and we were able to land. It was annoying to then sit on the runway for another 30 minutes while we waited for a gate, but we were home! Only 6 hours later than expected.

Unlike previous disruptions, I was able to see the humor of this one throughout (maybe because we always had a back up option for getting home). I’d never been in an airport where so many flights had been diverted there that every gate seemed to be for a flight going to DCA or PHL. (Ex: the flight from Jacksonville, FL to DC had been diverted to Pittsburg, so appeared as a flight to DCA).

We bonded with the bartender in the club over the pretty champagne glasses the prosecco was served in. I bought Jeanne a commemorative magnet to go with her Omaha t-shirt. It was starting to get a little old the third time we hustled hopefully to a new gate, but all in all it wasn’t terrible. But now I can say I’ve been to Pittsburgh and I’m good.


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