This wasn’t the flight plan we filed.
We arrived at the airport very early that morning and the departure screen screamed out our first problem of the day – our flight had been cancelled.
We scurried to the check-in counter to be told that there were no other flights on that airline to our destination, but we could be scheduled for a flight the next day!
That was not an option because daughter had just recently returned from a three-week trip to Africa and, with no vacation days left, had to report for work Monday morning. When asked why our flight was cancelled, we were told that our pilot didn’t show up. What???
The solution was to book us on another airline because we had to get home. Satisfied with two new tickets in hand and happy to get away from the long line of angry customers, we left the counter and started walking away.
Daughter said, “OK, now we’re flying to Charlotte and from there to our final destination.” I looked at my ticket and said, “Huh? No, we’re flying to Houston and then to our home airport!”
Yep, the two of us, who were traveling together, were booked on separate airlines, going in opposite directions and arriving at our final destination many hours apart. Back to the counter we trotted, which by now was surrounded by throngs of angry would-be passengers.
After a long wait, I realized my flight was calling for final check-ins, so I ran over to encounter another long line there. What to do? Check in and fly to Houston? Wait and see if we can get on another flight together? Go…wait…go…wait??
Finally, daughter, who had been standing in line at the original airline counter, gets waited on and explains that we need to be on the same stinkin’ plane, for crying out loud! Suddenly, daughter yells above the din, “Wait, Mom!!! Don’t go!! They’re getting us on another flight together!”
Relieved, I rushed back to airline counter one and my daughter. Again we walked away with fresh new tickets, comparing them to find success – we’re both flying to Atlanta on the same plane and then to our destination together. Finally! And that’s when we notice our departure time. Twelve hours from now!
What do you do to entertain yourself when you’re stuck in a small city airport for 12 hours and you’ve already turned in your rental car? And you’ve only brought small carry-on bags, so you don’t have a lot of entertainment fodder with you? Let’s just say we learned every nook and cranny of that airport and then some.
The nightmare continued when we checked in for our flight all those hours later. Standing in the long queue for security screening, we were shocked to get pulled out of the line. Daughter was escorted one way, I was escorted another.
Apparently, the haggard, exhausted looks on our faces made us appear to be would-be terrorists! I realize now that our names were probably red-flagged because we had been jostled around from flight to flight that day, but hey, that wasn’t our doing! Blame that on the airline!
Our carry-on bags and purses were taken from us, opened and searched thoroughly while we were instructed to sit facing each other. And as I sat there, shoeless, without my ID, my purse or my carry-on, the screeners took their sweet time examining our belongings first and then us.
Yes, I was frisked and so was my daughter and this was years before the latest TSA security measures. And still we sat and sat….and by this time, I fumed because I was certain the delay was going to make us miss our flight…which we waited 12 hours to board!
And that’s when it hit me. We could have driven by car and been almost home by then. Instead, we literally sprinted to our boarding gate, endured two flights, a layover, and finally arrived at our city airport after midnight.
There we waited another 45 minutes for a shuttle to transport us to the outer parking lot where daughter’s car sat. We slumped into her car, totally exhausted, and braced for the hour’s drive home.
The trip that should have taken us just a few hours by plane took almost 19 hours! By the time we actually arrived at our house, we realized that if we had traveled by car we would have been home by dinner time and soundly sleeping in our beds for several hours.
Hassle? Absolutely. Stressful? Without a doubt! Totally exhausting? Unbelievably. And that’s why I fear flying. I would much rather be master of my own trip than place myself at the mercy of airlines and security screeners. So on this 13th page, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and on any day, I’d much rather say, “Road trip!”