The Trip from Hell, Part I (flight madness)


Months and months ago I planned a long weekend trip for myself and my wife (Kim). We didn’t really have much money to spend the previous year for her 25th birthday and I felt bad about it.

I looked long and hard at different options (concerts, beach getaway, etc.) and places to stay (keep it within driving distance or fly). In my search I came across that Taylor Swift was in concert and would be straight through Kim’s 26th birthday. I even saw that she would be performing in Buffalo (seemed to easy and lacking in effort considering she is from Lockport) and Toronto (a little better than the Buffalo option, but not much). Other destinations were Texas and places I thought she would have had no interest in going to.

Then I saw that Swift would be performing in Miami, FL on November 13, ten days after her birthday and roughly 5 years since we were there last. We both received Veteran’s Day off at our jobs so I planned a long weekend (Nov 10-14) in lovely Miami Beach. The both of us only had to take off two days from work for a nice five-day vacation.

I made all the plans and took care of everything. All we had to do was show up at Albany International (ha!) Airport on November 10 and catch our flight from Albany to Newark, then a short layover and finally Newark to Miami. Seemed simple enough.

We arrived at the airport at the ass crack of dawn for our flight that was scheduled to depart at 7:02 AM (I cannot tell you how many times I almost lost my damn mind seeing that time unchanged and saying “On Time”). Checked in through the computer which printed out tickets and then checked our bag at the Continental Airlines desk. Security was a breeze, although the TSA people were a little over the top snippy in a couple of cases.

Mother fuckers.

Off to the gate to wait for our flight and then we would be well on our way to sunny and warm Miami Beach. Kim and I shared visions of white sandy beaches and a slushy, highly alcoholic beverage in our hands.

After about 15 minutes of waiting the Continental employee at the gate desk announced that our flight to Newark was going to be delayed. Not 5, 15 or even a half hour, but well over two hours delayed and was now scheduled to depart at 9:30. Our connecting flight in Newark was to depart to Miami at (roughly) 9:15. You can see how this would present a problem.

We had to jump into the massive line now forming at the Continental desk. We had to change our flight or had another connecting flight arranged. I’ll be honest, airports make me nervous in general and all this crap was making my head spin with anger and frustration, but mostly anger.

We waiting in that line for about 45 minutes, maybe an hour. I wasn’t sure as I was becoming delusional with frustration. Kim was much calmer than I was and hence why she carried out the negotiations that turned out to be much more difficult than they should have been.

They offered us two options;

1) There was a plane that was leaving at a time I can’t remember-ish that would eventually arrive (with one connection) in Orlando at about 10:30-11 PM. The woman then explained that we would then just have a short drive from Orlando to Miami Beach. Still blinded by anger and unable to speak, my wife again took the reigns and asked how long of a drive it was, to which the man working next to her at the desk said, “Oh, it’s about a half hour.” I’ll give him credit, he sounded so fucking sure of himself that I just kind of nodded my head like a fool and accepted it.

2) There was a flight that left at 3 that would land in Miami at about 11, the NEXT DAY! This was off the table as an option as soon as she said it. Why would I want to basically lose two days of my 5 day vacation?

Other than those two flight options they did nothing to keep us happy or content.

The woman told us she tentatively had us on the flight to Orlando and to tell her what flight we wanted before it was too late. We retreated to our seats and whipped out the trusty Toshiba laptop to investigate a couple of things; if there was any other way to get to Miami (there wasn’t), and how long of a drive it would be from Orlando to Miami Beach. Turns out Orlando is 240 God damn miles from Miami Beach. The man who said it was a half hour drive must own the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” to make that trip. We probably would have been able to rent some SUV and so it would have taken us nearly 4 hours.

We didn’t really want either option, but out of curiosity Kim approached the desk again (another half hour wait) to inquire about a rental car and if they would cover the cost of renting the car. It didn’t seem like an over-the-top request considering they were possibly throwing our entire vacation into disarray. They did not cover or offer any money to offset any expenses. That was not acceptable, but without saying as much they basically told her that all they could do was provide another flight and that was it, that was the list.

