Monday, March 19, 2012

Yesterday's Wind: Tree Down, Airport Can Provide Better Information

My neighbor’s aged cottonwood came down about noon yesterday. My guess is that the tree was about 60-years-old, planted around 1950 when the Early this morning she and a man with a pickup were standing in the street contemplating the tree. By the end of the day, a man with a chain saw was hard at work. My neighbor said she has offered friends free firewood.

Our other adventure with the wind came from my sister’s ultimately successful attempt to fly here from Santa Francisco via Los Angeles.

We got to the airport about 4:45 P.M. to pick her up, about 2.5 hours later than her original expected arrival. The airport was pretty much empty. Nearly all the people leaving the gate area were leaving because their outgoing flight had been cancelled.

The arrival/departure screen showed her flight as “delayed” but then had an “o” (or perhaps a zero) after the word “delayed.” Call it a footnote. Other flights also had footnotes, numbers, a one or a two. The screen offered no explanation of the footnotes.

Before going to the airport, I had checked the airport website, hoping for a general status announcement. No luck.

We found this morning, courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal, that all arriving flights were diverted starting at about 11:00 A.M. Arrivals resumed around 5:00 P.M. The cluster of people waiting at the security gate lacked this information. Further, given that everyone was focused on one flight, the pattern didn’t emerge that everyone was delayed. I noticed many flights were delayed, but since I only cared about my sister’s flight, I didn’t pick up the pattern.

Eventually a cluster of us became identified as waiting for the same flight, the one my sister was on. Smartphones were employed and the group soon concluded that if the flight wasn’t in Amarillo, it was headed there. Knowing it would be more than an hour before the plane made it to Albuquerque, we went home.

On the way home, my sister called to say the flight was indeed in Amarillo and was getting gas. Fuel had run low while circle Albuquerque. We estimated an arrival time, which proved surprisingly accurate.

Once the flight arrived, one more bottleneck appeared—getting luggage. Many planes and many people arrived at about the same time. It took 45 minutes for her to get her bag.

We noted, we were unable to get general information—dudes, no planes are coming in. This wasted much time.

A simple solution in addition to website posting (Hey, that’s what websites are for) would be to install a couple of those often annoying electronic signs, say at one of the security gate and another above one set of escalators. Somewhere, also, those schedule screen footnotes should be explained.

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