On Sunday morning when we were scheduled to fly from Amsterdam through Philadelphia to Raleigh, arriving home a little after 5pm the same day, Mike was awakened at 4am by a text from American Airlines with the news that our flight out of Amsterdam was delayed; a couple of hours later it was cancelled! Several phone calls to American gave us no good options, some options worse than others. There were no options at all on any airline out of Amsterdam that would get us both home on Sunday. One option (the worst) would get us home three days later after flying through LA.! What seemed the best option would have Mike and me flying separately on different airlines. We put the best of our options on hold to protect us with a flight, then headed to the airport to see if other options became available once all of the rebookings of the Philadelphia flight settled out.
Once at the Amsterdam airport, we saw that the line at the American Airlines counter was a mile long, with all of the people in line waiting to rebook their cancelled flights. It became obvious that waiting in that line would result in Mike missing the flight he had put on hold because it was scheduled to depart before we would even get to the ticket counter! Plus, we did not want to fly on separate airlines if there was any other option. While Mike and I waited in the long line, I called American Airlines. After a long wait, an agent finally came on the line. (During this time, the wait in the physical line for the ticket counter had not improved much at all.) The agent on the line searched for all options. The best option she was able to find was another seat on the flight that I was booked on for Sunday evening, overnighting in London and flying to Raleigh Monday morning. Mike and I agreed that this option made the most sense. Once those flights were confirmed, we left the waiting line and proceeded to check in seven hours early for our evening British Airways flight to London.
At the British Airlines ticket counter, we met a customer service expert, Raveena, who made any inconveniences we had experienced disappear from memory. Raveena was exceptional. She was kind, empathetic, and patient. She made us feel like she had all the time in the world for us, even stating at one point, “It does not matter about my break, take whatever time you need,” this referencing us transferring some items from our checked luggage to our carry-ons. She was helpful in other ways as well, one of which will not be mentioned since it might not be as valued by her employer as her customers! Raveena’s gift of service reminded me that even in difficult situations we can find moments of light. May my light shine as bright as Raveena’s.
It would be a long day in the Amsterdam airport, and we needed to book a hotel in London for the night, which we did. We did not need to worry about food, for we knew we could spend the day in the airport lounge and be comfortable and well fed. Mike and I both had plenty of work to do to keep us company. It could be worse. And then, it got worse.
After sitting in the airport for seven hours we boarded our flight to London. And waited. The plane’s baggage bin was stuck, and we could not take off until it was fixed, which would result in (at least) an hour’s delay. The first of two “good finder” thoughts I had was that at least we did not have a flight to connect to in London that night. The other was that it wasn’t mechanical trouble with the plane that would have grounded us, or worse.
At times like this, during life’s disruptions, travel or otherwise, I am reminded of how little control we humans have. There is always someone or something bigger than us with much more power than we have. American Airlines had more power than we had and was able to cancel our confirmed and paid-for flight and put us on another airline at their will, regardless of our inconvenience or additional cost. In the physical waiting line at the American Airlines counter, there were people with the highest possible status, such as Executive Platinum flyers, which included Mike, and I am sure others, as well as economy flyers with no status. Airline status made no difference. There was no priority line in that situation; all waiting in line were equal, and the best any could do was wait their turn. Unless they knew they had another option, which we did, and had the ability to exercise it, such as a mobile phone, which we had.
This experience reminded me of our Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten travel challenges, which are recorded in several blogs on www.fralixgroup.com, and the soon to be released book, Changing Me from The Inside Out, My Hurricane Irma Experience on St. Maarten and other Life Changing Events, which will be available from Amazon.
Once in the air after an hour’s delay, the flight from Amsterdam to London was uneventful. Since we had checked our luggage all the way through, we quickly made our way through the London Heathrow airport and checked in to the Hilton Airport Hotel without delay.
Monday morning, we arrived at the airport and went to the American Airlines Lounge and had a light breakfast. Our flight from London to Raleigh departed on time, and we were back in Raleigh about eight and a half hours later.
I had several lessons from this experience, all related to self-sufficiency.
My first lesson was, be self-sufficient in all ways, even when traveling with your spouse. Have your own credit card with spending ability, money in the country you are travelling in’s currency, and your own power devices. I had my own credit card with spending ability and cash in euros. I did not have my own power plug adapter and would have needed to purchase one if Mike and I had been on separate airlines. Also, keep your devices fully charged. And, even if you do not plan to need or use your mobile phone in a foreign country, be prepared with a phone travel pass in the rare event that you do need to use your phone and do not want to go broke in the process! Knowing I had a travel pass for phone and data with a $10/day cost regardless of usage made the long phone call to American Airlines inexpensive.
Keep up with your own travel documents. At one point when Mike and I were booked on separate airlines, I realized that he had my travel documents, and how easy it would have been to forget, and have my documents fly with him on another flight!
When travelling, carry-on only what you can handle. Regarding checked luggage, only take what you yourself can manage, including what you can get up and down steps and on and off trains. Now, this one is hard for me. On this trip, I had two carry-ons, a tote bag, and my purse. I had two checked bags. I had another tote bag that Mike was carrying for me since he had only one carry-on. Had we been separated on different flights, this would have been more complicated. It would have been even more difficult if I had to manage steps and trains. This reminded me of our Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten last year when one of the evacuation options required one travel with only one piece of luggage and be able to hold that on your lap! We elected another evacuation option, although not for that reason. Still, travelling light makes everything less complicated.
Uhm, I just had a thought. Is it possible that the purpose of this travel disruption experience was that I would learn the lessons I needed to learn?