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It all started with one flight being delayed: A spring break travel nightmare

It all started with one flight being delayed. The day of. In the middle of my Spanish class.

For some reason, I was bold enough to venture outside of my typical routine of split screening my Spanish textbook and notes and decided to explore my email. Now, I am not promoting this, but thank God I did, because there I would see a flight change notification email. Clicking on the notification from Delta, and dotting my eyes back and forth between my Spanish teacher and my screen, I read the words, “FLIGHT TIME CHANGE, IMPORTANT.” Right below that were the words, “WE ARE CURRENTLY TRYING TO REBOOK YOU.”

A little annoyed and not thinking much of it, I prayed for a connecting flight with a good layover time. I had a 4,000-word group proposal due at the end of the day and was flying to my new home in Houston, Texas, which included a one-hour time difference. Needless to say, I wanted to get the project done while in the same time zone. Scrolling down the email, I clicked on a link to rebook the flight myself. I attempted to rebook, and the message “ERROR: Unavailable flight” appeared on my screen.

My heart dropped a little, but then quickly shifted back up. I clicked on another flight, and the message “FLIGHT BOOKED” appeared on my screen and I saw the flight confirmation email pop up in my inbox. The new itinerary was to depart from Lexington at 6:15 p.m., get to Atlanta at 8 p.m., depart from Atlanta at 10 p.m. and get to Houston at midnight. With a sigh of relief, I pointed my attention back to my Spanish teacher. Piece of cake for an experienced flyer like myself, right?

Okay, so maybe God had different plans for me that I wasn't aware of. Or maybe this day wasn't supposed to be a piece of cake. Maybe it was supposed to be more like a sour lemon bar that hurts your teeth, gives you a raging headache and gets powdered sugar everywhere. It was 5:25 p.m., and I was late for my boarding time, which was supposed to be at 4:52 p.m. As a devote Christian, I do the only thing I could think of and blasted "Maverick City" as my best friend tried her best to navigate Friday afternoon traffic. It was working. My nerves were calm as I said goodbye to my best friend and her sister and ran to security.

I got through security, but not without them taking my moisturizer and brand new tube of $7 toothpaste. Wincing internally, I rushed to my gate. Turns out the app forgot to update and I was 30 minutes early. Nice. We boarded at 6:30 p.m. or so; a little later than expected but nothing too terrible. This plane had TVs, so I sat and watched the flight on the screen the whole time. I am sure the pilot was thankful for my service.

After a 45 minute turbulence-filled ride, I landed in Atlanta. Arriving at my gate, I surprisingly finished my part of my group project and had time to reformat a few things. I then took my spare hour to charge up my devices. I was able to charge my phone, AirPods and laptop nearly to full battery. At 9:38 p.m., I boarded... or I was supposed to board. They had a full aircraft and offered Comfort Plus if we checked a bag — it would be free of charge. So I boarded at around 9 p.m. I was not given Comfort Plus — just the luxury of boarding with Comfort Plus, which was a bummer, but hey, at least I got to board early.

Then, as everyone finished boarding, this is when I’d say things went downhill. The flight attendant announced, “ Unfortunately there are no available pilots to assist you all with your trip to Houston at this time. We have rebooked all of you for the next flight which is tomorrow morning at 7:30 p.m. We apologize for the inconvenience. Hotel accommodations will be provided at security. Please deplane the aircraft. Thank you. I repeat, we are deplaning the aircraft.”

I sat for a moment. The girl in front of me immediately started sobbing. I looked to my neighbor and she was just as confused as I am. I felt like if I ever had an "Office" camera stare moment, this would be it.

I called my mom and explained the little I knew. She quickly reassured me and started texting everyone we know. On the train to security, I overheard a phone call from a super sweet girl named Chanel (who eventually at the end of all of this gets my number and texts me to ensure I got home all right). She was talking about Delta pilots being on strike. As an RA on campus, I work desk shifts and typically always watch the news whilst doing so. I had heard nothing of a pilot strike. Curious, I typed “Delta pilot strike” into Google, and lo and behold, I found out that Atlanta Delta pilots had been on strike since yesterday.

I laughed out in disbelief. What were the odds? It was 10 p.m. as I followed Chanel to security to get my hotel accommodation. I got to the front of the line and found out there was no hotel accommodation. Just a hotel reimbursement number. Meaning I had to find a hotel and they would give me my money back for said hotel fee. With my mom and sister on the phone, we got to searching for hotels. Nearly every hotel by the airport was fully booked.

My messages quickly became filled with hotel after hotel, and soon enough I started to lose hope. It hit 11 p.m. My feet were aching from my heavy combat boots. My stomach was growling. No hotel. Midnight, no hotel. 1 a.m. It was storming. I was standing under an underpass and I wanted to cry. My phone kept losing connection so my mom was merging calls from hotels just so I could ask about availability. No hotel.

2 a.m. My phone hit 30%. We found and booked a hotel that told me they had a shuttle, but they didn't. So I had to get a $100 Uber. I was so tired, I couldn't even cry. 3 a.m. 3 a.m. was my time for redemption. Somehow my mom got on the phone with a man who worked some magic and got me a hotel 10 minutes away from the airport and canceled my previous hotel reservation free of charge.

The hotel just so happened to be the Kimpton Hotel, which is right next to the Porsche Experience Center. It was the nicest hotel I had ever been to. The shower had full containers of shampoo and conditioner, and it had a Nespresso machine! Sadly, I wasn't able to use anything in the room except the bed, but it was nice just to be in such a luxurious room.

I officially checked in and layed in bed at around 3:40 a.m. I slept for a little more than one and a half hours. To comfort me, I watched college basketball. I thought of Kentucky. I felt better and fell asleep. I woke up at 4:45 a.m. I was so scared I'd miss my flight that I couldn't get back to sleep. The shuttle for the airport left every 30 minutes starting at 5 a.m., so I caught the 5:30 shuttle and arrived at the airport by 5:40. After I went through security, I was at my gate by 6:15 a.m. I boarded my flight home. “We have a pilot,” they announced several times. I was finally going to get home.

At 9:30 a.m. we landed. My neighbor told me we had been given 100 e-credit for our next flight. I decided at that moment that not enough e-credit could compensate for the last 12 hours. At 10:15 a.m., Chanel (the sweet girl I met on the Atlanta airport train) texted me telling me she got home all right. I texted back the same. As I layed in my bed at home I still couldn't believe that all of this started with one flight being delayed.


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