Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 92 - Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Well, its 11PM and I am sitting in my rocking chair in my house writing. This is just as it should be, but for much of the day I could only dream about being back here. They say “Life is and adventure” and I believe it. Well today was definitely an adventure. An adventure in travel and the positives and negatives of flying standby, or as we in the industry call it “Non-Reving.” That stands for Non Revenue travel. In other words we get to fly basically for free if , and it’s a big if these days, there is an empty seat available. There are some basics on Non rev travel. The first is that you should try to avoid travel on Friday, Sunday and Monday if at all possible. These are the three busiest travel days of the week. Normally Friday and Monday are the worst because of business travel. Another rule is to try t avoid school holidays like Spring Break. These are good rules and I try to abide with them when possible. But this weekend it wasn’t possible. I was able to go to Ft Lauderdale on Saturday rather than Friday. But because of school, I needed to come back on Monday. I did think that nost of the Spring Breaks were over, but I guess I was wrong on that. I knew that things didn’t look real good before I even left Atlanta on Saturday, but I had no idea how bad they would become today.
Ft Lauderdale airport is only 15 minutes from Jennifer’s and it is my airport of choice. But if things are bad there I can look at Miami Airport or West Palm Beach Airport. They are about a 45-minute drive south and north of Ft Lauderdale. Yesterday afternoon I started looking at the flights for today. Ft Lauderdale was terrible. Every flight was overbooked. Miami Airport was the same. It didn’t look good. Then I checked West Palm Beach. While it didn’t look good, it looked much better than the other two. So Sean said he would drive me up to West Palm Beach. I wanted to try to get on the 5:45 AM flight. Another rule is if all the flights are tight, the earlier you can get on, the better chance you have. That mean we had to leave their house at 4AM, so we set our alarms accordingly. The drive down was through a thunderstorm but we got to the airport at 4:50. I had plenty of time and things were looking good. Then I got to the gate and saw all the people and I knew it was going to be a long day. I missed the 5:45 flight and four others. The only good news was that there was a Starbucks near the gates and the airport had free WiFi. I was able to keep track of how everything was looking on my laptop. All morning long I knew that I was going to mill the flights. I didn’t come close. In fact I was moving backward on the list. But I still held out hope. The afternoon flights were not quite as bad. In fact I was hoping to get on the 2:30 one. That would still get me back in time for school. All day long I had been at peace. I was declaring that I was going to get home for school. I felt it was God’s will for me to be there, so I figured I would either get on the 2:30 flight or the 4:15 one. Either would get me to school at a reasonable time. The 12:15 flight closed out, and it was well overbooked. It really didn’t look good at all for any of the flights the remainder of the day. I really didn’t want Jennifer or Sean to have to drive back up to take me back to spend the night, but it was beginning to look like there was no other choice. I had walked away form the gate area and was going to find something to eat. I stopped to text people at school to tell them I would probably not be there. While I was texting I saw a couple of the other stand by passengers go up to the gate counter that I had just left. I started to ignore them when I got a nudge to go see what they were doing. It was the Holy Spirit nudging me. I know that now, but really didn’t then. I found out that a new flight had been brought in to Ft Lauderdale and there were 100 empty seats. The agent advised us that we should go to Ft Lauderdale to try and make that flight. We could take a taxi over to the “tri – rail”. That’s like a north south Marta line that runs between West Palm Beach and Miami Airport. She said we had time to get to Ft Lauderdale that way. There were five of us, so we shared a cab and then got to the rail station. The train only ran every hour, and we had to wait about a half hour to get there. It was an hour ride on the train down to the airport. Things were about to get tight time wise. WE got to the Ft Lauderdale Airport stop and had to take another taxi to the airport. We got to the gate around 2:55. Normally boarding would have started at about 3:00, so we were good. But this was anything but normal. There were people everywhere. It looked like the plane had about 80 empty seats, but there were around 110 standby passengers. It seems that people from Miami Airport had come up as well. To make a long story short, I got a seat, and even had an aisle seat. God is good, and I got to Atlanta in time to make it to school. But let me tell you the rest of the story because this is a minor miracle in itself. This plane and crew had done a military charter flight to GITMO in Cuba. They were on their way back from Cuba to Atlanta empty. Abeam Ft Lauderdale they get a message to go to Ft Lauderdale to make up this extra flight. I have been working and flying non rev with Delta for over 30 years. In my whole career I can’t remember the company ever doing something like. For them to divert a flight mainly just to pick up standby passengers; it is unheard of. Remember that I had had a peace all day sensing that it was Gods will that I was at school tonight. Well, as far as I am concerned He manipulated the situation to have Delta bring that plane in and to have me back in Ft Lauderdale to get on it. He is Good, and He does good things for His kids.
School was great and I will talk more about it later. Right now though, I think it’s time for bed. I’ll probably dream of planes, trains and automobiles tonight.


  1. Dad, I'm so glad you made it back for class tonight! Thank you for going through all of the pains of travel these days to see us! This afternoon Meleah texted Mom's phone & told me of it afterward's asking if that was "bad." I told her no. I can tell the girls really enjoyed seeing you this weekend and were glad you were able to stay! It was strange not having you around tonight --- hope you get some sleep (Sean fell asleep early so I know you must be exhausted too). I love you so much!

  2. Oh...the nightmares I had about flying stand-by. The last time that we flew stand-by we had a similar miracle happen. Thinking that we were going to have to fly from Salt Lake to Las Vegas then to ATL, we checked w/ a random gate agent. He was like, "why are you doing that? There are 6 available seats on the direct flight to ATL from here." In 5 minutes we had a seat and got home in a few hours as opposed to a day and a half. God is good! I'm so glad that you made it home in time!