adventures in San Juan, part 1

San Juan Travel Blog

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Soooo.... here I am sitting at the San Juan airport.  Of course, you might say, one has to sit at the San Juan airport when flying to Tortola.  Yes, true, except I have been sitting at the San Juan airport now for 11 hours.  And I have 10 more to go.  What started out as a quick layover has now become a bit of a slumber party.  And we owe it all to the lovely island of Montserrat.  I got off my flight from Hartford at about eleven and found Jay at the gate about to board his flight, which was just a half hour before mine.  He got on the plane and I sat down to wait for mine.  Except about half an hour later they cancelled a flight to St. Thomas and said something about ash.  I immediately knew what happened, as this happened last year.  Except last year it was on our fly day for first session and over 90 shipmates got stuck in the airport overnight.  When Montserrat erupts, which it does every now and then, the clouds of ash tend to hover over the Virgin Islands for some reason.  American Eagle is the only airline that refuses to fly when this occurs, not necessarily for safety reasons it turns out, but that they don't like to deal with cleaning the ash out of their engines.  Understandable in some ways, but hard for the couple hundred people that are stranded in the airport to accept.  So I figured it wouldn't be long before my flight was delayed or cancelled, which it was (both) shortly after.  As I was just mentally cursing Jay for being lucky enough to get on the earlier flight out, he appeared next to me.  His plane had been sitting on the runway for an hour before being cancelled and sent back in.  So we sat down to wait for our names to be called and be re-booked.  In the meantime Graham found us, he had been waiting on a delayed flight to Guadeloupe to do a delivery.  We hung out with him until his flight left.  I had gone up to the counter earlier and been given a confirmed seat on a flight at 8am the next morning.  I figured it was best to hang around the airport though and try to get on any flights that left throughout the day.  Jay was put on a flight in the early afternoon tomorrow, but was put on the standby list for today.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be on the standby list, so by the time I figured this out and got it sorted at the desk every single person in the airport was ahead of me.  At one point I found out that I was number 50 on the list.  So I sort of settled in and actually had quite a pleasant afternoon.  I got a bunch of magazines and some snacks and sat in my chair and read for a couple hours.  Then I walked around the airport some, discovering that mostly everything closes at 6.  So I got two books before the shop closed and sat down with my music.  Really it's been quite fun.  When else will I be "forced" to hang out and read and listen to music for a day?  I won't have that kind of free time for a couple months!  So as much as I wish I were in the islands and not the most freezing airport ever, it really could be a lot worse.  Jay and I talked for a while to a family from Florida and have been watching all the chaos unfold here.  There have been at least a dozen flights cancelled, some of them boarding and waiting on the runway and coming back, maybe one or two actually leaving.  If you're going down island it doesn't seem to be a problem, just delays waiting for equipment.  But forget getting to the VIs!  I think I can recite the speech by now. "May I have your attention please, this is NOT a boarding announcement.  We regret to inform you that flight number ___ to ___ has been cancelled.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.  Please remain seated and we will be calling each passenger by last name to be booked on the next available flight."  The poor airline workers repeated this so much throughout the whole day that it sort of became a joke to hear the same thing again and again and again.  My favorite was when someone got on and said "flight number ___ to ___ has not been cancelled, yet, but it might be."  At least they were being up front about it.  I guess some people have even been here since yesterday.  I will be lucky if I leave tomorrow, let alone on time!  Jay was actually called from the standby list but he didn't make it to the counter in time and they gave his seat away.  I'm not sure that flight actually left, but he swears it did and is understandably angry.  So the little American Eagle area has been a mass of confused people the whole day and only now has finally calmed down.  Those going to hotels have left and us hardcore airport sleepers are spreading out on the chairs and floor with some airplane blankets.  They set up an area with snacks and drinks which was nice. Ok computer battery is dying, time for bed!
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San Juan
photo by: sethwd2