and traveling for work. I have been writing about our experiences on Easter Island over the July 4th weekend in the last few posts, but will take an ‘island break’ and post on a couple things since we’ve been back. I still have a couple posts left to do on Easter Island, which I’l do when I get caught up a bit.
Last week I was in Minnesota on business, and will be there again next week as well. I flew into Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which was a new airport and state for me! I’ve been to all of the states I believe except for Wyoming and Nebraska. Sioux Falls is a small airport, which has the rental cars onsite which I like for the convenience and speed. I rented a Cherokee Jeep from National Car Rental (Steve’s travel tip: Always take a photo of your car when you rent it – from all sides in case there is a question of damage later after you returned it)and drove the 3 hours to Willmar, MN, driving thru rural farmland and small towns. Some of the towns where quite small, and this one caught my eye in a funny way: Maynard Population 366 – must have been a leap year baby!
I stayed in the town of Willmar at the Holiday Inn Express, which was connected to a sister Best Western property and Conference Center. It was a very nice property with large indoor pool, fitness center, and I had a one bedroom suite with separate living room.
It was a quick week of business for me, and on Thursday afternoon I drove back to Sioux Falls as I had an early flight home on Friday, and wanted to stay near the airport overnight. I took my time going back, stopping to enjoy the scenery along the way, including the South Dakota and Minnesota State line signs,
I stayed at the Sheraton Hotel Sioux Falls arena/concert area Thursday, which was only a couple miles from the airport. The hotel was very nice and I had a room on the top floor, which had Executive Lounge access.
I was a bit disappointed with the Executive Lounge, however, as it wasn’t staffed with a concierge, nor served beer or wine during the ‘Welcome Reception’ hours of 5:30 – 7:30p when the snacks are being served. They had potato skins, wings, cookies and chips, as well as sodas, water, coffee and tea, but no alcoholic beverages either complimentary or for sale. Most lounges domestically offer this either complimentary (Hyatt – beer and wine), or Hilton and Marriott for a small nominal charge, while internationally beverages are usually complimentary. Next time I’ll BYOB! LOL!
I had dinner downstairs in the lobby lounge at the Sheraton as the adjacent hotel restaurant was not open, rather serving all food in the open area lobby. I then headed to bed around 10pm, as I had a 7am flight home on Friday.
My Friday trip home started off ok, as I returned the rental car at 5:45am to the Sioux Falls airport. As the National Car Rental counter wasn’t open, I dropped the keys off and wrote down my mileage. I later would get an email receipt from National when they opened.
I got checked in for my flight and went thru security quickly at this early hour, and caught up on a few emails in the complimentary Sioux Falls business lounge, of which I was the only person in there.
My first flight from Sioux Falls to Dallas left on time at 7:05am, and I had a single ‘A’ seat in First Class (4A) on the Embraer 145 jet, which has a 1 X 2 seating in the First Class section. I napped most of the flight, until the Pilot made an announcement about bad weather in Dallas and it would get choppy, which was quite an accurate statement. No problem I thought, until he announced we were in a holding pattern, and due to the DFW storms, we were being diverted to land in Oklahoma City! Not good!
We landed safely in OKC, and waited for almost 2 hours, along with all the other planes that were soon landing in OKC, including a huge Emirates Airlines 777. Our airplane was parked away from the terminal, while we waited for our chance to refuel. By then DFW airport was officially closed, and would remain that way for at least an hour, playing havoc with everyone’s flights. I was starving by this time as I was hoping to have lunch in the DFW airport, but the Flight Attendants served us chips from the snack basket – hoorah! – to tide us over.
I knew I could kiss my 11:40am flight goodbye, but as it and all the other flights were delayed to, there was always a bit of hope as we eventually took off for Dallas again. Hmmm, I wondered, will we get extra frequent flyer miles for the extra stop? Somehow I doubt it.
Once in Dallas, I knew I wouldn’t make my original connecting flight to Orlando, even though it was running late too. I went to the Admiral’s Club and did get rebooked on the 12:45pm flight, which was also running late, and even was confirmed in First Class, something that doesn’t normally happen when there is a flight interruption. The club concierge is one major perk of an airline club, as when there’s a flight delay, they can rebook you on another flight, thus avoiding the masses of lines seen here in the terminal waiting to get rebooked.
Unfortunately the time kept changing every few minutes; 1:15pm, 1:55pm, 2:30 etc. Once we finally boarded the plane around 2:30pm we first sat thru a minor mechanical delay, only to have that fixed and the plane still hadn’t been catered! We waited longer, and finally were on our way around 4pm, as the pilot apologized for the whole mess ‘that shouldn’t happen folks.’ He wasn’t referring to the initial weather delay, but the mechanical, but especially the catering delay. Such is life; I was just glad this would be a lunch flight, even though it was nearly dinner time by then.
As luck wouldn’t have it, I got an older US West crew that was not very good. I actually remembered the lead flight attendant, and older red-headed lady, who while nice, was not very efficient. To this day, I remember having her on a flight from MCO to PHX three or four years ago, with one of the worst flight services Steve (DOS) and I have ever had. She doesn’t know how to properly serve a meal service, (she can do drinks albeit extremely slowly, or meals, but not both) I guess because America West didn’t serve many meals in First. American Airlines proper, (as opposed to the mergers with US Airways, which in turn merged with America West) does an excellent First Class service, and even on narrow body jets such as this Airbus 321, utilizes two flight attendants in First for meal service, while US Airways/America West only use 1. To properly serve 16 passengers, you need to have someone prepare the food, and someone to serve it. While many of the US Airways flight attendants could do this successfully, this red-head never grasped the concept. It was nearly a full hour after the flight had departed before she got to our row with drinks, and the simple lunch cold chicken salad was a bit after that. Forget the pre-departure drinks, she didn’t even take orders until well after we were airborne, which she should have done on the ground. Really horrible service, but fortunately that’s not the norm with American. They (American) really does need to re-train the US Airways and especially America West Flight attendants so they are consistent in there service.
Anyway, between the lengthy pre-flight delays and the 2 1/2 hour flight to Orlando, I watched the excellent movie Miracles from Heaven, a true story about a 12 year old girl with a rare and potentially fatal disease, that was miraculously cured after being involved in a freak accident. Truly a heartwarming story, and I admit I did shed a couple tears watching it. Highly recommended!
My sister Jenni was actually flying home to Baltimore that night, and I missed having dinner with here due to the delayed flights, although DOS had dinner with her. I had checked my luggage, so this was another 45 minute wait, only to find my luggage (despite the major delays sitting on the plane in DFW) did not make it on the flight! That is really inexcusable, as there was at least a couple hours to transfer the luggage to the flight.
I filed the lost baggage claim form, and we headed home, arriving around 8:30pm – quite a long day as I was supposed to land at 2:30pm, and I had been traveling since 5:45am.
DOS and I had a quick dinner at Outback on the way home, and finally back to home sweet home. Welcome Back!