The best laid plans...or so the saying begins, did not figure in to the equation the secret blessings or the grace and fortitude of some American Airlines employees. The day before the flight, I got an email that said, "Katherine, check in now!". So I did. Then I went about my routine, getting the gallery ready for that night's 4th Friday reception. When I got home later that night, I busied myself with finishing the packing and laying out instructions for the house sitter/dog sitter. At 4:45 am, the alarm buzzed. Up and out.
When I eventually got the airport I walked up to the self-serve machine and punched in my AAdvantage number. Up came my reservation and I clicked "check baggage only" since I had already checked in. After the spinning "working" came this message,"Katherine, we have a special offer for you today. Upgrade this flight!" What? Is this right? I'm not Gold, Platinum, or anything like that. Hmm. I did the math. Upgrade, plus get bag checked free. GREAT DEAL! so I clicked yes, slid my American Express card and whammo out came my first class boarding pass. Wahoo! Little did I know how thankful I would be for that, not foreseeing the odyssey that would follow.
As I snuggled in the nice seat in 1st Class I was greeted by a smiling face and the flight attendant said, "I'm Cari, what's your first name?" "Katherine" I smiled back. I watched as she introduced herself to other passengers and hung coats, then brought us each water or juice. Moments later the Captain said, " let's get everyone on and seated, we need to get moving to beat a thunderstorm." (or something to that effect) and we backed out from the gate a few minutes later at 10:40am. Up, up and up and the announcement came that the usual 1 hr 30 minute flight would take 2 hours or so as we were re-routed around the threatening cell. I settled back, glad for the "Special offer".
Just so this post won't go on as long as the rest of the story really took, I'll summarize. Once we approached DFW we were told the airport was closed. We were told that many other flights were re-routed, but we, unlike them, had "plenty" of fuel so we would circle in a holding pattern for a half hour or so. Then an hour. Then more hours. The flight attendants were busy keeping us occupied, watered, and distracted. Pretty soon, we were all wondering just how many times we could go round that storm. Round and round we went. Still they remained focused, friendly and smiling. Stopping to chat and distract. Then, came the news we were heading to Abilene. No longer fuel full, but now the needle dropped to the point that it was time to fill 'er up. We had barely come to a full stop when the boxes of granola bars came out and a cabin full of folks were still crunching when we were told that pizza was on the way. It was surely an economic boon for Abilene as plane after plane landed at the small airport. And sure enough, when the gate crew carried on boxes and boxes and boxes of Domino's Pizza the ringing of the register could surely be heard for miles. And we were happy. Sadly for the few vegetarians and restricted diet folks, it was all pepperoni, but hurrah for the crew of flight 1820 for taking decisive action. Most of us had the first bite in our mouths before the piece was fully in our hands! It was, after all, by this time, about 3:00 in the afternoon. Cell traffic had the towers buzzing as we all tried to call reservations to re-secure our next leg reservations...not that any of us made it through the barrage of calls hitting that number. Might as well wait. And here, during all this time, sat I, in first class.
Gives me chills when I think about it now.
At 4:30, we got the word, and hi-tailed it out of there. As we took off, I could see the line of planes below, waiting their turn. We were first in, and first out.
Since the airport had been shut for hours during this mega nasty thunderstorm, everything was delayed or canceled. Having long ago given up on the 800 number, I walked up to a gate for a flight (not mine) that was headed to NY. The agent looked at my boarding pass and said, "you're in luck. Your flight is still going. Head to gate C35. You've got an hour." I thanked and noticed as I walked away, that the flight she was working had been canceled. I shook my head inside and smiled as I walked toward the skylink.
At about 7:15, the plane that was previously scheduled to depart at 2:55, turned onto the runway to take off. No longer in first class, but immensely thankful that for the entire lengthy experience in the sky, there I was. Thankful for the great crew of flight 1820, and particularly, Cari (don't know her last name) and the rest of the crew (and the Captain/Co-Captain) who made the experience worth writing about. I thought I was tired. They were the ones doing all the work!
As we headed for the landing, sweeping across the bright lights of the big city, the gleaming lights of the empire state building, the immense area of the city all aglow, I was struck by how surreal it all was. New York City at midnight, viewed from a few thousand feet and closing, was as beautiful to me as the gazillion stars that twinkle in our own view, in the Moreno Valley of Northern New Mexico. Totally different, but totally beautiful. At 1 am, I rang the bell on the apartment, walked into my husbands arms. The perfect end.