Ever have a plane trip turn upside-down on you? That was me a week ago. What a mess.
I was in Utah for a blog conference. It had been a fabulous weekend of learning, meeting new people, and creating relationships. The bonus was I was able to spend time with two of my kids and their spouses as well. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Sunday morning, my daughter and her husband took me to the airport to catch my flight back home. When I fly, I request to have any airline changes texted to my phone so that I can be totally up to date with any alterations to my flight plans. Unfortunately, the text telling me my return plane was going to be delayed forty minutes didn’t reach my phone until after I had been dropped off at the airport and checked in my bag. Bummer. Oh well. I had my computer and my cell phone. I could certainly amuse myself for a few extra minutes.
Security was a breeze. Southwest had pre-approved me for the security check which meant I got to go through the speedy line, didn’t have to worry about taking off my shoes and jacket, and only had to go through a metal detector. Easy peasy. That was the first time that has ever happened to me. And even though I knew the airline was delaying my flight, I truly appreciated this little gesture. So much that I even tweeted it out.
When I got to the gate, I searched for a seat to comfortably spend the next hour and chose one next to an older woman with a nice smile. The time lapse gave us plenty of time to get to know each other. I found out she was 76 years old and had been visiting family in Orem, Utah; that she lived about 45 minutes from where I do; and that she raised her family near where I grew up. Another gal sat down next to us and joined in our conversation. She was a young mother from northern Utah on her way to spend a few days with her college roommate. We all had to pass through Las Vegas before we reached our final destinations (Thanks Southwest).
While we were waiting, along came another announcement saying that our plane would be further delayed. This meant that some passengers would be missing their connecting flights in Vegas. I wasn’t worried because I knew I didn’t have to change planes. My flight was ultimately taking me to my final destination. My young mom friend did become a tad worried because the new delay meant she was really cutting it close to make her connecting flight on to Spokane, Washington.
We finally boarded and had an uneventful flight to Las Vegas. As we landed, the flight attendant started reading off the gates for all the connecting flights, announcing that some planes were actually waiting for some of the delayed passengers. Then, things took a turn for the worse for me. After the doors were opened and passengers were deplaning, it was announced that the plane was now headed to New Mexico and that EVERYONE had to deplane. That was kind of abrupt and unexpected. When I approached the ground crew for our new gate, I was told to go see “customer service.” Uh Oh. That wasn’t a good sign. I knew what that meant: there was no new gate. I was now a passenger without a plane. I grabbed my new older friend Leigh and took her with me to customer service. Sure enough, we had been bumped and they were scrambling to find us a flight with available seats. Our original flight was supposed to get us home before noon. We were now put on stand-by for a 1:15 flight that we probably wouldn’t make. But they guaranteed Leigh and I seats on a 4:15 flight. Oh boy.
While we were waiting for our new boarding passes to be printed, I noticed our young mother friend from the Utah airport talking to the service agent next to us. She was in tears. Her next available flight wasn’t until 7:30 that night. Poor thing. I went over and gave her a hug. Told her it wasn’t all bad and that I would buy her lunch to help her feel better. I also told her she could hang out with Leigh and I until our flight left. She was a little relieved.
So, with my two new friends in tow, we found a place to eat in the Vegas airport where we got to know each other better and lamented over our situation. Leigh and I tried to get on the 1:15 flight to Ontario, California, but that was indeed totally booked. Overbooked actually. We stayed at that gate after it departed because there was room for us to spread out. The three of us had more time to learn more about each other, way past the superficial level. We learned about our hobbies, our families, our pasts and our futures. During that time, I was receiving more text messages from Southwest. One saying our 4:15 flight wasn’t going to leave until 5:15, then 5:30 and then back to the original 4:15 time. At this point I was getting a bit irritated at the whole mess. It became more and more apparent that we were being held hostage and there was nothing we could do about it.
Finally, at 3:30 p.m., we got the OK to check in for an actual plane that was really going to be leaving at 4:15. Hallelujah. Leigh and I bid farewell to our young mom friend and boarded a plane for our destination. By the time we landed, it was six hours since we were supposed to be home and nine and a half hours since we originally arrived at the Salt Lake Airport. We could have driven home faster. What a day. I was exhausted.
What did this little experience remind me of?
1. Be Flexible. Stuff happens. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but just accept fate and go with the flow. Don’t waste energy on negative thoughts and disappointment. Save that energy for figuring out alternative plans.
3. Don’t seek out blame. I could have been nasty back at Southwest but what good would that have done? They were having a really bad day trying to reschedule a ton of delayed flights with the least amount of inconvenience. Threatening them wouldn’t change the situation and probably would have just aggravated me further. Neither one of us needed that.
Good advice for me to keep in mind for my next disruption to “the plan.” Because it will happen. Again.