I made it to Denver with plenty of time to spare despite the fact that the pilot himself called it, “The longest ever flight from Des Moines to Denver!” We had been rerouted around bad weather and it added a significant amount of time in the air to our flight. In the Denver airport, I purchased a couple of postcards for some friends and then got some dinner. I found my gate and sat down to wait. Outside the gate windows it was grey and raining and I felt sorry for the ground crew working out in it.
Our plane loaded on time, and that was the last thing that went right for the rest of the evening. It started snowing about the time we got on the plane. This meant that the plane was going to have to be de-iced. They decided to keep us at the gate to wait for the de-icing rather than have us out on the tarmac.
Finally they decided it was our turn to get de-iced and we had just gotten backed out of the gate when the captain came on to tell us our left engine wasn’t turning on and we had to go back to the gate to get it fixed. All the while, the snowstorm is getting worse and worse outside the plane. So back to the gate we go, where a team of mechanics descend upon our poor little plane and manage to fix the problem. At this point we are already over an hour late. So, instead of celebrating by taking off, it starts snowing harder, fiercer. The queue at the de-icing area is quite long now and control doesn’t want us leaving our gate.
Then, at some point, they decide that the line isn’t going to get any shorter so they decide to deplane us. It is just at this point that Denver International Airport is hit with a massive power surge plunging the whole facility into emergency-lit madness. Communications went down and they were not able to make the jet-way move. We kinda decide as a group that it is probably better to stay in the plane where there is light and heat than to go into the darkened airport. Eventually power is restored and we are allowed off the plane where we ravage the one place selling food and drinks still open in our concourse.
I have been calling the person that is coming to get me in Helena all night with updates. At the point where I am pretty sure that we are going to be spending the night in the airport, the desk crew for our flight suddenly calls out that our flight needed to quickly get back on the plane. You have never seen a group hustle faster. We all get on the plane and go through all the pre-departure checklists and actually make it out to the de-icing area and start getting worked on. Then one of the de-icing trucks breaks down and it is snowing so hard that the other one can’t keep up with it. At this point it is nearly 11pm. I think that the captain is about ready to cry as he makes this announcement. But then, they send in the cavalry in the form of 3 more trucks. We finally get de-iced and take-off. We are over 4 hours late. I arrive in Helena at nearly 1 am and I manage to recognize the person there to pick me up straight away. Thankfully my drive to the ranch was quiet and I was quickly able to go to bed.
In spite of all of this, I really want to say a thank you to all the flight and ground crews that eventually got my flight in the air. I have been in situations where anything that can go wrong did and I know how frustrating it can be. However everyone with United maintained not just their professionalism but also their humor and that can mean all the difference between a frustrating experience and a horrible one.