Tag Archives: air travel

Departure – London & Berlin 2018

“The engine ingested the bird.”

Thus began my journey from Austin, TX to London, England earlier this afternoon. The plane that was to carry me from Austin to Houston struck a bird on approach into Austin, causing a significant departure delay as mechanics inspected the left engine in search of damage – or, in this case, ingested bird. Their findings prompted the announcement from the gate agent, “I wish I had better news; the engine ingested the bird. We will be delayed as repairs are completed.”

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Airline mechanics inspect engine for bird damage at Austin Bergstrom Airport. 9.19.2018

I always feel bad for inexperienced travelers when these things happen – some panic, some cry, some get angry. I spoke to one lady who absolutely had to be in Kuwait tomorrow. She was upset that United Airlines had ruined her plans, as she only had a one-hour connection in Houston which she would definitely miss.

Rule-of-Thumb #1: Allow more time than you think you will need when making connections, especially when traveling internationally. Things happen; allow time for that. Worst case scenario? You have two-plus hours to explore a world-class airport like IAH. And maybe even enjoy a nice glass of wine!

I talked to a young lady, about my daughter’s age. She asked me if I’ve flown before – this was her first trip, heading to Little Rock via Houston Intercontinental. She was waaaay back in line. I gave her the toll free number to United and suggested she call as she waited in line. She did call; United couldn’t help her over the phone. I assured her she’d get to Little Rock

Rule-of-Thumb #2: Use the airline mobile phone app and have their customer service number stored on your phone, just in case. While I don’t know why United couldn’t assist this young lady, I’ve circumvented many a delay line by calling customer service.

As I looked out the window to see what the mechanics were up to, I heard a man nearby yelling at an airline representative over the phone, as if he or she had special ordered the bird, directed it to this plane, and personally sucked the bird into the engine. As I listened I shook my head. I’ve never understood why some passengers treat airline employees so poorly.

Rule-of-Thumb #3: Airlines don’t cause bird strikes. Airlines don’t create bad weather. Things go wrong sometimes. Their employees are there to help. The employees didn’t create the issue. Trust me, they don’t like these situations any more than we passengers do. I understand being frustrated, even angry, but take a chill pill. Please don’t treat them rudely, and be sure to thank them for their assistance once you’re finished.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 11.49.35 PMAs I type this I’m on my United flight to London. I’m looking forward to visiting this world-class city and Berlin next week. Tonight, as we head across the pond, I’m thankful for the privilege of traveling and for the people that make it happen. And, of course, I’m looking forward to exploring two of the world’s finest cities. I am blessed indeed.

 

Honey, Be Still

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011...

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011/621dx (Photo credit: Aero Icarus)

I settle into my aisle seat, 9D with extra leg space, and watch as my fellow passengers board our flight from Orlando to Dallas/Fort Worth. Flying home on a Tuesday evening usually means I’m sharing my flight mostly with other business travelers. However, that is usually not the case when flying out of Orlando. Passengers boarding our flight include families with young children sporting their Mickey Mouse headgear, young adults heading home after a long weekend getaway, and just a few of us road warriors sporting our casual business attire and our Swiss brand backpacks. All of us want the same thing: to take our seats and enjoy an uneventful flight to our final destination.

“Honey, be still.”

Over the hustle and bustle of the boarding process, those words spoken in a husky voice by a female passenger close by grab my attention. She is seated in 8B, the aisle seat across the way and one row in front of me. Although we are at the gate, her seat is fully reclined as she sits under her blanket, clutching a plastic cup and a small stuffed pony. She is blond, middle-aged, and somewhat heavyset with large glasses. Her eyes are closed. Her husband, a rather small man with dark hair, is seated at the window next to her, looking outside and commenting on the baggage handlers and other tarmac workers busily prepping our plane for takeoff.

“Honey, be still.”

She says it again as he comments on something else he sees as he points outside. Is she nervous? Is she downright afraid to fly? Maybe she’s not feeling well. Whatever it is, she appears to be quite uncomfortable and more than just a little annoyed.

Seated behind the couple in 8A and 8B is an older couple obviously traveling together, both entranced with their iPads. Attired in dark dress slacks and a white business shirt with no tie, he is a distinguished looking gentleman with salt and pepper hair and silver wire frame glasses. She looks more than a tad bit younger than he, dressed in a sophisticated dark pantsuit with her iPad adorned in a white leather case. As the flight attendant walks by he points to “Honey, be still”, reclined so steeply that their eyes would meet if she simply looked up, silently reminding her that all seats are to be in their full and upright position for takeoff. The flight attendant acknowledges his gesture with a smile but says nothing.

Now, fully tuned in to the people around me, I notice the gay couple seated in front of me. How do I know? Men don’t gaze into each other’s eyes and lean into each other unless there are feelings between them far beyond fraternal friendship. These guys aren’t buddies, they are a couple; even I can see that. Although I am not a fan of the gay lifestyle I can’t help but be touched by their obvious affection towards one another; I’m just hoping there is no in-flight PDA.

Seated next to me are two ladies, each traveling alone. Both are donned in professional business attire and sport nicely coiffed blond hair. We exchange friendly greetings as I stand to allow each of them access to their respective seats, but once seated the three of us are all business. Beyond our friendly greetings we focus on our respective in-flight habits. 9F listens to her business motivational book on CD (I haven’t seen a portable CD player in a long time!) as she gazes out the window at the sunset on the horizon. 9E has her hardcover book called [Something] One nestled in her lap as she sleeps. I try to make out the title, but I can’t unless I lean far closer than what would be appropriate or comfortable. It has a large silver question mark on the cover; maybe you’ve read it. And I, in 9D, compose this essay as I observe the people around me.

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Blogging at 36,000 feet.

Well into our flight, “Honey, be still” wakes from her nap. From where I sit I see a smile on her face as she speaks softly to her husband. That’s a good sign. I take a sip of my red wine as I look at the people seated around me, and I can’t help but smile. Tonight we share a flight to Dallas. But I’m reminded that we all share this life we live on planet Earth. Each of us has a story. Each of us has a purpose. We have our burdens, our hopes, and our dreams. We have victories and we have losses. We have each other. I find myself lifting each of these people seated around me in prayer, asking God to guard and protect them as they complete this flight and continue on their journey through life.

As I re-read the draft of this essay, feeling somewhat proud of my perception and intellect, “Honey, be still”’s husband rises from her seat and heads to the back of the plane. That’s right – her seat. He is a she, with short-cropped dark hair, sporting a gray tank top, baggy painter’s jeans and tattoos on both arms. What was once a smile is now a full-tooth grin as I remind myself that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Husband? Daughter? Partner? Caregiver? Close friend? I have no idea. All I know for sure is, as perceptive as I thought I was, I had totally missed the mark.

“Honey, be still.” As I wash down my slice of Humble Pie with the remnant of my airline Cabernet, I’d say that’s some pretty good advice.

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