Jan 08

Flying Through Adversity

The day I flew to Australia started like any other – waking up early from insomnia, traffic going to work, packing a suitcase…  Ok, it wasn’t totally normal, but not too crazy.

Work was crazy that day though, really crazy.  I love when god does that little thing just before a trip to make you really appreciate your trip. With all that craziness and running around that day I opted to shower before leaving for the airport, but right before that happened the news showed an incident at LAX.  It didn’t seem out of control or anything and I went to take quick shower. I was thinking ahead to the 6 hour flight, layover, then 14 hour flight, followed by a day in Brisbane before flying to Melbourne.

When I returned from my shower LAX was closed, there had been a shooting with multiple injuries.  The date was November 1, 2013 and incase you’re unaware of the incident, or just forgot, here is the story from CBS. As much as I thought that sucked for those in LAX, in particular the victims I was trying to reason with myself – would my flight to LAX be canceled or just late.  What would happen to my flight to Brisbane, the plane should have already landed in LAX that morning, so at least there was that.  This was not the most stressful flight I’ve ever flown, but it was definitely stressful.

With that I left several things behind in my office, including Rasputin, and went to the airport.  I’ll leave much of my antics of that day for another post, but I will say that I was able to get Rasputin before my flight took off.

The first weird thing that happened was while waiting on line to check my bag.  I’m standing there minding my own business when the girl behind me says, “You’re going to LAX, they just shot up the place.” (nervous) giggle, giggle.  I tried to say that I thought security would be tighter in LAX because of it, which I did believe.  She made some other nervous comment and then I was saved by a guy who wanted to check my luggage in.

The next weird thing, I did not hear one peep about the shooting once I was inside the airport.  Most airports seem to have CNN or some news type program on.  I didn’t happen to see many TV’s to start at Delta’s Terminal 3 at JFK and if they were on, they were not on the news.  It was nice not to have that extra bit to add to the stress, but it was also surreal that things were so calm.

My flight to LAX took off on time and our pilot did update us on any potential impact to our flight and what they were doing in response.  Many flights had been sent to other airports earlier in the day and although they were expecting an on time arrival they did give us additional fuel incase there were landing delays.  We were updated closer to landing time that we were going to land early, but would have a delay in getting a gate.  We could expect an hour wait for a gate, which later changed to a half hour wait, but was in reality just over an hour.  Apparently someone stole our gate then there was an accident with a luggage handler truck – you can’t make this stuff up!

I used that time waiting for a gate to chat with people on social media, but mostly to figure out what to do in LAX.  My Virgin Australia flight from LAX to Brisbane was supposed to take off from Terminal 3, which was where the shooting was.  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen.  The lounge I had access to (Virgin America) was also in Terminal 3 and lets face it, if you want a lounge on any day, it’s a day like this.  I used social media to find out that my flight would go out of Tom Bradley International Terminal and got close to accurate information about where to check my bags for the flight. I say slightly accurate because the desk #’s were off by a few numbers so I had trouble find it.

I expected chaos and mayhem in LAX. It wasn’t that bad, but the check in desks at Tom Bradley were crazy!  Virgin Australia has 2 flights a day so they were trying to check in the people to Sydney first since that was the earlier flight, but they did check me in earlier, probably because I was in business class.  The poor girl had to hand write each ticket. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know they didn’t have the right equipment at Tom Bradley and had to do manual boarding checks instead of the usual electronic scan they do.  I’m assuming it’s part of some procedure they have for times like these.

The line for security wasn’t any worse than at Orlando’s airport, but there was certainly a long.  And no TSA Precheck line either (I’ll write about how much I love TSA Precheck another day).  I figured I should just be glad the airport was open.

Now that I was in the terminal I got a light meal and a drink before looking for my gate.  Apparently, when your airline does not normally fly out of Tom Bradley you end up with the furthest gate from civilization possible.  I think I walked 10 minutes, a solid 5 from the last real shop or food place.  It was a big room with some seats, gates and bathrooms.  I wanted to charge my iPhone, which was now dying, but outlets that weren’t being used were scarce.  Eventually the guy I was sitting next to left and I was able to charge enough to get me onto the flight.

I know it sounds all “first world problem” to worry about my phone being charged.  But, we were getting very little information in the terminal (I don’t think they had much to give). My flight that was supposed to take off at 11 PM didn’t board until 2 AM, and changed gates several times.  Being by myself, that was stressful.  I had also been up for 27 hours by the time I boarded the flight and was getting punchy.  At least with Facebook I was able to update my friends and family and just complain in general.  And actually some of my friends did help me track down information about my flight.

So what did I learn from this whole experience?

Social Media is your friend.  I know there are people who think Facebook will only get you into trouble and they don’t get Twitter.  That’s fine, you can think what you want.  But without Twitter it would have been much harder to figure out where to go at LAX for my flight.  Virgin Australia used Twitter to post updates on their operational changes and answered DM’s for those who needed assistance.  Try calling an airline when 500+ people want to know about your operational change during an incident.  All you want to know is what terminal to go to and you have to fight to talk to someone with the people who are afraid to fly and now they want a different seat and can they get a kosher meal at the last-minute.  Or whatever it is that people call about.

If you’re flying (or using any type of public transportation) charge your phone.  It seems so simple, but in times of “crisis” everyone wants a wall plug because they’re stuck waiting around a long time with little information and need information.  Even better, buy and extra battery pack before you go to the airport, they’re more expensive there and at times like these, your phone might be your lifeline to information and combating boredom.

As crazy as that day was, things went pretty smoothly.  I could complain about the lack of information, or the delays, but in the world of air travel, you have to expect them.  On a day like that, I was just happy to make it safely from point A to point B with minimal disruption.