Life As We Know It: May 27, 2013
Not long ago I offered what I thought was an impassioned plea for the survival and return to glory of Toledo Express Airport. Express did not have to be the poor little brother to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I argued, citing airports in Akron/Canton and Flint, Mich., as two which are thriving despite their proximity to major airports.
However, I’m beginning to wonder. I made a point of using Toledo Express on a recent trip, deliberately choosing the higher cost but undeniable convenience of our local airport over Metro. Even though Direct Air had suspended operations, I stuck with Express, and Allegiant, figuring I had no right to urge others to support the place if I didn’t.
Well, the lights were on at Express but nobody was home. My brother dropped us off at the curb, but before we unloaded our bags, I decided to run inside quickly and check our flight status. Good plan. Our flight, which only operates on certain days anyway, was running late. Instead of a 6:30 p.m. departure, it would be 9:30 or later, we were told.
I asked why.
“The plane broke,” said the lady behind the counter, without a hint of humor.
I might have been more comforted if she had blamed a hydraulic problem or a computer glitch. No, the plane just broke, somewhere in Florida. In the meantime, Allegiant was trying to locate a replacement aircraft.
I realize airplanes occasionally break, without regard to race, creed, or religion of those who buy tickets, or which airport might be inconvenienced. Obviously I’m glad this one broke on the ground somewhere and not 20,000 feet over Tennessee. A three-hour nap at Toledo Express might be welcome some other time, but not when the delay means reaching our destination after midnight, especially when friends are waiting on the other end to pick us up.
I was ready to sit on the wing of the next plane out. Just give me a space heater and a stool and I’m good to go. But no. The next plane out would be the next plane in.
Finally, the replacement plane arrived, its passengers deplaned, a new batch of weary zombies staggered aboard, and we were off. It was almost 10 p.m. The only seats left were in the last row in the back, next to the engines. At least if the plane broke, we’d be the first to know.
It was not a pleasant start to our trip, but it certainly was a cautionary tale. Could the same thing have happened at Metro? Sure. But a port authority struggling to maintain even minimal interest in passenger service really needs to figure out why Akron-Canton’s airport -- just a short drive down the interstate from Cleveland Hopkins -- can make this work and Toledo can’t.