Flying North to the Winter

Location: 36,000 ft

In our last post we just arrived at the airport and were reunited with our luggage. We had a long day and were looking forward to checking in and relaxing in the lounge until we board our flight back to the US. Sadly the United Airlines staff hadn’t arrived yet and we wouldn’t be able to check in until 3.5 hrs before the flight. Sound familiar? So we killed some time in an airport cafe near the check-in area until we were allowed to queue up to check in.

Eventually after we checked in, went through security and passport control, made our way through the enormous duty-free store, we finally found the Star Alliance Lounge. Along the way into the lounge we ran into the couple we spent most the range rover ride with in the Falkland Islands. This lounge had a trendy Argentina Plata theme, along with a self-service bar and yummy finger foods. Inside we sat down and talked with two Australians we met on the catamaran ride in Ushuaia. Rachel spent much of the time showing off the pictures she took and checking the weather back in DC.

The weather wasn’t going to cooperate with us. For days we knew that a large snow storm was going to hit the area. Most meteorologists were predicting DC to be the bulls-eye and getting 5-10 inches. Rachel was worried that we would get stuck in Houston for a while. Ryan was more confident that we would arrive on time to maybe an hour late. And even if we got stuck, he figured that Houston-IAH would have been the most convenient airport to get stuck at, and felt strongly that we’d still get home that night. In the end, neither of us were right in our predictions…

At 10:30 PM ART (8:30 EST) the plane doors closed and we were on our way back to United States. The flight itself wasn’t that bad. We watched a few movies and managed to sneak in a couple hours of sleep. Ten and a half hours later at 6:00 AM CST (7:00 EST) we landed in a very cold and windy Houston. Rachel immediately checked her phone and found out that our flight to DCA was still on and leaving on time.

We had a 90 min layover in Houston so we needed to get though everything quickly. We flew past immigration courtesy of Global Entry. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky at the baggage claim. Our bags, along with the other priority tagged bags, were the last onto the belt. Thanks United! We were delayed more than 30 min. Thankfully Global Entry allowed us to breeze through customs. There wasn’t a Pre-Check line at security so we were delayed further. By the time we got though we had to run through the airport for about 10 min to get to our gate before they were supposed to close the aircraft doors.

Our flight to DCA left about 50 min late. There was a lot of confusion about what stand-by passengers could be on the flight and where they were sitting. They kept removing luggage from the cargo hold below and putting it back in. During the delay, Ryan asked what was going on and with the weather in DC, if it was prevent us from taking off. The flight attendant checked with the pilot and came back with a surprised reaction saying that our flight was still on.

During the flight the pilot came on to inform us that the weather was bad in DC, and that National, Dulles and BWI were all closed. Snow was falling at DCA at about 1.5 in/hr and 35 mph winds kept blowing the snow back onto the runway after it had been plowed. We were being diverted to Harrisburg. We were told that we would refuel and hang out there for a while until the DC airports reopened, or the airline got some buses for us from one airport to the other. No one was excited by this idea.

Twenty minutes later the pilot came back on and told us that Dulles had reopened and that we were going to land there instead. United would provide a bus from Dulles to National. We landed at Dulles safely around 11:30 EST. Only 15 minutes late and 29 miles off. In fairness, United was very quick offer miles and coupons for future flights as compensation.

The view out of our airplane after we landed at Dulles Airport.
The view out of our airplane after we landed at Dulles Airport.

The airport was opened and few international flights were still getting in and out. We were one of the few domestic flights to DC not cancelled. Snow was falling pretty hard and they had to repeatedly plow a clear path for the people-movers to get us back to the baggage claim. It took a while, but we got there. It took even longer for our bags to get there. In fact not all of them did.

Only three of our four bags made it. United Airlines, in their infinitesimal wisdom, pulled one our bags off the plane in Houston. So much for the priority tag. And of course, the fourth bag had all of our cold weather clothes including our nice arctic-rated jackets. The same clothes we planned on wearing out of the airport. It would be a cold commute back home. United told us they knew where our bag was and that it would be delivered to our home.

Because of the snow, Rachel’s parents couldn’t pick us up from the airport. And because we landed at the wrong airport, we couldn’t take the metro back either. So, we took a taxi back home.  It was nice to be home.

In a few days we plan to post again on the cold hard numbers of the trip. Putting together our top lists and throwing out some fun facts and numbers of our trip to the bottom of the world. We’ll also preview our next super awesome trip together (hint: it is this summer!).

Weather in DC: High 35F, Low 3F – windy and snowing

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