As I prepared for my trip to New York, I received a text message notifying me my flight was cancelled the next morning. No explanations. No apologies. To call this 888 number. Which I did. Immediately.
After listening to computer prompts and squeaks and whistles I finally hear a human voice.
“My name is George. How can I help you?” George doesn’t sound like a robot or a foreigner.
“You canceled my flight, George,” I say.
“Only for your safety, ma’am,” he says.
“You mean New York tomorrow would have been hazardous to my health?”
“It’s for your protection,” he says. “May I have your last name?”
George pulls up my reservation. “I see you’re going to JFK.”
“Were going. Remember you canceled,” I said.
“We have another flight to JFK a bit later in the morning…oh wait, it’s full, no seats,” he says. “I can route you through LA and on a red eye.”
“I didn’t pay for all that suffering.”
“Let’s see San Francisco then. Oh, wait it has stops. You probably don’t want that. Too long for you.”
“This call is too long for me. Don’t you have other options?”
“Not if you want to land at JFK.”
“Try the Hamptons. I’d like that.”
“Martha’s on sabbatical.”
“Hey, how about New Jersey?” I say.
I hear the squeaks and whistles. George hangs up.
“Alaska’s running a third world airline,” I say to Alf. “I could have arrived at JFK by now.”
“What did you expect from an iceberg state? Their brains are frozen,” he says.
My phone rings. It’s George.
“George! How are you? I never expected to hear from you again. I thought I lost you for good. “
“No ma’am. You can’t lose me until we finish this reservation,” he says.
“Aw George. I didn’t know you cared,” I say.
“Yes ma’am. Alaska values your business. We want you to be happy with your experience.”
“Can you book me to Paris then?”
“We don’t fly there but some of our partners do, let me check…”
“No George! Just book me to New York.”
George recommends a flight into New Jersey. I take it. We say tearful farewells.
The next morning I emerge from security ready for my flight. The other passengers show up. We take up the entire gate area. My seat mate on my left was also on the canceled flight. I suspect there are many bumped passengers on this plane going to New Jersey even when we really wanted JFK. I’m suspicious, this is a clever way of filling the New Jersey flights because nobody wants to go there.
We anxiously wait for the boarding announcement. Suddenly a woman behind me says, “Oh no!”
I whip around. “What’s the matter?”
“Look at the board. Our flight isn’t leaving for another two hours.”
A collective groan goes up.
They tell us at first it’s thunderstorms. We check the weather map on our phones. You can’t fool the public anymore. Clear skies and bright sun. Then they tell us it’s finding a crew problem. A few minutes later two pilots show up and board. We sit there for another hour. Then the flight attendants show up and board. We continue to sit there. By now my seat mate to the right and I are becoming best friends. I hear her whole life story. Then another announcement. It’s the limited airspace over three airports that’s causing the delay. Flight control is delaying all flights to the East Coast. I’m suspicious again. I bet they have Millennials working things who don’t know how to stack planes in the right order yet.
Another announcement. “We’re having a paper plane contest. Anyone who wants to participate come to the counter for a sheet of paper,” the agent says. “At the time you should have taken off we’ll launch them. That way at least something gets off the ground this morning. The plane that flies the farthest gets a $25 voucher from us.”
I don’t know how to make a paper airplane but I want to play. “Will you build it and I’ll fly it?” I ask my seat mate to my left. He agrees and within minutes he hands me a beautiful paper plane that looks like the Concorde. Another passenger, clearly an engineer, builds an elaborate one that looks like the stealth bomber. He decides to test it. He launches it out by the corridor. It flies straight into a woman’s forehead with a vengeance. He apologizes and crawls back to his seat. The teenagers in the waiting area are furiously making theirs. One of them checks Google for directions. I embellish mine with the logo and Alaskan face on one wing. “New Jersey or bust!” on the other wing. The agent calls the race. We line up in a row. She puts the young kids in front. At her command she says, “Go!” Waiting passengers stand to watch. We launch our creations. A 10-year old wins. Everyone applauds. I hand my plane to the agent.
We go back to waiting. Even our captain can’t convince flight control to leave earlier. Finally, they call the flight. As I walk past the counter, my plane is displayed for all to see.
Calvin says, “That’s what you get for not taking me. They would have taken one look at me, fallen in love, given me treats, and escorted us straight to first class. Or maybe just me. You they would have kept in the squeeze section.