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 at the Colorado Springs Airport. I never know what the terminal has in store, but there is always one guarantee -- the stories will be hilarious. Traveling humans are an endless supply of comedic material.
I fell asleep Monday night without any issue, probably because I was still recovering from my Sunday Los Angeles hike. When my alarm woke me up at 3:00 A.M. Tuesday morning, I was active & alert, ready to tackle the day. I felt pretty great, considering I was up & moving while the sun was still dreaming. I was craving some greasy drive-thru breakfast, but talked myself out of it & drove past the yellow beacon of light known as the Golden Arches. I got to work, sat through the AM staff meeting, & checked my work assignment for the day. My name was nowhere on the AM list. I had a mini-panic-attack as my half-conscious-brain-hamster started a mental checklist of what day it was. I'm positive it's Tuesday. And I'm positive I work today. I re-read the assignments. Nothing. Arlene, after seeing me argue with myself for ten minutes about what day Tuesday was, she asked where I was assigned for the morning. I shrugged. "I'm not on there." She turned back to the list & pointed to the crisp, white paper. PM Floater - Megan. That warm feeling of realization came over me & I remembered that I didn't have to be at work on Tuesday until 10 A.M., which was over five hours away at this point. I sighed, clocked out... & drove back to the yellow beacon of light known as the Golden Arches. I got my McGriddle & orange juice fix, returned home to take a nap... and then went back to work.
Gate 5 is cursed, remember? So imagine my sheer joy when I saw that my assignment Wednesday morning was Gate 5. Despite my superstitions, I chose to be optimistic about it. My first inbound flight was pretty standard, as was the outbound flight that would depart in the same aircraft. I checked my FIDS board, which shows the most current information from Ops, & saw that my outbound flight -- the one that two seconds ago was perfectly fine -- was going to be delayed by 40 minutes due to a mechanical issue. Darn you, Gate 5!!! When the inbound aircraft landed & all of the passengers were deplaned, I learned what the actual "mechanical issue" was for the flight -- a passenger was using the lavatory & had accidentally flushed her cellphone down the toilet & into the river of blue juice... & the juice of other passengers. A bag of rice can only do so much, people.
Yes, I promise, this actually happened. I watched the mechanic go onboard the aircraft, put on a plastic glove the went all the way up to his bicep, & dig for the device. I suppose Flight Attendants should start making announcements like, "Please don't take your small, portable electronic devices into the lavatory, unless you would like the items returned to you with a new color & a new smell." The flight ended up leaving about one hour late due to the cellphone issue, so I was extremely thrilled when I watched the aircraft taxi to the runway. One passenger's mistake made 50 other passengers late. Please don't be that person. Don't take your cellphone to the lavatory with you -- you'll be fine without it for three minutes. I promise.
Later that day, we got word of diverted flights that were originally intended for a Denver arrival. A diverted flight is a flight that is unable to land at its intended destination due to weather, mechanical problems, etc. Denver had some gnarly freezing fog, which diverted two flights to Colorado Springs. Assisting passengers who weren't supposed to ever be at the Colorado Springs Airport in the first place was a challenge, but the process ran fairly smooth. One passenger in particular understood why the flight was diverted, but was disappointed by having to wait until the next morning to fly out. I was confirming his new reservation when a Smirnoff Vodka shooter magically appeared in his hands & he asked, "Do you mind? It's been a long day." I was dumbfounded, but said, "Sir, as far as I'm concerned, I only see your reservation at the moment." He smiled & took a long swig.
My coworkers & I had managed to assist both flights of diverted passengers when suddenly, a woman & her two children approached the ticket counter. She asked what time the flight would be back on schedule, to which we all furrowed our brows in confusion. We explained that the flight wouldn't be leaving today & she would need to be rescheduled. This woman had the most dramatic fit I have ever seen... almost an Oscar-worthy performance, except that she left out actual tears -- she had the shoulder shrug & whimpering down to a tee. The best part was when she used her children to make the situation more dramatic. Those are actually your children, not puppets, m'am.
I got to work Friday morning & learned that one of flights the night before had been cancelled... even though it was a new day with a fresh slate, a cancelled flight the night before meant that there were stranded crew members in Colorado Springs who were supposed to be in Denver for their next day of work. Make sense? Basically, the crew that was supposed to fly out the night before with passengers to Denver would work flights the following day departing from Denver. These crew members are considered "Positive Space" passengers, & no matter who or what is flying on an aircraft, Positive Space passengers cannot be removed under any circumstance. We will remove a paying passenger to accommodate a Positive Space crew member if necessary -- because that crew member is integral to continuing the timely operation of the airline.
My first flight on Friday morning, with a scheduled departure time of 6:05 A.M., was oversold by nine passengers. NINE. I have seen oversells by one, two, sometimes three seats. But nine passengers!? Yes, because crew members from the cancelled flight needed to make it to Denver for work, & those passengers who needed to get to Denver because their original flight was cancelled also needed to make it to Denver. Thankfully I had backup at my gate with Christie, so she made the oversold announcements while I looked up alternate route options for those passengers who were willing to volunteer their seat in exchange for a $500 travel voucher. The morning was mostly a blur, as my gate phone seemed to never stop ringing, passengers were frantic with questions, & other passengers were worried about not departing on time. Leni, our Ramp Supervisor, was a huge help in keeping the flight organized amidst the chaos. By the time we began boarding, we had six volunteers -- which was amazing -- but that meant there were three passengers who would be involuntarily deboarded. To break the news to those passengers was really difficult. I work in a customer service position, but having to remove a paying passenger from their paid seat was frustrating, even though those passengers were compensated for the inconvenience, & even though they understood why their seats were forcibly "volunteered". That was honestly enough excitement (read: stress & chaos) to last me a lifetime... but I had another flight to get prepared for, & there wasn't any time to dwell on how hectic that first flight felt. P.S. HUGE shoutout & thank you to Christie, Leni, Jaci, Jamie, & Tekora for all of your help on Friday!!! Would have died without you... for real.
Wanna guess what happened to my second flight of the day? It was an outbound Los Angeles flight... with a delay for Flow. A Flow Delay can be a delay due to weather, or a delay due to the gates & runway at the destination city being jam-packed & unable to accommodate any additional aircrafts. This is a fairly common delay, especially for LAX because that airport is huge! I made the announcement to the passengers in the gate area & opened an amenity cart of snacks & beverages to make the customers a bit more comfortable while they waited to board. I just wanted one flight to go right that morning, but the airline business is incredibly unpredictable. People always told me growing up that "Death & taxes are the only guarantees in life." I didn't fully understand what that meant until now, where I am reminded of that every. Single. Day. in the terminal.
This was my first ever Saturday shift, & I half-expected it to be complete chaos because it was a weekend. But guess what? It was calm! And quiet! And felt like a vacation!
Which reminded me... that Redwood National Park was two weeks away. Havasu Falls was six months away. And the planning for upcoming destinations like Belgium, Banff National Park, Glacier National Park, & Olympic National Park were also underway. Suddenly, in that moment, the stress of my week melted away... & I was grateful for the chaos. I work hard so I can play harder.
CORRECTION: In the original blog post that posted on Sunday, February 5, 2017, I used the incorrect city name in the story about the oversold flight. The blog post was corrected on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, to reflect the correct city name of Denver.
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.