After talking to my mother and Kim talking to her father we were both told that we should ask about a flight to Fort Lauderdale which was a mere 30 minutes from Miami. Considering our other options, Fort Lauderdale sounded like a dream come true.

Again Kim approached the desk and asked about possible flights to Fort Lauderdale. They magically had flights available. I found it strange that they offered us only two options, one of which was a flight to Orlando followed up with a 4 hour drive just to get to Miami when they had plenty of open seats on flights that ended up in Fort Lauderdale.

The deal with the Fort Lauderdale flight was this; we were guaranteed a flight from Newark to Fort Lauderdale that left at 7:30 PM and arrived at 10-10:30 PM, BUT (there’s always a but) there were four flights that we could request to be put on standby for that left before the 7:30 flight. This was fantastic news. I didn’t bank on being into Miami Beach before 11 PM, so standby gave us a shot to not have to miss out on our whole first day.

We thought it over and given the other options this was obviously the way to go.

The woman at the counter (the one who told us one of our two best options was a flight to Orlando) booked us on that flight and gave us the information on what gate to go to when we arrive in Newark to get ourselves put on standby for an earlier flight to Fort Lauderdale. Things seemed to be smoothing themselves out after a ridiculously frustrating start.

I then hassled Kim numerous times to go back up to the woman and make sure our checked bag was going to be now arriving in Fort Lauderdale and not Miami, as it had been originally tagged. The woman assured Kim that the bag was going to be where it needs to be, even calling and talking to the person that was supposed to change the tag.

Feeling nervous, but much better considering the earlier bullshit our plane was set to depart at 10:30 and arrive in Newark at like 11:15-11:30.

The flight to Newark was smooth and we landed safe and with plenty of time to put in our request for standby. With the request put in and nothing to do but wait, that’s exactly what we did. Sitting at the gate and sighing over and over again because I’m a child and because I thought we had no hope of getting on any of the four flights before our booked 7:30 flight.

As the first Newark to Fort Lauderdale flight was be boarded as flights normally do we continued to wait. As they made announcement after announcement about which rows were now boarding, we waited. As they called up the first person on standby, we waited. As they called up the a married couple on standby, we waited. A few more people on standby were boarded, we waited.

Finally the last boarding call was made. I was deflated, annoyed, pissed off and ready to pull out my rapidly greying hair.

Then a funny thing happened. There was one more announcement.

“Mr. and Mrs. King?” SCORE!

We made it onto the first possible standby flight and would arrive in Fort Lauderdale at about 5:30 PM and Miami Beach at around 6. Things were looking up. I had no hope whatsoever of making that first flight, but we did and it was the first positive thing to have happened all day.

We did everything but fucking skip down the damn ramp and onto the plane.

It seemed like things were finally on track and things were looking up.

The plane arrived in Fort Lauderdale in what seemed like no time and off to the baggage claim we went.

As we stood there smiling at each other, thankful that we were so.damn.close to officially starting our vacation, the baggage claim conveyor belt cranked up and the baggage slowly started to crawl along.

We stared at the flaps that the luggage slid under, just giddy that eventually ours would pop out and then off to Miami Beach we would be!

Bag after bag after bag crept along, other people snatching up their luggage with a huge smile, off to where ever they happened to be going.

The luggage coming through the flaps became less and less. One would pop out, a minute later another one. Then nothing. Nothing for about 5 minutes.

The conveyor belt kept cranking along so I held out hope that there might be more luggage left to make an appearance. Then there it was, a long black luggage bag peeked through, but before I could get too excited I quickly realized that it wasn’t ours. The belt moved along for another couple of minutes before it finally came to a stop.

Kim was already off to the baggage claim desk to figure out what to do next.

I just sat down and stared at those bastard black flaps. Praying for our luggage to just magically come flying through.

Alas, there was no luggage in Fort Lauderdale.

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About Will King

I've spent my whole life in Upstate New York and I wouldn't want to spend my life anywhere else. My son is perfect, even when he's not and my wife makes me want to slam my head against a brick wall all while keeping me sane. If you can figure all that out, let me in on it.
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