Last weekend my family and I went to Fort Lauderdale to get out of this frigid weather. I knew before we left that I would be flying back with the boys since Chris had to go to Mississippi for work. I’ve flown by myself with Brooks several times but this was the first time that I was going to fly with both of them. I was definitely a bit anxious about it. Three hours is a long time for Brooks to sit still and the second half of the flight would be during his nap time. I booked us on an American Airlines 11:55 am direct flight in a row that had extra leg room. Since Brooks hasn’t slept on a plane (despite flying over a dozen times) since he was three months old, I hoped that we would make it to Chicago before he started to become overtired and melt down. I ran through all of the possible worst case scenarios in my head…or so I thought.
We got through security with minimal stress and got to our gate. I went up to get a stroller tag from the AA representatives only to discover that our tickets said “no” where there should have been a seat assignment. I went up to the lady to explain that I was traveling by myself with my toddler and infant and she (not so nicely) told me that the flight was oversold by 15 or so seats and they were working on it. I stepped aside but stayed glued next to the desk to find out our fate. Finally when everyone else was on the plane they called me up to get on. The AA rep looked at our tickets and said, “Oh, you have two seats. We don’t have two seats.” I said, “So what does this mean? We aren’t getting on this flight?” The lady next to her said “Most likely” and asked me to step aside. I waited there as I watched our plane depart without us.
I think this is the first time that I had tears in my eyes. The one nice AA rep, who I later learned was Jackie, pulled me aside to explain that I would get travel vouchers. I told her I didn’t really care about that. I needed to get on the next flight which was leaving at 2:55 instead of the 7:45 pm flight that they were rebooking everyone on. She told me that she would do what she could. Maybe an hour of waiting later, she came up to me and told me that she was really sorry but she couldn’t get me on the 2:55. She handed me tickets for the 7:45 pm flight. 7:45…that was roughly 8 hours away. What in the world was I going to do all day with the boys? How could Brooks manage all day at the airport and then get on a 3 hour flight? I immediately started crying. I called Chris in a panic. I asked him to cancel his business trip. I couldn’t handle this. I was devastated.
Chris decided to book a car to come pick us up to bring us back to the hotel where we could hopefully get the boys down for a quick nap. Since he couldn’t cancel his trip, the plan was for us to come back to the airport together later. Before leaving the airport, I went up to the AA desk and asked if there was anyway that we could get on the 2:55 flight. The lady explained that that flight was only oversold by 4 seats and that we were number 1 and 2 on standby. She recommended that we stay and wait it out.
And so we did. The next few hours we spent having a carpet picnic directly next to the customer service counter. I made sure that the AA rep for the next flight knew I was there and knew my situation. I silently prayed and counted things that I was grateful for. Finally it came time for the next flight to board, and once again we watched as everyone else got on the plane. Despite having just gone, Brooks looked up at me at about 2:40 to tell me he has to go potty. (The poor guy had a stomach ache all day.) I walked up to Jackie at the counter and told her that my two year old had to go to the restroom. She told me to go ahead and take him and that we were getting on the plane. My eyes immediately filled with tears as I touched her arm and thanked her profusely. Just as I was doing this, the AA rep next to her, said, “No, she can’t go. She’s not guaranteed on the flight yet.” Just then two more people boarded the flight. The representative looked at me and said, “You’re not getting on this flight.” At this point, I lost it. I started crying as I explained that I would happily give my travel vouchers to the couple behind me waiting to board. I explained that I had been there all day and that I had purchased two seats and I was by myself with my boys. Somewhere during my rant, the same AA rep looked at me and said, “go”. I had to ask him to repeat himself but he said the same thing. Jackie picked up Brooks and together we ran down the ramp to board the plane. Ahead of me, Jackie talked to the flight attendant and got us seats together. With tears still in my eyes, we made it. We were going home.
I wish I could say that the next three hours were a breeze but they weren’t. Brooks had to go potty several times, Maddox pooped of course, and we were all tired. The last half hour was particularly rough since Brooks had a long, full blown tantrum. Honestly though, none of it mattered. I wasn’t mad at Brooks. It was a long and stressful day. I was proud of him for doing so well for so long.
As I write this, I’m still torn between being incredibly angry at American Airlines for drastically overselling the flight and for being grateful for all of the kindness that we encountered. Jackie from American was visibly stressed over our situation. The other American Airlines representative (according to Jackie) risked his job by allowing us to get on that flight. Still he did it. Strangers on the plane helped out by holding Maddox (while Brooks used the bathroom) and by giving me words of encouragement. I was (and still am) so appreciative of these acts of kindness.
I also realized that although I pray I don’t have to go through this all again, I did learn a lot from it. First off, I’ll never again forget to check into my flight. More importantly though, I faced my fears and lived to tell about it. In some ways, this experience gave me confidence. This situation was totally out of my control and was way out of my comfort zone, and yet, I did it. Crazy as I am, I just booked another flight for the end of April for the boys and I. This time; however, we’ll be flying Southwest.