Fear of Flying

We completed the first leg of our return trip–arrived an hour late.  The two-hour layover allowed us to stretch our legs and take a break from in flight meals.  Flight staff allowed persons with connecting flights to disembark first.  That was a nice gesture.  A little after one in the morning, we departed for Houston International Airport–the second leg of our journey.

Severe thunderstorms over the Houston area delayed the flight.  It was a bumpy ride.  Lightning flashed, rain pelted the aircrafts metal skin.  Because of being awake all night, things seemed magnified.  My stomach was tied up in knots.  I hated to use cramped airplane bathrooms.  Would someone please sit down and let me take my turn?  It didn’t happen, so I used the restroom in first class.  Apparently, that was a no-no.  As if riff-raff from coach, like me, somehow lowered the status of first class passengers.

I nervously checked my watch.  Our one hour layover disappeared like an ice-cube on a hot summer day.  The flight staff congregated at the front of the plane.  They didn’t seem to have any worries–laughing, telling jokes–having a good time.  Would we miss our connecting flight?  Why couldn’t the flight staff let us get off first?  This time there were no miracles.  I expressed concerns to one of the staff members.  She suggested informing the gate agent at the end of the ramp.  Meanwhile, we waited for everyone else to disembark.

There was now only twenty-five minutes to catch our connecting flight.  It would be a challenge.  We were at Terminal “E” and had to be at Terminal “B.” The gate agent was no help.  His suggestion, “Well, you’ll just have to move faster and try for it.”  I, at least thought, he’d get us one of those airport courtesy golf carts.  That was our only chance.   I started out at a fast walk, my wife and carry-on baggage in tow.  My wife started hyperventilating from tension and frustration.  An airport staff worker saw us and offered a ride.  She took us to the tram and arranged for someone to pick us up at the other end.  We got to the gate just as our flight departed.

It was a helpless feeling.  We were at the mercy of the airline–not where I wanted to be.  My wife was in tears.  I tried to be stoic.  The next flight, at eleven in the morning, had been cancelled due to weather.  “Why don’t I route you through Tampa-St. Petersburg?”  The ticket counter person suggested.  “Are you nuts?” My wife responded.  “That’s an eight-hour drive east of where we live.”  Our alternate flight departed at two-thirty in the afternoon for Mobile, AL.  A neighbor came and drove us home from the airport.  It was a good thing–we’d now been awake thirty-six hours.

What did I carry from this?  …More examples of good and bad customer service.  The words of the Houston gate attendant, “You’ll have to move faster and try for it.”  Two contrasting flight crews, one on top of things, going out of their way to provide exemplary customer service.  The other crew, too self-absorbed to bother with needs of passengers.  The airport courtesy transportation people were great.  My flight, three years previous, had a five hour delay due to mechanical problems.  I don’t look forward to flying again.