Since becoming a full-time freelancer in 2011, I’ve been teaching at writers conferences, which means I’ve done a lot more travel than I did when I worked for the newspaper. In the last couple of years I’ve flown to St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Austin, and, most recently, Grand Rapids. Next week I’ll be off to St. Louis again for Realm Makers 2015. And that’s just the flying. That doesn’t count all the driving up and down the state of Florida to teach.
Last week’s trip to Grand Rapids was for the Speak Up Conference, a great event where I was blessed to meet a bunch of great speakers and writers who all have powerful stories to tell. On the way home, I was sitting in the boarding area with a couple of other faculty members whose flight home routed them through Orlando.
One of the great things about living in Orlando is that I can almost always get a direct flight to wherever I need to go. Delta always wants to route me through Atlanta, but Southwest—and previously AirTran, which Southwest purchased—flies direct to Orlando from all sorts of places.
That’s why I started out with a direct flight from Grand Rapids back to Orlando. But while my new friends and I were eating sandwiches and waiting for our 2 p.m. flight, the gate agent came over the loudspeaker.
“This flight is oversold, and we are looking for one person to volunteer to take a later flight. I can still get you to Orlando today, and we’ll compensate you for your trouble.”
Well, apart from my new friends, who were in a different boarding group than me, I was alone and in no hurry. So, for the first time in my flying experience, I volunteered to be bumped to the later flight. In exchange I got a voucher that will more than pay for my flight to next year’s Realm Makers. Yay for bumping!
The downside is that the later flight—which left only an hour later—would not get me to Orlando until after 10 p.m., instead of my original 5 p.m. arrival time. That’s because they first flew me to Baltimore, where I had a 90 minute wait before my next leg. To Long Island. Yeah. Long Island.
We had a slightly less than one hour hop to Islip. On approach, a flight attendant made an announcement. “All passengers flying through to Orlando, please remain seated so the other passengers can deplane.”
Made sense to me. Since I was in a late boarding group, I had a middle seat. I let the guy beside me out, then I moved over to the window seat while the other passengers filed off.
Pretty soon the plane was silent. Then one of the flight attendants stopped by my row. “Are you going through to Orlando?”
“Oh. They didn’t tell us you were.”
Then why the announcement from the other attendant about remaining seated? I didn’t ask for fear of sounding cheeky. But I stood up to use the bathroom and looked around. Not another passenger on the plane. Just me and three flight attendants.
It was interesting being on an empty plane with only the attendants. They quietly went about cleaning up the cabin. The only chatter was someone getting on a radio and calling to the gate agent, “One through to Orlando.”
I had a vision of the gate agent then making an announcement inside, “This flight is oversold and we are looking for one volunteer…” But I don’t know if that actually happened.
As the first group of passengers came down the jetway, one of the flight attendants said, “Here they come!”
Better, I guess, than “incoming!”
Passengers filed in, claiming the big-legroom seats in the exit row first, assuring the flight attendants that yes, they were willing to assist in the event of an emergency.
Every Southwest flight I have ever been on has been packed. I used to think it was just Orlando, but no, the flights to Baltimore and Islip were full also. Nevertheless, people will try to keep that middle seat open as long as possible. But no. Every seat was filled.
Not my most adventurous flight. (That would have been my trip home from the ACFW conference in St. Louis in 2011. Maybe I’ll tell you about that next time.) We had a smooth flight from Long Island to Florida, and with a seat at a starboard window, I had a gorgeous view of the sunset and of Jupiter and Venus rising.
We landed in Orlando just after 10 p.m., a little early. My suitcase, which had gone on the 2 p.m. flight without me, was waiting for me in a little office at bag claim I had never seen before.
Luckily, I live only about five minutes from the airport, so with a quick text to my hubby, I was soon home. Just about five hours later than expected. But I’m okay with that. I figure Southwest paid me to sit on their planes and read all day. Given the chance, I’d probably do it again.