How Not to Miss your Interational Flight
On Wednesday, September 2, 2015, I set out to travel to New York City to begin my journey to the UAE for Labor Day weekend.
In December 2014, my friends and I were the recipients of a blessing, by way of the Etihad Airlines glitch fare, made widely known and now infamous by sites like TravelNoire.
For $300 or so, we would fly JFK to AUH....that's an incredible deal. Being the genius that I am, I schemed the rest of my travel plans, and in an effort to save money, decided to fly standby to LGA and take the short 20 mins taxi ride to JFK. I did something similar for China....and I was shackled on the way back home so I knew, I KNEW, there would be some obstacles, but nothing insurmountable....so I thought.
So, the night before and day of, we monitored the flights, and I listed myself for a route that would have me landing in LGA at 5:30 or so...a safe amount of time to allow a leisurely stroll to JFK and perhaps a coffee with one or two of my homies that live in the area. But...anyone who has flown standby before knows that it has become increasingly more difficult to obtain the coveted confirmed seat. And, depending on your priority...you may never reach your destination. Believe me, I am all too familiar.
So of course, to my dismay, the full flight left without me.
But, I am never without a plan b. The next flight to LGA was some hours later, but would still arrive leaving me enough time to comfortably get to JFK and not get left. But I would have to do some maneuvering to ensure the least stressful route possible. So, my travel companion, who flew standby on Delta and had no problem getting on a flight, agreed that upon arrival he would gather my luggage for me and transport it to JFK, check it, thereby making my life easier. I didn't find out until later that this, too, was an ordeal. But thanks to him and my sweet brother, everything worked out just fine.
Boarding begins and I'm getting nervous. They haven't cleared any standbys and the blue seats on the screen are disappearing. If I don't make this flight....I'm basically screwed.
Then over the loud speaker, "HICKS". I get a seat assignment! Praise God.
But wait....there's more.
This flight, which was scheduled to land at LGA at 8:30 has now been delayed as a result of some weather on the route and the pilot has no clue when we'll be able to take off. So we sit on the jet way.....for what seems like an eternity. A whole entire lifetime.
An overwhelming sense of panic takes over me. This is an unfamiliar and most uncomfortable feeling because I'm not usually one to panic but...did I mention my international flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30pm?
I refresh the United app and the flight is delayed 9 mins....that I can deal with. But then 9 mins comes and goes and I refresh again....20 mins, then again....34 mins and the pilot has made no announcements.
Finally the pilot announces that we have been cleared for take off, we'll arrive in New York at 9:30, maybe a few mins early. (WHAT?!?)
By this time, I am legitimately nervous. Not just internally, but visibly nervous - my hands had a slight tremor...true story. I'm sitting on the flight calculating the time frame in my head and most importantly, I'm praying. Praying so hard....over and over. Praying that I would make the flight.
We finally take off. I normally can fall asleep before the plane is in the sky but I was too nervous and way too anxious to sleep. I read a book and tried to determine the best cause of action, replaying different scenarios in my head. Would I take off running as soon as I deplaned? Would I keep calm? Do they allow uber at LGA? And then I imagined myself arriving at the gate just as they were closing the door and watching the flight take off thru my tears.....perhaps even causing a scene.
Then I snapped out of it. I WAS going to make that flight. I spoke it, and imagined it, into existence.
We landed. 9:28pm. I jumped out of my seat and skipped ahead of a few people. My plan was in motion.
When you're in a hurry, it always seems like the pilot takes the longest time parking the plane and the flight attendant takes the longest time to get the door opened.
Finally. I make a very brisk exit and hurry down to the baggage claim area and then straight out the door marked "Ground Transportation".
Shoot. The taxi line is longer than it needs to be if I'm gonna be able to do this. Then a man walks by and whispers, "taxi?". My good judgment told me to ignore him....so I did. At first.
I looked back at the line....and caught the guy before he walked away, "how much?".
"$75????? NO indeed!" But I needed to go....I didn't have time to wait. "You can do it for $60, let's go!"
And I just started walking....he didn't have a choice but to accept my offer and follow me.
