Suppose you have to get from New York to Pensacola, FL to give a 7:00pm lecture at First Baptist Church (which I did).
And suppose there are no direct flights (which there aren’t).
And suppose there’s a freak winter storm in the deep south that covers the area with ice and snow (which there was).
And suppose the storm also shuts down the whole city of Atlanta (which it did), the obvious choice for an airport through which to transfer (which it is).
What do you do? (Hint: you’ll need volunteers to fly one of the planes.)
Here’s what I did.
- I got on the phone to Delta right away when they called at 7:00am to tell me my flight from White Plains to Atlanta was canceled. Were there any direct flights to Pensacola? No. Was there another multi-leg combination? No. What about from another airport? LaGuardia? Kennedy? Newark? No. What if I drove for a few hours? Boston? Philly? There must be something. There wasn’t.
- I looked at a map. Could Delta get me to Mobile? No. What about New Orleans? No. What about a direct flight to Tampa or Orlando, and then a flight to Pensacola. No. All sold out.
- I went on-line to buy a ticket on another airline. Still no joy. It was all sold out.
- I called Delta back. Can you fly me anywhere in the south? Yes! To Panama City, FL via Atlanta, arriving at 4:29pm. Check Google Maps. It’s a two-hour fifteen-minute drive to Pensacola. That would give me a 16 minute margin of error. I’ll take it! Delta changed my itinerary free of charge.
- I drove to the airport, where I learned that my flight to Atlanta was delayed. I wouldn’t make my connection. It was already almost noon.
- I begged my way onto the 7:30am flight to Atlanta, which hadn’t left yet. I made it onto that flight and landed in Atlanta.
- In Atlanta, I ran like a mad-man to try to fly stand-by on a much-delayed flight to Pensacola. I got there just in time. “But your ticket is to Panama City,” the agent told me. “Yes. I know. But I’m not going to Panama City. I’m going to Pensacola. Really.” Only a manual-ticket-change agent could reroute me. There was a 40-minute wait for such an agent. I missed the flight.
- I bolted back to the gate for my flight to Panama City, which was listed as leaving in 20 minutes. But it obviously wasn’t. There was no plane.
- I called Delta to rebook me on the 5:30pm flight to Pensacola. I’d arrive at 5:45pm with plenty of time to get to the church by 7:00pm. An hour phone call did the trick. I was set. I was at the gate. We had a plane. We had a take-off slot. We had a flight crew.
We didn’t have a pilot or co-pilot.
- I boarded the plane with everyone else, assured by Delta that the pilots would arrive from Minneapolis at 5:30, get to our gate by 6:00, and be ready to fly the plane by 6:30. With the one-hour time change, I’d still make my lecture. I didn’t want dinner anyway.
- I almost gave up when I learned that our pilots had been re-routed to a flight that Delta loved more than us. Our new pilots wouldn’t arrive until 10:00pm.
- I couldn’t believe my ears when the flight attendants told us that two volunteers on the flight would fly the plane! It just so happened that among the passengers were two Delta pilots, both certified on the Airbus 319 that we were flying. They would fly us to Pensacola. And they did.
- I ran through the Pensacola airport, hailed a cab, and told the driver “step on it!” I arrived at 7:30pm.
Nothing to it.