Just in case you have not read my blog for a while, I have 2 (paying) jobs. One of those is for an airline and as I am sure you know, airline employees have flight benefits and this is where my story begins...
I felt confident in listing on a flight that looked full. I was traveling alone and at the top of the standby list because of my seniority of 17 years. This was the only flight from Houston to Asheville and it was a small plane, but it seemed that there was always an open seat from someone who was late getting to the airport or from a customer who encountered a misconnect. Only working half of a day, I left work at noon and parked my car in a pay lot. Catching the bus to the airport was an adventure on it's own, as the driver, I am sure was sharpening his skills as a Nascar driver! Everyone was hanging onto their seats and grab straps for dear life and I am still amazed that the side view mirrors were not knocked off of the bus with so many close calls!
Racing others to get off of that bus, I carried my bag to the Sky Cap station. As I checked my bag, I reiterated that I was a standby passenger so that my bag would be tagged as such. I thought it strange that I did not see anything indicating my flight status on my bag, but gave it no further thought, proceeding to the security check in. Passing through the lines, barefoot and void of all jewelry, a green light allowed me through. I checked the departure gate and started my journey through Terminal B.
With a bit less than one hour before my flight, I settled into a chair close to the podium, so that I could hear my name called when my seat was cleared. I made some calls, checked the contents of my purse and started my wait... Fifteen minutes before the flight was to leave, I started to get nervous. The gate agent reached for the intercom and I sat straight up expecting to hear my name called. To my dismay instead he was asking if any revenue passengers were interested in giving up their seat in exchange for travel vouchers! I saw a couple walk over to volunteer. I waited..and waited.. and when the couple went back to their seat, I approached the gate agent.
"Is the flight overbooked by 2 or just 1, because I am a non-rev?" I asked in desperation.
I knew that I had a few other options of getting to my destination, but each was much more difficult than the last and if I was going to get to see my baby show at his first show, I had to make it that night!
"Stay here." the gate agent gestured.
"Yeah!" I thought. "There is hope!"
As I waited for him to finish some paperwork at his station, a man ran up to the podium almost breathless saying, "Am I too late?"
The gate agent glanced as me for a split second and then replied to the man, "No Sir, you are right on time."
My heart sunk. I now had to proceed onto plan B. I asked the gate agent to retrieve my bag and as he did that, I went to the service counter to have my ticket changed to a new routing, Houston to Atlanta. I was now going to have to take another carrier from Atlanta to Ashville. I returned to the gate agent who informed me that my bag was on it's way to Asheville without me!
With no time to fuss, I turned and started my sprint over to terminal E, where my company office could issue me a pass on the other carrier. I realized that although I am required to dress professionally when I fly, my choice of high heeled summer sandals was a disastrous choice! One train ride and a 500 yard dash later, I was int the office and paying for my pass. I then called the other carrier and listed myself on the flight.
With little to no time to spare, I stared my speed walking again, this time over to terminal C to catch the flight to Atlanta. With more than enough seats to clear everyone, including the lowly non-revenue standbys, I was boarded.
It was a bumpy flight which seemed to only get worse the closer we got to Georgia. The pilot came over the intercom assuring us everything was fine, but that a storm had centered itself over Atlanta and that we may have a bit of a delay. I was not too worried though. There were 2 flights from Atlanta to Asheville and at the time I listed, both had a few seats still available.
Arriving 30 minutes later than scheduled, I felt like I would have run over my own Grandmother to get off of that plane. Although the next flight was scheduled to leave out of the same terminal, the 2 gates could not have been further apart. I was literly running in my high heels, trying to catch the earlier connection. Gasping for breath, I arrived at the gate to find the door had just been closed. My shoulders dropped as fast as my chin. I asked the agent to relist me on the next flight and just to torture myself I also asked him if there were any open seats on the flight I had just missed. He grimaced his face as he said,
"There was one."
I walked over to the new gate...the gate where the last Atlanta to Asheville flight was to leave in 2 hours. I informed the agent standing there I was on standby for the flight and inquired about it's status.
"Honestly?" she said
"This flight is completely sold out and there are 6 people ahead of you also wanting to standby."
My heart sunk. I felt defeated. I walked slowly over to an open seat and put my purse and camera bag down. I dug my phone out to call Don.
"I have to come home. I did not make the first flight out of Atlanta and the second one is full. I am not going to get to see Dominus show." I told him.
"There has to be something you can do. Go and see if there is a seat you can buy." he replied with hope in his voice.
Putting him on hold, I walked over to the gate agent and asked about it. All the revenue seats were completely sold out and I felt lost.
"All the seats are sold out Don. I will just come home. There is one more flight from Atlanta to Houston tonight." I told him.
"Just wait Julie." he said. I waited and could hear some movement in the background but had no idea what he was doing. "I just did a map quest from Atlanta to Asheville and it is just over 200 miles. Go and rent a car and drive there!" he said.
Don hated it when I went out of town overnight and my job writing for Saddle and Bridle magazine, kept me in hotel rooms a couple of nights per month, so this gesture meant the world to me.
"Are you sure??" I questioned.
"Yes Julie, you know how much you want to see him show. I think you should do this...and besides, your luggage is already there waiting for you!" he replied.
I hung up the phone and took the airport train to the destined area where all of the rental car companies sold their services. I looked around at the enormous amounts of people and picked a line where a sign was posted that said, "Cars Available"
I rented my car, got directions to the rental bus terminal and loaded my tired body into my newest seat. I was disappointed that I could not return the car in Asheville, but instead would have to journey back to Atlanta the next day. We drove a few miles and I noticed how bad the weather was. I was not only raining, but quite windy as well. It also occurred to me that although I asked for the lowest rate car they had, I never actually checked what I was charged. I cringed as I saw the 90+ dollars on the bill!
I found my car, got in and started to drive to the checkout booth. It was there that I encountered one of the nicest people ever. She took her time and showed me how to work the GPS. Maybe it was more than obvious that I had no idea where I was actually going when I told her I did not have an address, only a city! "Never you mind." She said as she guided me to putting in the correct data and got me on my way.
My journey was to take about 3 hours, but due to the poor weather conditions, it took closer to 4. It was raining the entire time, windy to the point of limbs and leaves flying across the road and the fog left me wondering sometimes what was on the side of the road! It was not until my journey back the next day that I realized I had crossed 2 bodies of water and the scenery was breathtaking!
It was almost midnight as I drove into the small town of Hendersonville, a small historic town just South of my destination. I called the trainer to get directions to the hotel and inquired where the airport was, so I could get my suitcase. Thankfully the rain had stopped and I drove into the airport lot directly across from the baggage pick up. I walked in and was greeted by an airport employee. I explained my circumstances and asked her if I could get my bag.
"I am sorry, but the airline personnel just left and your bag is locked away." she said with compassion. "You can come back tomorrow morning. They will be here at 5am."
I thanked her and drove to the hotel. I checked in, got my key and found my room. I could not wait to call Don and tell him this newest development - if for nothing else, to give us both a laugh. I ran a bath, washed my underclothes and missed my toothbrush very much! I crawled into bed and tried to sleep...