And we all have strangely interconnected backstories...
I am writing this (although heaven knows when I'll publish) from an under-construction terminal in the Tijuana airport. My COPA flight from Panama City to LAX had to divert around the storm off Central America and, with low fuel reserves, landed in Tijuana at midnight last night.
We were then told that the flight crew could not fly us to LA until they received 14 hours rest. Unfortunately, TIJ immigration was already closed, so the flight crew did not leave for the hotel until 7 AM.
COPA told us that a flight crew from LAX was driving down and would fly us out around 6-7 AM. Sleepless night -- the stone floor is freezing cold and after a 7-hour flight from Panama City to Tijuana, my knee joints are so ballooned up with fluid that sitting sleep is impossible.
At 5:30 AM, just as the sky was lightening, we were told that the crew hadn't left at midnight, but were now on their way, to fly us out at 9-10.
At 7, we received a shipment of water and sandwiches.
Now, at 9, a rumor is flying around that the flight crew has still not left LAX. About 10 people who live in Southern California have decided to simply walk out, cab to the border, and make their way home, leaving their luggage to the competent hands of COPA. Hah.
Of course, that's not an option for me. I was supposed to connect to a United flight home to Hawaii that is probably clearing LAX departure right about now. I don't know if United flies to Hawaii more than once a day, so I strongly suspect that the upshot is that I'm going to stay in TIJ up to late tonight, spend a night in the terminal at LAX, and then get home mid-day tomorrow.
Oh... fantastic rumor ... Perfect for the conspiracy minded. One piece of the puzzle that confused me was that the pilot told me that the diversion for the hurricane was 160 miles. So the question was: How could such a small diversion trigger a low-fuel situation? A rumor I've just been passed along by a former travel agent is that planes landing in the United States with fuel-safety margins below a required threshold pay a fine of \$17,000 (in that strangely specific way rumors have about numbers). So:
- COPA plans their fuel-loads for flights to LAX with that threshold in mind, (of course they would -- hauling extra fuel is lost money)
- The 160-mile diversion resulted in a situation where we would have run out of fuel-safety margin and COPA would have had to pay a fine
- By diverting to TIJ, COPA avoids the fine
- Pissing off 200 passengers is acceptable to COPA, which has an operating monopoly for much international flight to Central- and South- America
Now the question is whether they'll have the cojones (that's Spanish, kids!) to actually have us wait for the crew to get 14 hours rest (\~9PM) and have us fly in to LAX essentially 24 hours late.
Scenes from the mosh pit:
The predictable and disappointing initial "let's do something about this!" tirade was "class-action lawsuit!"
The second, and much better reaction, was this Sam Jackson-looking dude calls the U.S. Embassy saying "U.S. citizens held against their will!" Nice escalation!
Now me, my best reaction was starting a pool on when we go wheels-up. I took 10:36 AM, which I will certainly lose. I may double-down and put a bet on 10:36 PM.