|Delta Sky Club in Tampa, FL by Kwame O.|
On Monday night, I found out that my friend in Tampa, in whose home I was staying, had to leave for Japan on business the very next morning. My own flight to Kansas City was due to leave at 6:33 p.m., but his flight was to leave around 8:30. I realized that would make for a very long wait at the Tampa airport.
I decided to check on Delta's change-of-plans policy, and found that you can request an earlier (or presumably, later) flight on the same day, as long as you are going to the same destination and flying in the same class. My plan was to log into the Delta web page after midnight (early Tuesday morning) and do one of two things: either get my flight changed or purchase a one-day pass for the Delta Sky Club (pictured here). I checked around the web first and found that you can get a one-day pass for $50, and that there are complimentary beverages and snacks, plus a quiet place for napping and plenty of electrical outlets to charge up or use your laptop. WiFi service is complimentary, too, but then it is free in the airport for everybody, so that's not much of a draw. The people who reviewed it said that there were no meals offered in the lounge in Tampa, but I figured I could buy a sandwich somewhere else. I decided that if I couldn't get an earlier flight for a reasonable fee, I would just use the Sky Club lounge facilities. The location was convenient - in Terminal E, right inside the TSA security screening area. The reviewers said that there was an elevator to the second floor, but more than one person remarked that it was excruciatingly slow. That information didn't bother me too badly, since I wasn't planning to wait until the last minute and then sprint to the boarding gate.
Since I'm not a business traveler, I haven't had to do much changing of flights. I've had a flight arrive too late for a connecting flight, and I've had flights that were delayed. I've also had the experience of volunteering to fly on "standby" status when I knew the plane was likely to be full and I had no one waiting for me at my destination. Once when I did this, I was booked on a flight that left a little later but got to my destination earlier. Magic! Another time I was booked on a flight the next day and given a complimentary hotel room and complimentary dinner and breakfast. Several times I received a ticket voucher good anywhere in the USA - I even got another voucher while flying on a voucher one time. Pretty slick if you can pull that off.
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My friend and I were on the road by 5:45 and at the airport by 6:10. I waited until nearly 7 am for him by the check-in counter. His flight had just started to board so we said a very quick good-bye. Then I got into a line for passengers who needed special assistance. 40 minutes later, I was finally helped.
I was the second person to check in at the gate, and was told to listen for my name. I found a bagel shop nearby and had a turkey/lettuce/tomato sandwich on a warm cheesy bagel with a hint of mustard and some water. Then I went back to the gate, and when all the passengers had got on, my name was called. I was on the flight, and my connection in Atlanta was confirmed. I had a middle seat in the very last row. Not the best seat, but I'm at least not so fat anymore that my hips have to be wedged in between the armrests, and the seat belt fit around my waist, thank God. The flight was short and uneventful.
In Atlanta I had a pretty long walk, so found a place where I could wait for the little trolley car. A normal person wouldn't have thought of taking it, because I only had about 8 gates to go past, but I was breathing hard and my back hurt, so I was very thankful when the trolley came.
At the gate I purchased Internet access so I could check in on Facebook and work on my blogs. Unlike Tampa, the Atlanta airport charges $4.95 for one-day use of the Internet facilities. I wasn't able to use the Internet access for long, however, because I had to stand in line to see about a seat assignment. The person at the gate kiosk helped two people in front of me, then ignored me (and everyone in line behind me) for 25 minutes. She then told me I could find what I was looking for on a screen next to the kiosk. Couldn't she have made that announcement earlier? I'll bet it would have saved several of us a wait in that line.
The flight was totally full, and of course, I got a middle seat again, this time in the exit row. The plane we had was one of those narrow ones again, so my hips didn't fit that comfortably in the seat with the arms down. Also, I had to ask for a seat belt extender again, and this time the attendant said, "No, because you are in an exit row." So I switched seats with a willing passenger, and waited and waited for the seat belt extender. I had to ask another attendant for one.
The flight was a little bumpy, but I slept most of the way, anyway. This time I had taken care to grab a blanket the attendants were handing out, and I put it around my shoulders to cushion my neck. It made all the difference.
The plane arrived in Kansas City on time, and my friends took me out for dinner before bringing me home. I gassed up my car and got the windshield cleaned in preparation for my trip tomorrow. I will get into some pajamas soon and go to bed early.
I never did see the inside of the Sky Club Lounge. Oh, well... :-)