Thursday's Child: Airplanes

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photo used courtesy of Aviation News

Did you ever have one of those trips where you thought you’d never get home?  Where it seemed as if fate was toying with your travel plans, conspiring to take you anywhere except your intended destination?  That’s happened to us only once – the time Andrew, our two daughters and I flew back from Morocco.

Our journey home consisted of two flights:  Marrakech to London, and London to Toronto.  The Moroccan part of the trip was smooth and problem-free. But when we arrived at Heathrow, the line for security stretched beyond eyesight. By the time we made it to the desk, the British Airways agent told us we wouldn’t make our connecting flight to Toronto. There was also a terrible winter storm over much of northeastern U.S. and Canada, and airports were starting to shut down. She couldn’t get us to Toronto, but could fly us into Boston, with an Air Canada flight from Boston to Toronto the following day.

We took it, and ran to make the flight. The plane was about an hour outside of Boston when they announced that Logan airport had been shut down, and they were rerouting us to Montreal. Good news for us – right? Montreal is much closer to Toronto, and maybe we could get a connecting flight that night! However, when we arrived, the flight attendant said no one could get off the plane unless everyone did. After an hour and a half sitting on the tarmac, another announcement was made that Logan airport had reopened and we were flying back to Boston!

When we arrived, it was past midnight – sometime the next morning in Moroccan time. A worker in security told us every hotel in the city was sold out, both because so many flights had been cancelled, and because it was St Patrick’s Day, an already-busy time in the city of Boston.  Undaunted, we decided to double-check at the Hilton, which is directly connected to the airport. The check-in clerk said that indeed they were sold out, but I decided to appeal to her sympathy.  Gently pulling my exhausted daughters (then 12 and 9) up to the counter, I said, “We’re on our way home from Africa.  We’ve already been traveling almost 24 hours.  Is there any way you could find something for my children?”  Her eyes grew big, and she huddled in a back room with a colleague.  And happily, they were able to find half a suite that wasn’t being used. It had no bed, but we were delighted for the pull-out sofa and the extra cot they wheeled in. 

The next morning we woke early, thrilled for the night that we didn’t spend on an airport floor.  As we went to breakfast down the hall and watched the TVs that were turned to CNN, we realized the gravity of the situation.  The lead story was the weather in the northeastern U.S, and video coverage showed people camped out on airport floors across the region – including in Boston.  We quickly made our way back to Logan to check in. Word in the lineup was that the first flight to Toronto had been cancelled that morning, but the second one was expected to go.  We jauntily stepped up to the counter, secure in the possession of our tickets home.  The Air Canada worker took one look at them and said, “These aren’t guaranteed; they’re only a promise for a ticket on the next available flight.  That’s sometime on Tuesday.”  This was Saturday morning.

It worked once – would it work again?  I gently pulled my daughters up to the counter.   (Did I mention that they were exhausted?)  Her eyes grew big, and she huddled in a back room with a colleague.  Discussions were held, arms were waved, heads were shaken.  And still we waited.

Finally she came out with a document in her hand.  “I’ve managed to get you four seats on this flight,” she said.  “If this one doesn’t leave Boston, you’re back to Tuesday.  And if I need to put anyone else on the flight, you’ll be the first ones bumped.”

We took it.  And we spent the next two and a half hours with our backs to the wall, both literally and figuratively.  It was surprisingly pleasant, as people were made friendly by their shared misfortunes.  Telling our story to others seemed to cheer them up.  And we were buoyed, too.  Until we ran into the fellow passenger who told us that they needed to get four flight attendants back to Toronto and would have to bump that many passengers off the flight.

I still don’t know how we held onto those seats.  I don’t think I breathed until we got into them, until we took off, and until we landed in Toronto an hour later.  Of course none of our luggage showed up for a week.  It was a small price to pay for actually getting home. 

And the amazing conclusion is this:  arriving home after spending the last day and a half in five airports, four countries and three continents, I read the email from a publisher saying that she loved my manuscript and wanted to publish my first book.

Life is indeed stranger than fiction.

27 comments:

Carol said...

Great story! I love happy endings :)

Rita said...

Travelling is not the easiest thing; harder as you get older. We now try to concentrate to visit Canada; much easier. Happy you had soemthing great waiting at home for you.

My Little Space said...

Congratulations on your book, Beth! And glad that you & your girl got home safely. Blessed you all.
Best wishes,
Kristy

Faith said...

What an adventrue Beth! Glad you were able to make home alright. Congratulations o the book. That must be very excitng.

katerina said...

This reminds me of a trip my parents made to Maiami. They were travelling two days and visited all the major airports of the US. I can understand how tiring this must have been for you and especially for the children. But now after all these years I am sure you remember it and laugh.

Belinda said...

What an adventure (always wanted to go to Morocco). And see, surprises always come during the strangest times!

Valerie said...

Wow! Life is truly a journey, literally and figuratively. Thanks for sharing this, your posts are always such a joy to read. :)

Lydia K said...

