The quickest way to get there
Twice a year, three sisters, Shelly, Jackie, and Christina who live apart, take time to spend a weekend together in New York City. Jackie’s son happens to own a loft on the upper west side of Manhattan. The deal is pretty simple. He spends the weekend at his girlfriends, and the ladies get to use his place. Thankful for his hospitality they tidy up and wash laundry before leaving.
The weekend is always fun because no matter how many times one visits New York there is always something new to see and someplace new to eat. For the sisters most important is the chance to visit and catch up on family happenings.
The plan is to arrive on Friday morning. They coordinate flight itineraries to arrive close in time at New York Laguardia airport. Jackie and Christina both live in New York State so regional flights run frequently for both of them. Shelly travels from Florida. After landing they meet near the taxi stand outside the terminal and ride into the city together, sharing the fare.
Jackie and Christina keep an eye on the rainstorms passing through but have the opportunity to get out early enough on the shuttle flights running every hour.
Shelly starts the day with an alert from the airline notifying her of a slight one hour delay due to weather in the northeast. That’s no big deal, 9:00 am departure works fine. Often, the lost time can be made up in flight and she will still arrive within plenty of time for lunch in the city. Upon arrival at the Florida airport, she checks the departure schedule before making her way through the security checkpoint. All went better than expected because now her flight was moved up ten minutes.
Sitting near the check-in counter she noticed that the plane she was expecting to board was not at the gate. Putting her flight number into a flight tracker app on her phone it was obvious that there was no way the plane would arrive in time to make the flight schedule scrolling on the board. She decided to speak with an airline representative who let her know an announcement would be made shortly. Apparently, all flights in and out of the New York City area were affected due to rain and lightning. Her new departure time would now be 2 PM. She was offered other options with connecting flights but no guarantees. With only five hours to wait, she decided to wait passing time on her WordPress reader and going for a light lunch.
The plane has arrived
The flight crew has arrived, the storms in New York cleared out, passengers board, and make it to their seats. The flight attendants are going up and down the aisles closing the luggage bins, ordering tray tables up and serving wine in first class. Time to buckle up, watch the safety video and get this show in the air.
The plane is not moving
The engines came on, the engines went off. From the cockpit: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain, we have a warning light on the instrument panel. at this time we are on the phone with tech support, and this should be cleared up momentarily”.
In other words, get off the plane
Fifteen more minutes go by and the Captain comes back on to let everyone know that the problem was not taken care of and a mechanics team has to come onto the plane. In the meantime for everyone’s comfort, they ask that passengers gather their personal items and return to the check-in counter area where refreshments will be served.
The second boarding
Some passengers gave up and left. A fully booked flights now had available seats. A crew of mechanics went onboard and took care of the problem. The gate attendant announced that the plane is good and boarding will begin shortly. Everyone gets their tickets out. Sugared up on Coca-Cola and Biscoff, passengers re-board the plane much faster knowing where their seats are. No one pays attention to the zones. Shelly keeps calm, her sisters call and assure her that they will wait up for her no matter how late she arrives.
Instead of the flight attendant closing the bins and preparing the cabin, they were walking up and down the aisles with a passenger log in hand counting people. The familiar voice of the Captain now sounds dreary. Here it is ” ladies and gentlemen we are cleared for departure but have reason to believe there is an intruder on the plane”.
The chaos begins.
Shelly with years of management and problem-solving skills summons a flight attendant who is frantically counting. “I hope you don’t mind me giving you a suggestion on how to do your job, but there’s an easier way”. Maybe if each passenger took their ticket out you could verify they are in the assigned seat. Give each attendant a section of the plane, and check for the tickets. She agreed to try that and it worked.
There was a flight attendant from another airline on board with earbuds apparently not paying attention to anything going on. Someone at the gate cleared him through because the flight he was working on was canceled and this would get him home. With that settled, the happy words “prepare for departure, anticipated arrival time at Laguardia 8:40 PM” came over the intercom system.
Nowhere to land
Shelly was relieved that they were en route and the airline practiced a safety first policy for each scenario on this trip. The events of the day were unusual especially adding them all together. Happy with her decision to ride out the storm, her only regrets were not upgrading to a seat with more legroom.
With the city lights now within view, it all seemed unimportant. The attendants were advised to prepare for landing, and at the same time, the plane did not seem to be descending. Shelly nudged her new flight friend in the seat beside her. ” I feel like we are going in circles”. Within seconds the Captain announced there was not a runway available and the plane would land in a “remote” area. Shouters began citing a passenger bill of rights, and others wiggled uncomfortably in their seats.
The landing was smooth and the area was dark. A portable staircase was wheeled up to the side of the plane. The airline crew assisted the passengers and helped with their belongings. Two large shuttle buses pulled up alongside the plane for transport to the baggage area of the nearby terminal.
Everyone’s chatter on the bus was of different opinions and promises to never fly this airline again. Shelly sat quietly hoping her yellow taxi ride would be uneventful.
The weekend visit turned out to be perfect in every other way.
After returning home and having time to think about it all, Shelly decided to call the airline. Not to complain but very curious. She could not help but wonder if this was a new employee training flight. After all, nothing was routine.
The customer care representative wasn’t aware of a program as stated, but offered an understanding ear.
The story has a good ending. When Shelly received her bonus point statement the next month, she noticed a credit large enough to cover a round-trip domestic ticket.
Ready to do it all over again.
See you in the clouds