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I was so looking forward to flying JetBlue for the first time at the end of our trip to South America last month. After enjoying Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay with my daughter for several days, we stopped in Miami for a night. I booked the final leg of our trip back to SFO from Fort Lauderdale for just 9,600 TrueBlue Points and $5.60 per person.

I’ve always read and heard good thing about JetBlue, so I was eager to fly then for the first time. But what should have been fun turned miserable fast. Very fast.

The frustration starts early

When our final day arrived, I thought it would consist of a nice, relaxing morning followed by dinner at FLL Airport and a nice, uneventful flight back to California. While the morning was certainly enjoyable, I didn’t pay enough heed to the windiness and chop of the ocean. I should have realized what such weather portends.

I received the first sign of trouble by text at 1:18 PM: our flight was delayed 90 minutes. Given that this was hours ahead of our 7:15 p.m. departure, I knew this meant we were looking at a rough evening. I thought about calling JetBlue to see if they could get us on a different flight, but there was nothing else we could catch from FLL in time that made sense.

Although we could have probably enjoyed the pool at The Confidante some more, I figured we should probably still show up on time as planned at Fort Lauderdale Airport. The 90-minute delay was then walked back an additional 30 minutes as we were waiting for our bus. Not a good sign.

We made it to the airport an hour ahead of our scheduled departure, which was now three hours ahead of our new departure time. Instead of heading into Terminal 3, we walked over to Terminal 4 to enjoy Café Kalik, a Priority Pass restaurant. Even after an extended dinner, we still had lots of time to kill. I amused myself photographing some Spirit aircraft.

spirit airlines a319 fll airport

The hottest place on earth

Making our way to Terminal 4, I was greeted by the most awful airport sight I think I’ve ever seen. There were people everywhere. The Spirit gates in Terminal 3 were an oasis by comparison.

a group of people in an airport

I have rarely seen so many tired, miserable people in one spot. Everyone I talked to was on a flight delayed by 3-5 hours. Everywhere I looked there were grumpy, sunburned kids and frazzled parents. Turns out a weather front was moving over Florida and wreaking havoc with flights in the state.

When the cancellations started being announced over the PA, I became nervous. Only two flights would end up being cut, but the possibility worried everyone. So many Spring Break trips to Florida were ending so badly.

As we sat and waited, the delay increased again. We were looking at a solid three and a half hours.

a screenshot of a text message

Our aircraft was nearing Florida, but it had to navigate around the rapidly approaching front. I periodically pulled it up in FlightRadar24. Finally, it landed in FLL. For most of this time, the bulk of passengers had been standing. Our gate had been changed, and there were hardly any seats left. If you went more than about 20 feet from the gate agent, you could no longer hear her announcements.

a group of people in a room

Then, thanks to lightning, the ground crew couldn’t work. We waited and waited and waited to board, finally taking off well past 11:00 p.m. Eastern. The thankfulness when those wheels left the ground almost turned me into an airplane clapper.

What a miserable cross-country flight

I’m pretty used to being tired when flying. We were utterly exhausted after landing in Beijing when my kids and I headed to China in November (SEE: Delta 767 economy class review: Seattle to Beijing). But that’s at the end of a day of flying. I’m not used to starting out exhausted and ending up even more so. This first JetBlue flight was by far the worst experience I have had in a long time, and it wasn’t their fault at all.

My memory of the coast-to-coast flight is fuzzy. I don’t even remember what movie I watched. Dozing only resulted in waking up every quarter hour with a stiff neck.

As much as it pains me to say it, I may finally invest in a neck pillow. It might save me from miserable travel days like this. I’m just glad it was only my daughter and I on this trip, as flying into the night with my youngest might have resulted in this.

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