Thursday, July 30, 2015

Planes, Trains, and Weather Delays

the legendary Pont D'Avignon - our last stop in France

We had reservations for the TGV (high speed train) from Nimes to Barcelona and were looking forward to it. We wondered what would it feel like to travel at 180 miles per hour.

We arrived at the train station with ample time. The station was clean and modern with new messaging boards clearly telling the time and the tracks. There were plenty of SNCF employees to help customers and answer questions. Contrary to the stereotype about the French being rude and arrogant, they were all very polite.

The train was beautiful. It had cushioned seats, big picture windows, and quiet tracks. It left on time and zipped along at 180 miles per hour. We couldn’t even feel the speed and were enjoying watching the passing scenery – until a torrential downpour started.

Somewhere near Perpignan the train came to a halt. Within a few minutes, a train official announced on the loud speaker that because of the rain, it was unsafe to continue and we would be kept informed of developments as they occurred.

Indeed, every ten minutes, we heard another announcement. After the third announcement, they distributed complementary box lunches. They were pretty good – a tuna pasta salad, a green salad, a roll, juice, and dessert. With the lunch was a card apologizing profusely for the delay.

The flip side of the card had the SNCF’s delay policy. Anyone with proof of a ticket purchase could apply for a refund of 25 to 75% of the ticket depending on the length of the delay for any time lag of more than 30 minutes. There were instructions for how to apply for one.

 Very impressed by this service, my husband said, “If we had been on a plane in America, we wouldn’t have gotten anything and they would have left us sitting on the tarmac wondering what was going on.”

We enjoyed eating our lunch courtesy of the SNCF and chatting with the family from New Zealand sitting across from us. Our delay lasted for three and a half hours.

in Barcelona

Sure enough. On our flight home, we had a connecting flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Chicago. When we arrived in Charlotte, the departure board showed several flights to Chicago had been cancelled or delayed. Ours hadn’t been. “This is a bad omen,” I said.

We boarded on time and then sat on the tarmac for over an hour. There was one announcement saying that the delay was due to bad weather. By the way, we passengers received no food or drinks to compensate. Finally, we heard an announcement that because of the weather, we would be taking a different route. We had to go back to the gate to refuel. The new route would circumvent the storms by flying over Kansas City, back over Des Moines, and finally to Chicago. A 500-mile flight would now be 1200. In all, we had a three and a half hour delay.

No one in Europe or America or anywhere else on this Earth has control over the weather. Things happen. How we respond to them, however, is up to us. You decide which way you want to be treated. 


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