Welcome to Terminal Tales, the weekly blog series where I highlight my favorite personal encounters with passengers while fulfilling my job duties as a Ticketing & Gate Agent. Since I just moved here, I condensed the last two weeks of stories into one blog post so you guys can get a real taste for life here in the mountains. In this week's edition: words I never thought I'd say, when passengers miss their flight because they went to the wrong airport, & when First Class upgrades are awarded to coach cabin passengers.
1. Words I never thought I'd say: "Do you have any bear spray, lighter fluid, or strike anywhere matches in your checked bags or carry-ons?" These items are practically necessities in Montana, whether you're visiting or living here. I wish I had a dollar for every can of bear spray I had to confiscate. The good news is that we donate all of the items to local hiking & camping groups, so rest assured that if your $50 can of spray was taken at the airport, it is being put to good use.
2. Yes, it's true, Kalispell has two airports: the city airport, which is a public-use airport, & the Glacier Park International Airport, which is a commercial-use airport. My coworkers warned me about this, advising that there is always at least one person who goes to the wrong airport every week, usually resulting in a missed flight. This day in particular was no exception. We were preparing to close the ticket counter when two passengers came running to us for check-in. They exclaimed, "We went to the wrong airport!" I broke the news that they missed their flight & would have to be rebooked for the next available flight at 11:02 A.M. (which was six hours from now). Surprisingly, they remained in good spirits & were laughing with us throughout the rebooking process. They said, "You should have a sign or something." Brilliant idea, except that you're assuming people will actually read the sign... kind of like we assume that people will remember which airport they flew in to.
3. Chicago & Denver have both had their fair share of terrible weather this summer, with dangerous thunderstorms in Chicago & lightning storms in Denver that shut down their ramp. One passenger had spent a pretty penny to fly from our teeny Kalispell airport to a teeny New Hampshire airport which had a connection through Chicago. Thanks to the thunderstorms in Chicago, however, her flight was cancelled. She appeared for check-in visibly angry, with her father standing by her side to also assist in arguing her case. You know, the case where there is literally nothing I can do & everything is my fault? I love these instances! We looked at sister airports through Maine & Massachusetts, but she refused any of those open seats because she had paid so much money for her fare into NH that she felt cheated. I literally exhausted every option for her, & in the end, she called the airline for a refund of her full fare.
4. While we're talking about the Chicago & Denver weather, I had another passenger who was on our first morning flight into Denver -- which had been cancelled due to the weather in Denver. When given enough notice, the computer will automatically rebook passengers on the first available itinerary to get them to their final destinations. In the case of this Denver flight, however, not all of the passengers received notification about the cancellation. When a woman approached me for check-in, I advised that her flight was cancelled, but that she had been rebooked on the next available flight to get her home. Her itinerary wasn't ideal -- instead of two flights home, she would be taking three. And it wasn't going to get her home until early the next morning. She had that was "Impossible" & that I would have to open up a seat for her somehow. Let me just grab my magic wand & make that happen. Poof. While reviewing her itinerary & going over other options, she was on her cellphone, mouthing off varying flight numbers that would get her home earlier. "That flight is full... that flight is also full... miss, yes, that flight is full as well. Your rescheduled itinerary is literally the earliest flight option to get you home if you decide to depart today." She then said she didn't have enough medication & that I would have to do something to get her home today. Again, I can't make seats appear out of nowhere, so I suggested she call her doctors, advise them of the situation, & to have a temporary prescription filled for her here. I also told her that I'd be happy to look at flights departing the next day, which she did eventually end up taking -- after forty minutes of arguing, spouting off flight numbers, & aggressive, heavy breathing, while the long line of desperate-eyed passengers lingered behind her. I always find it funny or ironic when passengers get upset with me when there aren't seats available -- trust me, I want you out of the airport & on your way as fast as possible, I'm not intentionally trying to hold you here. Next.
5. So now, let's make you familiar with all of the crazy Chicago weather, which caused all kinds of problems for airports across the country. I had a passenger approach me about his future travel plans to Chicago. He stated he had received an email from the airline about rebooking fees being waived if they happened to be traveling on dates that coincided with the anticipated storms. I had heard nothing of the sort, & asked that he provide the email to me. I verified the information & he was absolutely right -- so I was able to rebook him for a flight exactly one week later so that he, his wife, & sister could avoid the crazy storms that likely would have caused a delay or cancelation had he remained on his original itinerary. The best part? When I was at the gate boarding his family, he remembered my name & thanked me for helping them.
6. A quick-turn is the term used when an inbound aircraft is deplaned & then immediately boarded for the next outbound flight. Think about the last time you flew -- when you landed at the connecting airport or at your final destination & stepped off the plane into the terminal, were there swarms of people already lined up & waiting to board the plane you just walked off of? That was probably a "quick-turn," & those flights have very precise timelines to follow, which usually makes your Gate Agent a little crazy. Last week, we had a quick-turn go out late because a passenger was rearranging other passengers so her family could sit together. This is real life. Did she ask the Gate Agents to rearrange their seats prior to boarding? Nope. She waited until everyone was boarded & then made other passengers get up & rearrange their seats. Even more irritating? That the Flight Attendant allowed it. So our station took a hit for the delay, even though the plane would've gone out on time, had the passenger just taken her assigned seat like everyone else.
7. One of our morning flights to Denver happened to be delayed for maintenance... after boarding all of the passengers. Shrug. The repair was going to be a quick-fix that wouldn't affect any connections, so the other Gate Agent & I just waited patiently for boarding to be reopened. While waiting, a teenage girl approached the podium with a folded piece of paper & stuttered, "Hi. Um. My dad thinks you're cute..." I'm pretty sure my face turned as red as it did when hiking the Incline back in Manitou Springs. I laughed nervously & declined the folded piece of paper -- lacking any amount of tact because I was so flustered. She laughed nervously in response & said, "That's okay! I'll just pretend like I came up here & asked a different question!" I thought it was sort of sweet, really, that she took the initiative (and gutsy-ballsyness) to give me her dad's number without her dad even knowing. Props to you, sister. But no matter how gutsy or ballsy, I don't date dads. Actually, I don't even date. So, there's that....
8. Occasionally, the coach cabin gets oversold, but the First Class cabin has open seats. When this happens, we are empowered to upgrade Coach passengers into the First Class cabin -- which is easily one of the best parts of this job. The other Gate Agent & I scoured the boarding area, looking for elderly people, honeymooners, or members of the military, but we didn't immediately notice anyone. After a few minutes, we made a quick announcement, asking if any Active Duty members of the military were in the boarding to please come to the podium & present their ID's. We had four seats available for upgrades & we had three military members approach us. The other Gate Agent began upgrading their seats while making small talk & thanking them for their service. When she finally told them about the upgrades, they were so grateful & appreciative, their smiles undeniable with thanks. Hmm, okay, maybe I should date....
Megan Elizabeth is a storyteller based in Kalispell, Montana. Take a peek at her blog & portfolio, drop her a line, & follow her story on Facebook & Instagram.