Surprise! You’re in Airport Hell

(My current columns and older ones will alternate from now on during the pandemic. The “Woodward Classics” originally were published in The Idaho Statesman. Many are humor columns. In times like these, we need humor.)

  I’m writing this in the Spokane airport. I don’t ever want to see the Spokane airport again. Or any other airport.

  It’s 5:30 a.m. I’ve been traveling for 39 hours and counting. I’ve had seven hours of sleep in the last 48, and if anyone says “fogged in” again I’m going to set my ticket on fire and hitchhike home.

  The trip began in Florida, where a friend and I went for a wedding. We skipped dinner after the wedding to drive to the airport for an early flight home the next morning. This proved to be a serious error. Except for a tuna fish sandwich in Florida and a taco in Houston, we’ve been living on airline peanuts for two days.

  It looked like such an easy trip. The itinerary said we’d go from Fort Lauderdale to Houston to Los Angeles to Boise. My friend, who lives in Coeur d’Alene, would spend the night in Boise and fly to Spokane the next morning.

  The itinerary, however, was deceiving. It was all but erupting with surprises. The first was Orlando, which wasn’t on the itinerary or even mentioned until we boarded the plane.

  The second surprise happened in Houston. That’s where we learned that our plane was continuing on to L.A. without us. We could have stayed on the plane and taken off within minutes, but for some unknown reason we’d been booked for an LA. connection almost four hours later. It was at this point that we began to suspect our travel agent was the same person who synchronizes Boise’s traffic lights.

  The third surprise was yet another unannounced stop. After watching the wind blow in Houston for hours and flying to L.A. to catch an alleged direct flight to Boise, we instead were bound for … Reno.

  It wasn’t on the itinerary, either.

  It was also fogged in.

  Skimming over the mountains above Reno in turbulence on a foggy night may be some people’s idea of adventure, but it wasn’t mine and it definitely wasn’t my friend’s. He was so nervous he looked like he could spontaneously combust,.

  We circled and circled and circled some more, waiting for an announcement that we could skip Reno and continue on to Boise. The announcement, however, brought surprise number four.


  The Reno passengers deplaned in Oakland, leaving seven of us with our personal 737 to Boise. It was kind of nice, actually.

  Until surprise number five was announced. 

  Boise was fogged in. We were going to Spokane.

  My friend was delighted. That’s where he wanted to go all along. He’d been booked to go there from Boise the next day. Instead, he could pick up his car at the Spokane airport and drive  home to Coeur d’Alene a day early.

  I, on the other hand, would spend four hours tossing and turning on a bed in an airport hotel and get up at a shudderingly  early hour to catch a 6:45 a.m flight to Boise.

  Except that Boise was still fogged in. The 6:45 flight was canceled, the 10:15 flight was canceled and the next flight wouldn’t be until evening. By then the fog could be even thicker. I could be in Spokane until spring.

  I’ve been “flying” for two days and counting. My itinerary, the actual one rather than the airline’s cunningly condensed version, reads like a travel brochure – Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Houston, L.A., Reno, Oakland and Spokane – where I may perish. The airport restaurants were closed when we landed last night and were closed again this morning.  I’m hungry, my back aches, my eyes burn. If I ever get home, I’m going to write the airline a letter telling it what I think of its sneaky way of throwing in cities that aren’t on the itinerary. 

  And on future trips, I’ll be driving. It might not be as safe as flying, but it’s faster.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in the Idaho Press and is posted on the following Mondays. Contact him at

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