We checked out of the apartment at 11am on Monday morning, our plans were to go and see some friends for lunch. We then needed to go to Harmony were she lived as we store a couple of boxes of belonging with her and these would need putting back in the garage. Whilst there we wanted to see her new home, she is moving in the next month and we are all very excited.
We had a lovely chilled out meal, chatting easily and despite knowing it was our final few hours the mood was really light. We had noticed on the weather forecast about some really bad storms heading our way, infact there was a “tornado watch” for our area. I have never been in Orlando for one of these so was a little bit unnerved. Suddenly this might explain my severe head pain, my headache for three days had been at 10/10, to the point where I had considered seeing a doctor as it was so unusual. Maybe it was just barometric pressure? We got back into our cars after dinner and headed back to Harmony, it was about a twenty minute drive and had already started spitting with rain. In Harmony it was dry though and we got out of the car to have a quick look around the new house, it was lovely. Then the next door neighbour mentioned she had a key and would we like to “sneak a peak” of course. So we went inside, all of a sudden it was like something from the Twister ride at Universal Studios. The sky went dark and the wind whipped up, the rain came down and we were stuck in this house for twenty minutes. Thunder and lightening, crashed and banged around us and I was just looking at my watch thinking of the time ticking away.
Finally it eased enough for us to run for it to the cars and as I jumped in I realised, Andrew had left his window open! Our car was soaked. Our friend had beach towels thank goodness and as we drove to her house I tried to salvage the rental car. We sat outside her home mopping up half of the Florida rain storm that was soaked into the mats and seats of our rental Jeep. Andrew emptied the car of our boxes and his fishing rods and then it was time to get me and my change of clothes inside, it had started raining again! An umbrella was found and I made my way into the apartment.
A quick change and we were soon back on the road, after checking the Orlando Airport website. Our flight already looked delayed but we had no idea what we were meant to do. So if we got there in time for our original flight then we couldn’t have any issues.
By the time we got to the terminal we could tell things weren’t right. We went to the counter explained we had checked in and needed to drop bags, they passed us to an automated machine but were soon being looked after by an agent. The issue our flight from Orlando to New York was delayed by a few hours meaning we weren’t going to arrive into JFK until after our connection had left. So they started to work out how to get us back to the UK. First was Atlanta, no seats. Second was Detroit, seats but it was closing, so they sent our bags and escorted us through. Now this is where it all went a bit awry. Andrew and the security man got through easily. I had the female TSA officer who felt that I needed to be touched in every place imaginable, and I mean EVERY. Like I was a threat to their national security in my wheelchair! After five minutes she had barely finished touching me up, and that is what it felt like, then she needed to swab my boots and my wheelchair. Andrew was shouting that we had less than five minutes to get to the gate. I knew that, the stress wasn’t helping but I couldn’t make her rush. After three swabs, she gave me the all clear. I belted out of that area and towards the shuttle we got on the train and Pierre our chaperone told us where we were heading. It was a case of get there just to get a foot on the plane. The shuttle doors opened and if anyone could get in my way they did, I had to stop and start far too often, as I built up the momentum to get speed to Gate 78, I heard them shout at me to stop, the gate was closed we had missed it! We were 90 seconds away from the gate, I was devastated, my pain level went up, my HR went up, I burst into tears.
Delta took us to the International rebooking area, Andrew lost the plot for a bit and stormed off and I had a moment. I needed to take the last of my meds. The bad news was with these delays, I had nothing for the next day, no medication and because I had checked in my luggage I hadn’t taken additional pain medication out either. This was a disaster. Denise and Erick of the rebooking service then started to work their magic they tried to see how to get us to the UK before 6pm on Tuesday evening.
They booked us onto the Virgin flight to Gatwick, then found out it was oversold. Two people failed to check in to Upper Class, then they finally did turn up, so that glimmer of hope vanished as quickly as it appeared. Our luggage was already winging its way to Detroit so there was nothing we could do about that! Delta offered us to stay in Orlando overnight or fly to JFK and have a hotel up there overnight and get a connection first thing in the morning but it wouldn’t get us in until 8pm. We resigned ourselves to the fact that all our plans for the Tuesday had fallen to pieces, so we accepted the JFK route with hotel.
We headed to the gate and sat there, our seats had been allocated in row 21, quite a way back, again not easy for me in my chair/using crutches. The lovely desk agent came over and gently asked me if I was flying to New York, I said yes, she asked to see my boarding pass and took them away. She came back with new ones, another free upgrade to Economy Comfort ! What a lovely lady, she said anything to make it a little easier for me, I said we had experienced the evening from hell, so thank you for her kindness.
The flight to JFK was quick and easy and when we got there wow it was worse than Orlando, so bad they had kept shops open in the terminal overnight because of delayed passengers. We had a lady to assist me with my wheelchair, she was amazing. We explained that we needed to find someone to book us a hotel as we had been pre-authorised by Orlando. She went to this area and the line was huge, so she found an agent who was tucked away and got him to help us. However his initial comment was we don’t provided hotels for storm delays and when he looked at our booking there was no preauthorisation for the hotel from Orlando. I was ready to cry again and I thought Andrew was going to kill.
After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing suddenly we were being put in a limo and sent to a hotel. I think they could tell we were ready to break. The hotel was just as busy as the airport dishing out rooms to a long line of people and even as we went to bed at 1am, we knew we had to be back at the airport by 6:30am.
The hotel provided a free breakfast and shuttle, as we went outside to get the bus, boy it was cold. Cold enough for snow! We quickly got into the terminal and couldn’t work out do we go to Delta or Virgin? We opted for Virgin, right decision, they found us on the morning flight to London and soon allocated us bulkhead seats to ensure I was as comfortable as possible. They asked about us checking luggage, I had to laugh and explained that it was in Detroit. She took the tag numbers and attached them to our records in case there were any issues. We were coming home !! We headed through security, this time they were so much nicer, yes they still needed to check me out, but it wasn’t so “intimate” and such and horrible experience.
We got to the gate and after a couple of hurried text messages to family explaining flight numbers and arrivals times, it was time to board. The ground crew at JFK insisted on using the on board wheelchair to get me to my seat, so I didn’t walk on the plane. We had another amazing flight with Virgin, the staff were beyond excellent, they really cared, about me, my pain level and my general wellbeing.
Having no meds for a day really did me no good at all, I had one fainting episode on the flight, when I got up to use the toilet. Thankfully Andrew was helping me, but if he hadn’t have been there I would have been down! He caught me, kept me up, controlled my breathing and bought me back. All very scary at 36,000 feet.
So at 7:30pm last night, 9 hours later than scheduled we landed in the UK. When we got to the Delta desk however our luggage didn’t make it. That was having its own adventure. It went from Orlando to Detroit to Atlanta to London. Fingers crossed I might get to see it soon.
Throughout this Delta did their very best (maybe with a couple of hic-cups trying not to provide a hotel at JFK would have been the final straw) but it was nature and there was no point shouting at their agents for a bit of weather. They couldn’t help it. They did their best, they tried their hardest. So to the teams in Orlando, New York and Heathrow, thank you for looking after us, we appreciate it x