Well, that was a nightmare.
You may recall that after driving home for Thanksgiving I didn't really have any desire to do it again too soon. So I booked a flight. Of course, that close to Christmas most seats were gone. I got what I could and ended up booking first class on the way out and everyone else class on the way back. It was more than I wanted to spend, but it turned out good.
On the way to Chicago I had the expected big chair, large arm rests, and leg room. Drinks were served before liftoff. Still, the seat itself was the same miserable thing everyone else gets.
In Chicago I found out that all the flights to Wichita had been cancelled. A look at the weather map showed a big nasty blob just passing Wichita. Clearly the airport would open later, but Chicago was already so backed up that they were still dropping small airports, not planning more departures.
I got in line at customer service and was about 25 people back. A big sign over their heads was encouraging people to use the machines. I'd lose my place, but I might make progress. So I talked to the machine. No more flights to Wichita, but I was automatically booked on a flight the next day. Being pushy I got it to tell me about a flight to Denver since Denver planned to still do Wichita flights later. So I asked the machine to get me booked on standby for both flights. But when the tickets printed they said I was booked for flights through Denver on the next day. I got back in line and was about 60 people back.
Nice people in line. We were all comrades in adversity. Cellphones were being passed around and everyone was sharing stories. One chap was going from Mexico to Fargo. He'd been in the airport system for 36 hours and was on his 3rd visit to Chicago.
Eventually I noticed that half of my ticket said standby while the other half said confirmed. So I got some lunch, went to my terminal, sat, and ate. I learned that the standby list is based not on first come-first served but on who paid the most and who has the most frequent flier miles. Since I was shanghaied into first class I was bumped up the list. The flight to Denver had 17 seats for 42 people. I made the list.
Similar story in Denver. More people than seats, but I still made the list.
I got to Wichita and waited with the crowd for an hour and a half. Everyone was rushing in now that the runways were clear. The baggage carousel was overloaded and kept shutting down once the baggage carts were dug out of the snow. My flight's luggage was split between two carousels so I had to watch both. Turned out it wasn't on either.
I check in with United. They say my bag is on a plane from Denver to Wichita that would land around 12:15am. This is another two hours. My brother and I go hunting food instead.
2:00pm the next day I call in and I'm told my bag in on a flight from Chicago at 10:30 that night.
The next day the system is down. But when I go to the airport to check they say (eventually) that my bag is out being delivered. Sure enough, when I got back to my parents' place there it is.
On the way back there was icy fog in Wichita so planes could take off but not land well. Our plane came in late so we took off late. In Atlanta a fast walk through the airport got me to my gate just as they were closing up the doors. Apparently Delta likes to close up early.
But I made it and got my bird picked up from the bird kennel before they closed for the night.