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 had two flights at my gate on Monday, which doesn't sound hefty -- but it was. My first flight, I couldn't pull up the jet bridge because it was a ERJ-175 aircraft, which I haven't been cleared for yet. Suzanne has a CRJ-200 for her first outbound, so we switched gates to better accommodate our passengers. Our first flights went out perfectly smooth & on time. Yes! And then the next round of flights... her flight was oversold & the aircraft was late getting into the gate from the hangar. We had to do a security check before boarding, as is customary for aircraft coming from the hangar -- but the passenger boarding time arrived & we were still onboard getting the aircraft ready for passengers. It was a frenzy, with all of our extra Ramp & Customer Service hands busy on board to ensure the aircraft departed on time. Which it did, thanks to our passengers who volunteered their seats & to the extra team member hands who helped complete the security checks.
I really had to woo-sahh through a passenger on Thursday. The rule of thumb is to be checked in for your flight no later than 30 minutes prior to departure -- even one second late & you are "locked out" from checking-in capabilities. This isn't to be mean, this is to run a smoother operation. Anything & everything can go wrong at the last possible minute & those 30-minutes prior to flight departure are the most stressful for those of us working -- we are upgrading passengers, releasing empty seats to those on standby, assisting passengers with infants & disabilities, tagging gate-checked bags, reprinting boarding passes for passengers who lost their copies, making sure our flight crew & ramp is ready to board, moving passengers around who wanted an aisle but got a window seat, etc. I could go on & on. On Thursday, two Platinum passengers arrived 28 minutes prior to their flight's departure. I had to be the bearer of bad news & advised them that they arrived too close to their flight departure time & that I would be happy to rebook them for free. She insisted, "But we aren't checking any bags! We're here!" Again, I apologized & explained why I was unable to accommodate them on their original flight. She scoffed, "This is ridiculous. I'm a platinum member." To which I responded quietly to only myself, "And as such, I would think that you would have been more responsible with your time!" ... but I just continued to apologize & rebook her & her husband. Oddly enough, the husband was completely chill about the entire debacle. I imagined that his wife was the one who made them late in the first place, & he was secretly enjoying the karma she was handed. (Even though she was hateful & rude, I do still feel bad when this happens. I know, I know, it's only two minutes -- but for the sake of my coworkers & other passengers, rules are rules. Always arrive early!)
To make up for the hateful & rude lady, I had a passenger just trying to make his way home to Boston. Number one, he was an older gentleman traveling solo who had the most fantastic accent. Boston accents totally kick butt, they're one of my favorites. Anyway, every flight to Boston had been cancelled due to the impending snowstorm in mid-February, & he was basically stuck in Colorado Springs waiting for a flight to open up. We spent a solid thirty minutes looking at reroute options, just hoping for one to open up with any airline carrier. Even my supervisor was helping to find alternate connections for this man. We eventually found a connection for him, but he ended up having to stay overnight in Chicago (I think) -- but my supervisor approved him for hotel accommodations that evening. This isn't something that can always be done or be approved when it comes to a weather cancellation, so don't come hounding us for a free hotel. Just let this be a lesson in being kind & patient to others, especially those who are helping to get you home as quickly & safely as possible. I assume Mr. Boston Man made it home safely, but I will never know how the rest of his trip went. That's honestly one of the hardest parts of my job -- I only see a small portion of people's journeys & never know if they made it safely or how they were treated for the duration of their trip. I practically want to roll out the red carpet for our COS passengers, I love them. I love coming to work, even on three hours of sleep, because those passengers fill me with energy & life.
I was manning Gate 7 Friday morning, & my first flight went out perfectly... which always makes me cringe, because airport happenings rarely run smoothly. Want proof? My next two flights were delayed! For my first delay, I was the only agent available to assist with rebooking passengers who were missing their connections, as the other agents were taking care of their on-time departures. I try to organize the pandemonium (people get really anxious & crazy when their connections get befuddled) by assisting passengers with the earliest connection times first, but people lack logic when they're stressed. For example, one passenger was on the phone with the Help Desk while asking me what her rerouting options were. Lady, you are now hogging two agents who are giving you the exact same information, so you can finish on the phone or I can assist you from here -- because there are about 40 other passengers behind you who are also trying to reach their final destinations as well. Pick the reservation line or pick me, don't be that person who holds up an entire line because you think your itinerary is more important than the flight full of other passengers. Have awareness for your surroundings. Breathe. And please don't get crazy.
