This week, I'm traveling to visit my father, whose health is not the best. Most of the time, I seem to fly through JFK airport, but for some reason, my route flew me through Newark Airport, where I had an airline change. I will pay close attention so that this never happens again.
The trip started pretty well. I have paid to get Global Entry and TSA Pre status, since this year seems to be a year for traveling, including internationally, but for some reason, that keeps getting omitted from my boarding passes. That means that I keep having to get my boarding passes AT the airport, so that they can put the number in manually. I care only because TSA Pre means things like not having to take your laptop out of the case, and not having to shed your shoes.... So, I had it fixed at my home airport -- but that only went on my American Airlines tickets. NOT my United boarding pass. Why? who TF knows.
I didn't even notice that omission until I got to Newark, where I would be switching airlines. I figured it wouldn't be an issue anyway, since I was already inside security....
but no ...
My plane landed at Gate A34, and I noticed with some glee that my outgoing gate was A27. I mean, really, same concourse number? only 7 digits apart? They had to be like a two minute walk! There'd be time to get food, relax ...
But wait... 34 was in a sort of circle. It started at 30, but there were no gate numbers lower than that. There were no signs telling you how to get to gates lower than A30 .. and the hallway led only to the way OUT of the secure part of the airport. I finally asked a security fellow who was helping a woman in a wheel chair. Lovely fellow. Very kind. Anyway, he said he'd show me the way. I followed them along only to learn that I had to go OUT of security and back IN to get to Gate A27.
Remember, that boarding pass for my United flight didn't have the TSA pre-check information on it. It turns out that wouldn't have made a difference, because they had already closed the TSA Pre-Check line.
?? The line was pretty full, but evidently no matter how many more flights might be going out, they close the line at some magic time window. Grrrrr.
So, anyway, since I had just gotten off of a plane, I had water in my water bottle. You know, to avoid the dehydration that flying creates. That water bottle, in my bag, caused them to have to do a closer check on the bag. But because there were a lot of people there who didn’t speak English and were being escorted through by a TSA guy translating and such, they let that bag just sit for quite a while without telling me anything that was going on. I had tucked my boarding pass is into that bag, so I didn't really know what time my flight was due to leave, and I had tucked my phone is in that bag to avoid the metal detector having fits, so I don’t know what time it is.
Guess who was freaking out a bit about missing a plane? Me.
I'm usually pretty calm about things in the airport Mostly, I don't freak out about much at all in airports unless my flight is so late that it causes me to miss another flight for which there are no alternatives that day. But this got me pretty tensed up...
I had to wait about 15 minutes for them to even LOOK at my bag, because one of the TSA people went somewhere. I heard them saying that who ever needs to have specific checks “will just have to wait”. As though this nonsense of requiring people to pass through security to change planes could not mean that close connections mean delays in security cause problems. But I guess those wouldn't be the problems of these particular TSA agents.
(interruption -- please note, this is not a rant against the TSA folks. Even though I truly believe that half of what goes on in these security checks is really security theater, designed to make people THINK that they're more secure, for the most part I've had only positive interactions with TSA agents. They've generally been courteous and respectful).
Eventually, someone actually got my bag, and took me over to the table where they look at whatever disturbed the person with the xray machine. As it turns out, I had my water bottle, with it's 5-6 ounces of water in it, at the top of my bag. At this point, even knowing that I had just been changing planes (I'd showed them both the boarding pass that got me to this airport and the one to get me out), they wouldn't let me just drink the water -- or pitch it, and then go forward. Nope... I had to go back out of security and come back through.
So I went back to the end of the line, chugged my water, and put all my stuff through a the xray machine a second time. This time, I also had to take my laptop out of its bag and run it separately because, I guess the guy had forgotten that I do have pre-clearance, even if that line was closed. Whatever. They let me through at last.
When I finally arrived at my gate, they were cleaning half of the seating area (okay, 3/4). The floor was wet, half was cordoned off, and they were running loud machines. These machines a) were headache inducingly loud, b) meant that talking to your seat mate in the remainder of the waiting area was a real challenge, c) made making phone calls impossible, and d) worst of all, meant you couldn't HEAR the announcements about flights that were boarding.
Luckily, I found a seat where I could actually see the doorway to the gangway associated with my flight. I got in line to go down it because I saw the line building and the people passing through.
In short, I did not enjoy my time there.