Wow, that is the best happy ending I've heard in a while. Makes it almost worth all the hassle of the trip.
You are going to be published! Wooooot!

comfortablydomestic.com said...

Pure genius to bring your 2 exhausted girls up the the counters to appeal on sympathy! What an adventure. It's the adversity that makes it memorable.

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for stopping by. This is an amazing travel story with a fantastic ending! Hub and I lived in Kenya for three years, so understand the time zone changes. We never experienced a travel delay like yours but, coupled with the time changes, wow, you must have been ripped!

Monet said...

Oh my goodness..what a wonderful travel story. Such a happy ending, and such a great adventure. I love reading the memories you recollect here. This was a great way to end my week :-) Thank you for sharing this with me. Thank you also for taking the time to visit my blog. I hope this weekend swells with love and joy!

Barbara said...

Flying is certainly not fun anymore. Ever. But there's no other way to get to most of our destinations. It sure takes patience, Beth. A friend was telling me just yesterday her travel nightmare over the holidays...NYC AND London.

But then, look what you came home to! Congratulations! You must be thrilled!

Janet Johnson said...

Wow! What an adventure. Honestly, I love traveling with my kids for the sympathy and smiles they bring. Harder in some ways, yes, but definitely a happy thing!

And what great news to come home to!

HanaĆ¢ said...

Wow! Unbelievable. I'm glad it had a happy ending though. It reminds me of our trip to Morocco for our wedding ceremony. We missed our direct flight from New York to Casa, were put on a plane to Paris instead, and then Casa from there. When we arrived, our luggage was nowhere to be found. Good thing I packed nothing but my wedding dress in my carry-on, figuring hubby could always rent or buy a new tux over there :o) To make a long story short, the night before the big ceremony, hubby got a call to pick up the luggage, so all was well :o)

shaz said...

What an epic story Beth. Glad it all worked out in the end, your kids must be pretty seasoned travellers by now :) My hubby got stuck just recently trying to fly back from Mexico, they had a really long delay and he missed the connecting flight, so ended up having to spend a day in LA instead. At least he got to go on a day tour. But similar to you, it was pretty dicey as to whether he'd make it home that day or wait till a few days later! Luckily he came home in time.

Indie.Tea said...

Congrats on the publishing deal :)
I don't fly much - almost never in fact, but I think I can understand the feeling of just wanting to get back home.

Joanne said...

Oh my gosh this sounds like quite the epic journey! But I'm so glad it had a happy ending. All of the best stories do :P

Kristen said...

I have heard horror stories like this. I count myself lucky that I have never had to endure such an arduous experience. I am glad there was the silver lining of your book being published.

Brownieville Girl said...

We have had one horror journey but it pales into insignificance!!!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Oh my gosh, what a story! I'm so happy we've never had such an experience. You must have been so happy and relieved when you made it home.

tenaciouslyyours.com said...

I practically clapped at the ending of this story. I've had bad experiences at airports, but nothing on the order of this - I'm so glad that it turned out!

p.s. For some reason security at British airports is just downright painful compared to other international destinations.

julie said...

what is it about Boston Logan? I've had two hideously awful experiences there as well. I'm glad to hear you made it home in one piece and I'm sure it was a nice bonus to come home to good news!

Amie Kaufman said...

Trips like that are epic! I remember trying to fly out of Frankfurt during a snowstorm... as our 29 seater plane taxied down the runway (some seven hours late) we looked out the window and saw a Continental jet that had veered off course and crashed into a bank of snow, surrounded by emergency lights!

We didn't make it to Dublin, but ended up in Southhampton, England overnight, where the sole airport employee berated us upon landing for showing up after curfew. The next day we were driven to Heathrow (did I mention it was now Christmas eve?) where I used your trick--I borrowed the children of two exhausted fellow passengers, played the sympathy card and managed to talk all of us onto one of the only flights to Dublin that day... first class, woo!

What should have been a flight of just a few hours ended up taking 30, but we did make it there in time for Christmas!

Emma said...

You wonder how you get through flights like that. I remember backpacking to Europe and London in the 90s and when I was coming home, completely broke and just wanting to see Australia after 6 months away, my flight from Singapore was delayed by 8 hours. 8 hours in an airport with no money waiting for my flight home was an experience to say the least. I ended up falling asleep on my backpack and woke up just in time for the flight home.

Good times!

Angie's Recipes said...

What a travel story! It could be worse...I am glad that you and your gals are home safe and sound.
Beth, Congratulations!

sophiesfoodiefiles said...

Waw! What an adventure!!

What a story! thanks for sharing!

FOODESSA said...

I'm no longer the enthusiastic traveller I used to be and it certainly doesn't help with all the craziness that goes on these days.

Beth, wow...what an adventure...and what great news to boot. Congrats on the book publishing and for getting home safely of course ;o)

Ciao for now,
Claudia

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