For the passengers who were proactive & contacted the Help Desk at the first announcement of their delay, thank you -- just make sure that you see the agent at the podium if you checked a bag. We always try our best to reroute bags, honestly. I know you think your one black bag isn't a huge deal, but your one black bag in a pit of 37 black bags can be difficult to track down. If you don't let me know at the gate about your bag because you used the Help Desk, your bag will definitely remain on your original flight itinerary -- which means that your bag may arrive at your final destination earlier or later than your new itinerary. Sometimes it is impossible to move your bag, for a slew of reasons, & we do apologize for that, just keep us informed if you did use the Help Desk to get your new itinerary due to a delay or cancellation.
For the passengers who rebooked for a later flight -- & the original flight's delay was advanced, so it was able to leave closer to its original pre-delay-take-off time -- I am so sorry, but I cannot get you back on this original flight. This happened with four passengers on Friday, where they all wanted to get back on their original flights when the Captain gave us clearance to begin boarding. When a flight is delayed & we are given clearance to board, we are only boarding those passengers who still hold valid boarding passes for that specific flight segment. Again you think, "But I am just one person, how much work could it possibly be!?" Enough work that it would delay the flight even more than it already was, & we will not inconvenience 72 other passengers to accommodate one person or four.
Flying is a gamble, of course. Flying has a lot of grey areas & exemptions to certain "rules". Even with as much as I fly, I still get anxious the night before, the day of, & during the flight itself. I understand how stressful & uncomfortable it can be to have literally zero control over your itinerary once the ticket is booked. You can't control delays, cancellations, weather, oversold flights, overweight flights, etc., & that's probably why passengers act so nuts sometimes. But just breathe, we will get through this together. We'll try our best at COS to take care of you, one passenger at a time.
I was at the ticket counter & thankfully, it was an uneventful day. I did get to watch the sunrise as it piqued over the horizon & turned the Front Range beautiful shades of pink & purple. The silver lining to working at 4:15 A.M., folks.
I don't normally work Sundays at the airport, but I picked up a shift for Marti so she could go to Germany (& so she would work for me when I explored California). I'd only heard how hectic Sundays could be, as most passengers are trying to get back home after the weekend. I had to close at Blue the night before, so I only got three hours of sleep, which is becoming a customary habit. And the "sleep" I did get was awful because I was so paranoid about over sleeping -- but, I made it to work on time & mostly conscious. After our morning meeting, I assisted with security checks of the aircrafts coming from the hangar. I was assigned to Gate 3 & everything ran on-time, without issues. The only issue I did have was with one of the flight attendants on my first outbound flight. She decided to bring on board her entitled presence -- which I have very little patience for, especially considering my lack of sleep. Before I could even confirm her badge & identification for the flight, she was already barking orders about passengers & their carry-on bags. I smiled & nodded through my then-seething breaths, throwing in some extra bats of my eyelashes so I wouldn't snap. I've actually learned how to smile sarcastically, which is a really handy skill that I am adding to my resume. I smile & look attentive to your words, but in reality, I am actually rolling my eyes at you & begging you to be quiet. Just because you're a Flight Attendant & I'm a Gate Agent doesn't mean that I'm stupid. I am fully capable of doing my job & yours. Thanks.
My favorite part about this day was my time in-between flights, when I sat with the Rampers in their break room, & we bonded over a shared dish of ditalini, fettuccini, & spicy Mexican chicken at 8:15 A.M.. We eat weird food in the morning hours, because our bodies think it's lunch time. I learned about their families & their heritage in the few minutes before they were beckoned to return to the tarmac. Something struck me that morning... Airport folks are a lot like restaurant folks, & these people are quickly becoming just as cherished as the families I've made through my decade-long-career in the restaurant industry.
I made myself stay awake until 4 P.M. on Sunday, but then I crashed... hard. I almost slept through my alarm Monday morning after sleeping for nearly 12 hours, but when I was able to snap myself out of dreaming, waking up came relatively easily. I was dressed & ready a few minutes earlier than normal, so I was going to treat myself to a bowl of cereal (normally I'm still half-drooling & half-conscious when I wake up, so I opt to hit snooze instead of eat breakfast). I took a long, savory bite of the Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch -- only to discover that the milk had spoiled. Oops. Awake enough for cereal. Not awake enough to read the label.
I was assigned to the First Class kiosks at the ticket counter, & when we first emerged from the break room, there were just floods of passengers waiting to check-in. And everyone had such a sense of urgency & they all wanted to be helped first. That first hour usually zips on by without much reprieve. Let it be known that the First-Class passengers are some of my favorites -- it really comes down to treating people well & thanking them for their business, which is a simple joy that fills me with pride. These are people who fly so frequently that they have earned status with the airline. They get free bags, free upgrades, etc. -- just like when you invest a lot of money in the Vegas slots & you're given free food vouchers & hotel stays. Airlines are a lot like that. If you invest in us, we also invest in you.
... So long as you arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time.
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.