On the way to the garage, I make sure I let this man knows my whole life.....my flight leaves at 10 (I lied so he would hurry) and I need you to drive as fast as this Suburban will take you over to JFK.
We get to the cashier for the garage and no one is there. I'm like getting out of the car myself to yell for someone to come...and everyone is ignoring us. Time is ticking away and I'm sweating.
We finally get out and then come to the longest red light ever.....I'm in the backseat telling this man to run the light and he tells me, don't stress...if you don't make it, it'll be alright. That actually irritated me...no negative vibes bruh....you WILL get me to the airport in enough time.
We're driving....he's speeding. Then there's traffic....my heart sinks.
Mind you, my friends are texting me the whole time telling me the gate agents were going to close the gate early, I may not make it.... they're praying for me....I had to just stop looking at the phone after a while....
The traffic breaks up and then 5 mins later we're pulling up to the airport. But the journey isn't over. The driver comes to a screeching halt, I throw the money into the front seat, dollars are flying everywhere, and yell thank you as I slam the door. I will forever be grateful for that kind man and his NASCAR style driving. It seemed totally out of his character to be rushing like that but he could tell I was stressed and he obliged me.
I ran into the airport...I'm sure I startled a few people....and I was turning around in circles looking for the check in counter. I asked a few people and finally realized that it was the stand alone counter in the corner...I never would have noticed it.
I rush up to the counter and, between breaths, tried to explain to the agent that I needed to get my boarding pass....please God let there still be time....you don't know what I've been thru already....I'm frantically explaining the situation to him. Then he calmly responds, I'll give you a boarding pass this time, but if you aren't at the gate in 5 mins, I'm going to tell them to close the doors (*insert eyeroll...not mine, his*).....crap.
I take off running. I round the corner to see that the security line is the longest security line in the history of security lines. I waste no time in asking some of the agents there if I can skip b/c I have to be at the gate in 5 mins or they're gonna leave without me. I'm sweating by this point and my panicked sweaty appearance is probably not the thing other passengers want to see while going thru security...I know. But I didn't care....I had a flight to catch. Another passenger caught wind that I wasskipping the line and she started following me..... I lead the way, asking each person in line if I could go ahead of them. I guess all those times I let people go ahead of me in the security line finally paid off.
I throw all my stuff on the conveyor....but there's a hold up at the x-ray machine. The lady in line behind me looked up me and said, "you're sweating"...thanks lady....I know.
Finally passed security.....shoes in hand....I run down the escalator, make the first right and start to pray that the gate isn't alllll the way at the end...because, it would be.
I run to the end of that corridor....round the corner and like a beacon of light....I see the gate. But, I'm still running and my backpack flies open. It was at that moment that I decided to take a minute to, first pick up all my stuff, but second gather myself...catch my breath and calm down. The last thing everyone wants to see is a crazy woman, running towards the gate,shouting, waving arms and sweating profusely before boarding an international flight.
I made it......and that was by nothing else than the grace of God.
I was actually a little mad when I got there....the doors were wide open and people were still boarding. I expected some dramatics.....me pulling on the closed doors...maybe a call to security but there was nothing.
Anyway, I texted my friends who had already boarded and were sitting quietly and calmly on the flight that I didn't think I was gonna make it....ha. Some how I managed to muster a joke even though I was still panting and sweat was rolling down the back of my neck. I had just freshly flat ironed my hair and it was completely sweated out.....smh. A true sign of struggle.
I made my way to my seat and was dern near met with cheering....but certainly sighs of relief and shouts of praise from my friends. I slung my bags in the overhead compartment and plopped down in my seat with just enough time to call my mama to tell her I made it and say another quick prayer thanking God Almighty for getting me to that plane on time. Like I said....nothing but Holy Spirit. I fanned myself and took some time to calm down. Then, within minutes...the flight was backing away from the gate. And we were off!
Here's how not to miss your international flight....don't do what I did but if you're going to fly standby, start early and have plans b-f, if necessary. Always be flexible and never give up....where there's a will, there's a way.