I was so excited, my toes tingled. My husband Chuck and I were headed to a 15-day UK tour with my sister Cindy and her husband Jim to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. We envisioned regal red-coated guards in fuzzy black helmets, delicious breakfast scones with clotted cream, bagpipes and kilts in the Scottish highlands. Oooh, yes, please.
The first step, of course, was to get there.
But this simple feat proved a lot harder than we’d reckoned. We couldn’t seem to get out of the Tampa International Airport.
We arrived 3 hours early for our 11 a.m.international flight to London’s Heathrow, via a connecting flight in Charlotte, NC. Piece ‘o cake – or so we thought – as we boarded the American Airlines plane and settled, giddy with anticipation, in our seats.
Then the plane just sat there. And sat. And sat.
What’s the problem, we wondered. Why aren’t we taking off?
A voice finally informed us over the intercom that the door wouldn’t close, this plane wasn’t going anywhere, and we would have to exit the rear door by the emergency inflatable slide (WHAT???) and go to the ticket counter to reschedule our flight.
Well, thankfully, they were able to work some rickety stairs into place and we didn’t have to scoot to the ground on our behunkuses, but the rush to the ticket counter trying to beat 100+ other people felt like a K-Mart blue light special on steroids.
When our turn finally arrived, the agent’s eyes were wild with frenzy. Chuck explained that we had a connecting flight in Charlotte we needed to make, but the guy said there was no other flight available to get us there in time. He would reroute us through Miami instead. Tickets were purchased. The deal was sealed. We began to breathe again and sat back to wait.
When the time arrived for our flight to be called, it wasn’t. Gulp. What now? A voice overhead eventually informed us that some strategic appendage had fallen off the plane (what is it with American Airlines planes falling apart? Do they need better glue?) and this flight was cancelled. Please see your ticket agent to reschedule.
ARGGHH! Once again, a mad rush to the service desk. This time, the female agent was bleary-eyed, war-weary, and short-tempered. She informed us in a few clipped words that we’d have to go back through the airport to the main ticket counter for help. Her hands were tied. Next!
You’ve got to be kidding, right? Nope. She wasn’t. So off we trotted, knowing that time wasn’t our friend and the longer this took, the less chance we’d have of booking a flight.
More long lines. More short tempers. Would this horrible day ever end?
There was only one flight to Miami that would get us there in time for our connecting flight and it was full. No other flights to Heathrow tonight. Sorry, can’t help you. You’ll have to spend the night in the airport and try again tomorrow. Move aside. Next!
But wait, Chuck cried, if we do that, we’ll miss our tour. It’ll leave London without us!
Too bad, sir. Move aside. Next!
We stood there stunned as the next customer in line boxed us out.
By now it was late afternoon. Our prospects of actually going on our long awaited vacation looked less that grim. We were weary, discouraged, and ready to throw our hands in the air and forget the whole thing. It felt like a full year had passed since our arrival at the airport that morning.
No, Chuck said. There’s one last resort – let me try calling the airline phone number again (he had tried earlier unsuccessfully). He dialed. We prayed. I wept.
An angel (Chuck truly believes it was an honest-to-goodness angel) listened to Chuck’s convoluted story of cancelled flights, maddening delays, and impossible connections. Then she said six beautiful words straight from the throne of heaven: “Sir, I’m going to help you.”
Somehow – a miracle in our eyes – she got us on that “full” flight and although we didn’t really believe it until we were actually in the air (still wondering if we left a trail of plane pieces trailing behind us). We had to pull a “Home Alone” dash through the Miami airport, but we finally made it to London.
Our luggage, however, did not.
Stay tuned for the next thrilling story in the Coty international travel saga. And don’t forget to enter my Sizzling Summer Giveaway (click on “contests” right here at my website) to win FREE copies of my newest books, including the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook and the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2017 Planner!