This is a new one. I’m blogging from the floor of Terminal 4 at JFK. The short version: Despite the fact that a ferocious snowstorm was approaching full gale, Virgin Atlantic refused to cancel my flight to London. Unable to change my travel without incurring a $250-plus fee, I was forced to go to the airport even as the snow poured down. You can predict what Virgin, unaccountable, could not: We ended up stranded on the tarmac — we were on the plane for 4 and a half hours. And by the time they got us back to the gate, every path out of JFK had shut down. No cars, no rail.
I’ve been here for 22 hours. So I did what any travel writer/consumer reporter would do. I started tweeting about it. Never nasty. Just how it was — which was nasty enough.
And the blizzard made that little snowball into an avalanche. Word spread. Virgin’s ineptitude and recklessness compounded with a larger story of thousands of people stranded here. And then then food started running out. By this morning, despite having had only an hour’s sleep (beside a pleasantly monotonously whirring baggage belt), I had talked to GMA, WNBC, CNN, CNN International, the Associated Press, and just now, CBS and the CBC. Each one called me just as soon as the one before had posted their coverage. Another snowball effect.
Only now am I seeing my first taxis outside the window, except I can’t take any of them now; we’re supposed to try again at 7:30pm, or about 28 hours since I got here.
I’m fine. Don’t worry ’bout me! Worry about Virgin Atlantic, which apparently failed to learn anything from the standstill at Heathrow last week. When I called it on Saturday begging to be allowed to rebook myself to get out of the way of the blizzard, it told me I’d have to pay up. Now I’m living in an airport, and I’ll never get the stench of KFC out of my clothes.
Last night, I asked Josie, a Virgin Atlantic worker, for a blanket from a bag her colleague was holding, and she refused to give me one. She said some passengers hadn’t gotten one. I said I was one of them. She still refused. I have a feeling they were going to “Upper Class” passengers. I rode out the subfreezing night, which kept racing through the terminal’s regularly opening doors, by layering. It was inexcusable.
For its greed before the storm, irresponsibility during it, and intractable silence afterward, 250 of us are paying the price. But this snowball of attention is making this transit Purgatory more tolerable. It’s a lot easier to get through an uncontrollable, ineptly managed situation if you feel you have a voice — whether that’s on GMA, CNN, or written as you sit on freezing cold butt cheeks on the stone floor of the Terminal 4 arrivals hall.
It’s not all right when you contract for a service and you’re treated with disrespect, and it’s not all right when companies fail to properly prepare for obvious obstacles and then demand that you shoulder the punishment.
My tweets are ongoing, so follow me here.
If you’re looking for my video of the angry mob at the McDonald’s in JFK, click here.