Monday, September 23, 2013

Unexpected Layover at Taoyuan International, Conclusion

Our service in the boarding gate was nowhere near this polished, but it was appreciated.

[Part 2 of a story begun last Friday. Part 1 is here]

OK, where were we?  Ah, yes... my aircraft had experienced some technical difficulties, and I'd been disembarked (along with more than 300 others) back into a boarding gate at Taoyuan International airport in Taipei, Taiwan. We should have taken off for the West coast of the USA several hours before, but here we sat. I'd already taken a sleeping pill for the long haul, and had been fighting sleep off for a couple of hours. All of us were a little displeased, at the least; some more vocal than others. There. That's the Tweet Version. Here's the rest of the story:

By now we were well past 02:00, and my sleeping meds were in full swing.  My head dropped down any number of times, and occasionally I'd wake myself back up with a loud snort - to the delight of two nearby Chinese children, grateful for any kind of diversion in this bare gate environment. It took another 20 minutes or so for the rumbling at the counter to die down, but many of the people weren't placated by the assurances of the gate employees, and they continued to grumble as they found a spot to sit and stew in their own juices.

Speaking of juices, shortly after we'd plopped into the gate chairs to wait, carts from the plane (I guess) appeared, serving us all juice, water and soft drinks.  Wisely they didn't choose - or weren't allowed to - serve alcoholic beverages, and who could blame them? Irate travelers in the wee small hours are difficult enough; boozing them up wouldn't make things any easier for much of anyone.

I toyed with the idea of hauling my camera out and documenting this misfortune, but 1) there really wasn't much to see, and 2) the people around me were not festive folks.

About 30 minutes or so later EVA carts with what would have been our flight meals came wheeling off of our plane, with the stewards and stewardesses pushing them along.  When you're in your seat as the meals come by you don't get much of a look at the boxy carts they push along the aisles, but out in the open in the gate area they look pretty beat up, most likely from being slid in and out of racks on- and off-board. At least, that was my guess by the scrapes along the sides.

Dining in an airplane seat behind First- or Business-class can be an adventure, depending on the over-spill from passengers seated next to you. Sit between two wide-body travelers and you're likely to end up eating your meal looking rather like a preying mantis. In the gate area there were people sitting in chairs, on window ledges, on the floor and a few actually stood, balancing their tray on one hand while eating with the other.  This led to further entertainment for the nearby kids, as one tray tipped and its cargo slid noisily to the floor.  Woke me up, anyway.

To a captive audience, most anything's entertainment...

I don't know where they found the replacement aircraft - and I probably don't want to know - but with EVA's main hub being there at Taoyuan International it was probably just a spare of some sort.  A round of applause rose as we saw it pull up to the jetway, another 75 minutes after the food had rolled off of our first "ride" and it had been taken back to the stable, so to speak.

Announcements for boarding were made, and a worse-than-usual crushing queue of passengers assembled to get back on board and be on their way.

Strapping myself back into my seat I was fighting sleep big time, but I did pull out a pen and paper to note the time on my boarding pass: it was now 05:34, and the sky was beginning to glow on the Eastern horizon. The entire mess had taken a little over six hours, and has been - so far - the most strange flight delay I've been a party to.  The loudest of the "I'm gonna be late" guys was still going on about it, vowing to get free flights out of the mishap, and perhaps he did. There were gracious offers made when I wrote a letter or two to the Northern California and Taoyuan headquarter offices, and I just as gracefully accepted.

Those letters, though, would come a few days later. Now I just re-set my watch to "home" time, put in my ear buds, leaned against the bulkhead by my window and was out in a minute flat. I slept through take-off and whatever else happened for the next eight or nine hours, waking up to the smell of breakfast somewhere late in the afternoon, according to my watch.

So, not quite an unexpected overnight layover, but a layover nevertheless. I don't remember when I've been as happy to stand in line to have my passport stamped and hear the agent say "welcome back."

That extended and unexpected layover was an experience, but I don't need to have it pop up again any time soon.

Immigration at SFO


Anonymous said...

"end up eating your meal looking rather like a preying mantis"

I like this, that's exactly like I feel when I eat in an airplane. But the animal's name is "praying mantis" because it looks like it is praying (but in reality it is preying).

Your two post description of a delayed flight is comprehensive, by my standards.


khunbaobao said...

Even spell check wouldn't have saved me from that one, Christian - thanks (and English isn't your mother tongue, should memory serve)! Ah, well... if that's the worst thing that happens today it's still a pretty good day. Thanks for joining in again. :-)

Anonymous said...

In this case, influence from German helps me, that animal is called in German "Gottesanbeterin", which translates something like "animal that looks like as if it is praying to god".