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The Trouble with Philadelphia

keystone Tim left yesterday (and I will be updating the blog with our adventures over the next week or so), and I accompanied him down to the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) via Amtrak to 30th street and the SEPTA R1 regional rail line.

We had no problems getting there, other than a surely woman at the SEPTA ticket booth, but I ran into a problem on the way home…

Because of the time of Tim’s flight (9PM), and the time of the last train back to Lancaster (8:55PM), I knew I’d wind up spending some time at 30th street waiting for the train. Tim needed to be at his gate no later than 8, so we parted around 7:15 (and it was sad, but it’s how things go when you’re LD!). SEPTA had no problems getting me back up to 30th, and I prepared myself to wait out the hour until my train. Around 8PM, the message board flipped my train to “Delayed”. The person at the information booth didn’t have any further information, he only knew that the train attempted to leave NY-Penn and had engine trouble, so it went BACK to NY-Penn to wait for a fix or different engine. *sigh*. So, I sat down, got out my N810, and started IMing people. Meanwhile, I checked the status of Tim’s flight and found out he was leaving at 9:15 instead of 9. He and I were in the same city, but separated by more miles than we had been for the past three weeks of his visit! I don’t think we were ever more than 30 or so feet apart his whole visit.

But it really can’t be helped, and it’s not Amtrak’s fault they had a faulty engine. The problem, however, is the way Amtrak handled the issue. When the train got back into NY-Penn, I am told passengers had been advised to take other NY-Penn to 30th Street trains, since the NY-DC trains, and the Boston-DC trains all pass through Philadelphia as they did not expect to get the Keystone running. But….here’s the problem. They had 50 or so people waiting in Philadelphia for this train as it was the LAST TRAIN OF THE DAY between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

Since dating a railway man, I’ve tried to be a little more understanding about delays and problems because I know what Tim has to deal with sometimes, but it’s still upsetting to find out that one set of passengers had one piece of information, while another set was told something else entirely! As far as those of us waiting in Philly were concerned, we were still going to have a train out to Harrisburg that night.

They didn’t cancel the train. They got a different engine, and our train was listed as “40 minutes late”. I calculated it out, and the train was traveling an average of 90 mph to get to Philadelphia from NY-Penn in an hour!

Another problem Tim and I encountered yesterday is how ridiculous the Philadelphia International Airport is set up. When you get off SEPTA, you have to go upstairs to a breezeway that connects you to either arrivals or departures. However, it does not connect you to several of the European airlines (BA, KLM, Air France, etc.). It connects you to USA 3000, Air Jamaica, and Frontier. The two check-in areas are NOT connected on the inside, so Tim and I had to exit the terminal at Air Jamaica and walk along side the car loop around the airport dragging his bags (there was a sidewalk, but it still would be loads safer to have people walk inside!) to enter at British Airways. When we first entered, the information monitors said “BA Flight 68 is now departing at 1:15AM”. This caused a minor panic. Firstly, Tim didn’t have a mobile on him to call anyone to update about the time. Secondly, a 1:15AM EST departure time meant he wouldn’t land at LHR until almost noon BST and he still had to get a train up to Lincoln. Not to mention being stuck past the boarding gate for over 6 hours. And I had to leave no later than 8 to catch the train back.

Fortunately, the woman checking in Tim’s bags told us there were no delays and it was on time. We mentioned the sign we saw on the other side of the terminal and the woman said that they “have nothing to do with that side”. So then, why was there a random message board listing one of their flights as being delayed so badly? I hastily scribbled more phone numbers onto a piece of paper for Tim (since he didn’t have his phone, I needed to give him my US numbers) in case it really was delayed so he could call me from a payphone or use my Skype-to-Go to call his parents.

In the end, everything was fine. Tim’s plane took off at 9PM as scheduled (though it landed in LHR 40 minutes late and didn’t have a gate so people had to be bussed to the terminal), and I made it back to Lancaster. That’s all that really matters.

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