Air Travel Back in 2009
I was reading the misadventures of a friend traveling by air and it brought to mind one incident while my wife and I were traveling with our eldest grandchild from Colorado Springs to Bangkok on our airline of choice United Airlines. At that time we had to fly to California, then to Japan and onward to Bangkok. It was a pretty routine itinerary and we left Colorado Springs mid-afternoon headed to Los Angeles.
We had been airborne for several hours when an announcement about an airplane crash in Tokyo, Japan had cancelled all inbound flights and passengers connecting should check with a customer service representative upon landing in Los Angeles. A lot was going through my mind as I tried to reason a solution to what appeared a major dilemma.
After landing I noticed all the flights to Tokyo had been cancelled so I searched for a United Airlines customer service person to help us. Seeing no one I approached a United Airlines employee and was directed to a door at the end of the hall (we were on the upper deck). Gathering up my wife and grandson we headed to that door and after the door closed behind us found ourselves on a metal stairwell with only one way – down to ground level – OUTSIDE THE AIRPORT BUILDING.
By now my stress level was extremely high as we had to go back through the long line at the airline check in counter. All the flight schedule monitors were flashing cancelled for all Tokyo flights.
Eventually we were at the counter and I explained that we’d just landed and needed to get to Bangkok, Thailand. The United Airlines lady did a lot of checking, talking with a supervisor and finally she issued 3 boarding passes for a standby flight to San Francisco. She said when we landed I should go to a specific gate and present the boarding passes to try and get on the flight to Tokyo. It seems that United Airlines flights to Tokyo used a different runway and none of those flights had been affected by a Federal Express cargo jet that had crashed on the other runway.
First we had to get in the long line at TSA and then rush upstairs so I could present our standby boarding passes at the gate and hope to get on the flight. We made it to the gate as they were announcing the final category of boarding to San Francisco. I was the first to present standby boarding passes when they announced standby passengers come forward. They added us to the manifest and we headed to the plane.
The flight to San Francisco seemed to be longer than the flight from Colorado to Los Angeles. Finally we landed and we hurried to the designated gate. As my wife ushered our 13 year old grandson, I bolted down the ramp to the departure counter. The plane had almost finished boarding and I pleaded with the agent, explaining we needed to make our connection flight to Bangkok as we had family waiting at the airport for our arrival. Success – we made our way to our seats as they closed the door behind us.
It was a long flight to Tokyo and our grandson had a Gameboy and extra batteries to hopefully last the flight. As this was his first time flying it made for an interesting trip. We landed in Tokyo and went through their version of TSA, headed over to the departure gate to check in and then wait for the call for boarding.
As no American carriers were flying into Bangkok, our flight was a code share on All Nippon Airways (ANA) and the aircraft was a brand new plane. It even smelled new and had built in video game consuls and movies that made the final 6 hours a bit more bearable. One feature I didn’t realize was the forward facing camera in the nose of the plane where you could watch the landing. I always thought – what if – we came nose to nose with another airplane taking off? Maybe the camera wasn’t such a nicety after all?
The return trip 30 days later went rather smoothly and as we returned through customs and immigration they wanted to see the permission letter from his mom saying we could take him out of the country. It’s a good thing I had it with our passports and they then stamped his passport.
While sitting at the airport in Los Angeles waiting for our flight back to Colorado our grandson said to me that he would never again travel with us because we nagged too much. Nagging has its advantages.
I had to remind him of his promise a few months later when he asked when we were going again. – I am the Real Truckmaster!