Stuck… thoughts on Air Travel and Delays

Some musings written while stuck due to travel delays… written on my phone between points while awaiting my flights.

I’ve never been a frequent traveler. My family didn’t travel much when I was growing up, except usually driving to visit relatives. I rarely flew except for major events: visiting schools, going to college, etc. But I can’t recall us really getting most or all of the family together to hop on a plane and go somewhere. We usually packed the car up and drove. Whether for cost, ease or just more control over the journey, I don’t know.

The sun and clouds from an airplane window.
Above the clouds: Daytime.

So I am still what I’d call an “inexperienced traveler,” having done so more after becoming an adult but not really having great learning experiences about how to book flights, knowing what the best times to try, the best venues to fly into, things like that. And definitely not how to handle the rough things: delays, or the worst of the worst: cancellations.

I was on travel this week for work, all-day meetings, group dinners, sleep, then repeat. It wasn’t a city I’m familiar with and it was pretty far from home.

Traveling there was standard, made my flights and connections, no issues. Traveling home, on the other hand, has been a bit of a nightmare. I made my first flight after getting up at 3 in the morning to head to the airport, then a layover, and after we had boarded on our next flight, the flight home… all of our phones started pinging with notifications. Then an announcement from the flight crew: this flight has been cancelled.

…it what?! The last thing we heard was that we’d be pulling away from the gate shortly after additional fueling up. So that kicked off my most recent Adventure of Adversity.

I should note that I had a co-worker traveling with me for much of the trip, so I was at least able to count on one other person to supply the other half of a very travel-weary brain cell when everything went topsy-turvy.

Airports are… strangely transitory spaces. They mostly exist for people to move from one place to another, hopefully swiftly. They have the comforts and trappings of daily life, but for those of us who don’t work in them, we have no plans to be there for long.

There are so many lines and so many rules and yet nearly every time we come to an airport, we’re unsure if we’re in the right line, if we need to talk to someone, check in, if the Starbucks is before or after security and even more so, whether it’s the good Starbucks. 

And airports are just as cool as they can be confusing. You may be able to sit in comfortable rocking chairs, listen to live music performances, see the odd art exhibit, maybe an entire museum, and in the very rare case, a demonic horse. All these things to acknowledge that even if people don’t plan to be there long… they might be. 

A map of US weather patterns that might explain the odd flight delays or cancellation. It is completely rainbow themed.
A stunningly queer weather pattern map of the US that might explain the odd flight delays or cancellation.

But again, we rarely ever plan to be there long. So while it’s nice that there are venues to enrich our minds, bodies and spirits… we just wanna get where we’re going. 

To the carrier’s credit, everyone was nearly immediately rebooked on new flights, whether those were good flights or not. But the message was clear: You aren’t getting to your destination today/tonight. 

I wouldn’t say that I have bad travel luck, but the last time I flew, my one flight was canceled and I was moved on standby between flights for 7 hours before being able to get home. Once I was stuck overnight in the airport on a college visit trip because of a snowstorm, but that time I had both the resilience of youth, and a chaperone to keep us entertained and informed. 

I’ve never missed a flight, but sometimes a flight has simply failed to materialize which, once upon a time, meant that I was given a meal and hotel voucher and shuttled back and forth for a worry-filled uncomfortable night of sleep, and a frantic dash to the gate in the morning. This was at least back in the day when airlines offered a modicum of customer service beyond, “Sorry, there’s nothing else I can do.” 

I will say that they were doing a lot more work to help the crying woman next to me than to solve my issue. It’s a method/trick I could resort to, but I doubt it would have the same effect.

The night sky and city lights below from an airplane window.
Above the clouds: Nighttime.

Since this was a work trip, costs were far less of an issue, at least. Either vouchers to get food and rides, or reimbursement for an overnight hotel stay, so that did take a lot off my mind. 

However, that was all on my circumstances to have arranged. The actual airline didn’t have anything to offer. No meal voucher, no hotel stay, not even a discount or day pass for their club lounge. It made the, “there’s nothing I can do,” feel a lot more like, “there’s nothing I even want to do.”

I have done a lot of customer-facing jobs, so I grew up with the “don’t focus on what you can’t do for them, focus on what you can do,” training, and that just seemed totally absent in this case. 

But I’m not a “business traveler,” I specifically travel around business days so I don’t have calls to take, documents to work on—this document notwithstanding—none of that. Which means that when there are delays and cancellations, I have nothing but time to kill

And that’s when I’m at my worst. I try not to bother friends with the calumnies of my travels in real time because there isn’t much they can do aside from offering commiseration and “Oh, no!” the latter of which doesn’t really make this situation any better.

At the same time I try to rein in my temper and annoyance. Knowing that it helps nothing, other travelers are likely going through the same thing, especially after a day of cancellations. The best thing I can do is grin and bear it. But, wow, does it still just suck. 

At the rate I’m going, I’ll get home very late at night, having lost my entire weekend and having to appear at work the next day with a near empty productivity battery. Admittedly it’s a short week for me anyway since my birthday is in a few days, but I do try to respect that the day job is the earner (and insurance provider) while any freelance things I do, important and fulfilling as they may be, do not pay the bills. 

It’s my sincerest hope that I’ll get home tonight and be able to publish this tomorrow morning (after a review to see if the tenses make sense) and still be able to look back on a good business trip, albeit with some major annoyances and trials to get back home at the end of it. 

I did make it home, very late at night, shoved some food in my face and went to bed. I’m just glad to be in my own space again.

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