Understanding how airlines operate often comes in very handy when you’re facing delays at an airport. And since I travel so often, I have quite the log of airport stories that I could share.
This particular story starts when I was visiting a client in their New York office. Someone popped in to our meeting to say, “Kerry, you better head to the airport to try to get out of here, or you will be staying in New York for the next 3 days. A blizzard is about to hit us!”
So, I headed to the airport but couldn’t get a direct flight home. I grabbed a flight to Raleigh, North Carolina, to get south of the storm. When I got to the airport, I could see that things were about to get really bad—the monitors were filled with delays, which started to change to cancellations. I was sitting at my gate when a gate agent announced that our flight was going to be delayed. Our plane was at the gate ready to go, the gate agent said, but the crew that was coming in from Canada was delayed, so the airline didn’t have a crew. “We will keep you posted,” she said.
I heard people on cellphones saying all the hotels were booked because so many flights had already been canceled. As the cancellations continued, our gate agent provided an update, saying that we would be delayed another 30 minutes. I turned to the men sitting next to me and said, “This isn’t good. The crew we’re waiting for is going to time out by the time they get here or the storm will have closed in. Either way, it’s not good for us.”
“What do you think our chances are of getting home?” the men in business suits next to me asked.
“Hold on, I’m going to take care of this,” I said.
I got up and walked toward a gate where I saw a captain checking the computer.
“Hi, captain, how would you like to go to Raleigh tonight?” I asked him.
He looked up, “I would love to go to Raleigh—in fact, I am the captain for the 9 p.m. flight there tonight, but I’m not sure if we will make it out of here.”
I said, “Listen, you need to call dispatch right now and get reassigned to the earlier flight. The plane is sitting right there—it is fueled and ready to go, we just need a crew. Is the rest of your crew here?”
“Yes, this is the lead flight attendant,” he said pointing to a woman who said, “Hello.”
“I’m not sure where my FO (first officer) is but I can find him,” the captain said.
“Great! You call inflight,” I said, “and you call dispatch, and see who can get reassigned faster.”
They both said, “Great,” and picked up their phones. Then the captain looked up at me and said, “Who are you?”
“Just a passenger who wants to get home and not sleep in the airport for the next 3 days,” I said as I walked back to my seat where the two businessmen were seated. They looked at me and asked what I found out.
I told them that I had taken care of it, and we would all be getting out of New York tonight so we wouldn’t be stuck sleeping in the airport.
“What do you mean, ‘you took care of it?’” they wondered.
I said, “I found us a crew, and they are calling headquarters for confirmation. Once the paperwork is completed, we should be good to go.”
They both laughed and said, “Yeah right, if that happens we will buy you dinner.”
“You’re on!” I said.
About 15 minutes later, the captain walked by our seats and one of the businessmen said, “Hey captain, what’s going on?”
“That lady is going to get us all home tonight,” he said, pointing at me.
About 15 minutes later, we started boarding the plane. We pushed back from the gate and deicing was underway when I heard the pilot walking down the aisle. He was saying, “Where is she, where is she?” and was looking in every seat until he found me.
“Listen, I need you to answer something, are you Jonah?” he said. “What?” I asked, confused.
“You know, Jonah and the whale?” he said. “As we pulled away from the gate, hail the size of golf balls hit the plane, then we got to deicing and the wind started to gust so hard that the deicer almost flew out of the bucket. Then lightning struck the ground. In all my years of flying, I have never seen such crazy events all in such a short period of time. I want to make sure you aren’t running from something, and we’re cursed.”
I smiled, “No, captain, I’m not Jonah, and God is going to guide you out of this storm. He is with us.”
“OK, let’s go,” he said, and walked back to the cockpit.
We took off, and the ride was bumpy, but God guided us out of the storm. When we landed and pulled up to the gate in Raleigh, the captain came on the intercom and said, “Passengers, I would like you to put your hands together for a special lady on board this flight. If it weren’t for her, none of us would have made it to Raleigh tonight. We were the last flight to take off, and they closed the airport behind us.”
The whole plane erupted with applause. The businessmen, who I found out were IBM executives, waited for me on the jet bridge to shake my hand. The next time I was in town, dinner was on them, they said.