One of the worst experiences I have ever had flying was also one of my best experiences at an airport. I rarely have trouble while flying, but this was one of those inevitable exceptions.
It was the summer of 2000. My mother, younger siblings and I were heading home after our annual trip to our grandparent’s house back east. Our flight itinerary was fairly simple. We were to board a small plane, designed to hold about thirty people, in Knoxville, Tennessee. A half hour later we were due to land at the large international airport in Atlanta, Georgia. After a short layover it was only a little over two and a half hours before we would land at the Denver International Airport and see our father for the first time in two weeks.
It was such a simple plan; in fact, it seemed foolproof. Unfortunately, things don’t always go the way we think they should. There are always many variables in any given situation that are ready to cause trouble and delays.
For us, it all started in Knoxville. Our little puddle jumper was apparently having a few problems. We finally boarded the plane. We soon discovered, however, that being in our assigned seats was no guarantee that we were going to take off anytime soon. We finally got up in the air and before we knew it were touching down in Atlanta, Georgia.
One thing I will always be thankful for is that we didn’t have to run through the airport like crazy people to catch the next flight. They calmly informed us at our landing gate that our flight to Denver had already headed toward the mile high city. The next available flight was four long hours away from taking off. For a mother with three children in tow, the youngest only six years old, four hours can be an eternity.
This is where the story gets good. Our airline, Delta, took full responsibility for the delay and went out of their way to ensure our comfort during the long layover. The four of us were loaded down with free food vouchers for a variety of different eateries in the airport. Immediate reservations were made for us on the very full next flight while we began using our vouchers. Moments like that stress me out to the max, it even crossed my mind that I should start investing in travel health insurance in case of a panic attack.
We found two tables in the food court area of the airport and began our feast. A man passed near our table while we were eating and tripped on a nearby chair. His food went flying through the air and landed on the floor, now uneatable. We had more than we could ever eat and were able to give the man an entire pizza, passing on the kindness that had been shown to us.
The four hours passed faster than we had thought possible and we were soon in the air. Our plane was full of young girl scouts who were far from sleepy, even though it was nearing midnight. It really didn’t matter though. We were going home.