Picture it….you’re sitting on an airplane waiting to depart the gate. You’re excited because for the first time in a long time, you’re not leaving for a business trip. This time, a plane will be taking you to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for your annual family vacation. Actually, it will be taking you to Raleigh, NC and then you’ll be renting a car to drive the 4 hours to the coast. You’re not by yourself on this flight. Your wife and two children are with you. This vacation is especially meaningful for your wife because she hasn’t seen her family since moving across the country almost 10 months ago. This is your kids’ first time on an airplane. They’re also excited, but for different reasons. Actually, “excited” doesn’t begin to describe what they’re feeling. The plane is boarded but the aircraft door is still open and you’re still parked at the gate. The scheduled departure time comes and goes. 10 minutes past departure, 15, then 20. You travel a lot for business so you are pretty sure that there is a problem they’re not telling you about. Your son, age 4, asks, “why aren’t we moving yet, Daddy?” You have no response that would satisfy his young inquisitive mind so you simply say nothing at all.
Then the Captain comes on the PA and says that there is some kind of problem with Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Washington, D.C. and that all flights headed in that direction are being held at their departure points until the issue is resolved. A few minutes later, the Captain announces that there has been a power failure at ATC and he hopes to provide an update as to when you’ll be departing shortly. Shortly? You know how that goes. You pull out your cell phone to see if you can find any more information and when you pull up your flight status, you see the worst word possible when traveling by air – CANCELLED. You show it to the guy sitting next to you and he utters an expletive before quickly apologizing to you for doing so in front of your son. You smile and say that he’s heard worse. You are upset but maintain your positive attitude for the sake of your son. Your wife and daughter (age 7) are sitting in the aisle in front and across the plane from you. It’s only a matter of seconds before the Captain provides the dreaded news to the passengers. You know that your wife is going to be shattered because she has been missing her family and is anxious to see them. But you’re not next to her to provide comfort when the announcement is made.
The Captain comes back on and renders the bad news. The flight has been cancelled. Groans, moans, and more expletives ring out throughout the plane. You look over at your wife and see that her excitement has turned to sheer and utter disappointment. She looks back at you and shrugs her shoulders. You attempt to give a reassuring look back but despite your best efforts, her reaction to this tells you that your effort has failed. The crew instructs everyone to proceed to the ticket counter to discuss rebooking and alternate flights. You’re at the back of the plane so you know you’re going to be at the back of what is certain to be a very long line….
You stand up and your son innocently asks, “are we here already?” Then you have to try to explain to this little boy that you have to get off this plane and onto another one. His naivety is an asset here. As you exit the plane, the crew and Captain are standing at the door apologizing. You realize that the issue is completely out of their control because again, you travel a lot for business and at this point, you are pretty good at discerning what is and what is not under the airlines’ control. You walk up the jet bridge and emerge back onto the gate area and see that a line about 200 people deep has already formed. You hug your wife and ask her to have a seat with the kids and proceed to the back of the line. It’s going to be a long wait. People are angry. They’re frustrated. Some are obnoxious and downright rude. But you take it all in stride (to the best of your ability, of course.)
It’s been 15 minutes and the line hasn’t moved an inch……
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR PART 2!