Airport Delays Build Travel Virtues
I recently was scheduled to depart on a flight at 3 pm in Albuquerque, a rather quaint airport in the good ol’ southwest.
The Barrage of texts begins
Before even arriving at the airport, I received a text saying that the flight was delayed a couple of hours. I reminisced about travel before cell phones when one arrived at the airport only to see these updates flashing on the board.
Of course, at that time and before Uber, your lift to the airport could also walk you to the gate to see you off.
Like a slow tide coming in, so did more texts updating me regarding further delays of the flight. I had already landed at the airport by then, so I just rolled with the wave of texts.
The reasons for the delay continue morphing
The agent behind the counter announced over a crackly loud mic the evolving reasons for the delay.
First it was mechanical. Then, we were informed that the plane hadn’t departed where it originated. Following that, another pilot had to be flown to the origin point, but by then, the crew had timed out.
And so it went.
A small offering of food was provided at the departure gate. Hope still lingered in the air and among the passengers that this flight was going to sail at some point that night. $15 vouchers were offered up later for the one little cafe still open.
As of now, we had a minimum of three hours to kill. The cafe filled quickly for those desiring a diversion from waiting for more crackly updates.
The perspective changes with conversation with a stranger
I squeezed in at the last lone seat at the bar and sat next to a New Yorker waiting for her flight in an hour. She had been on a yoga retreat and the shuttle dropped her off at the airport in the morning despite her late, but on time NYC flight.
Spontaneously, she decided to rent a car for the day and went road tripping up to Sante Fe, where I had just come from. She shared places visited that were on my list, but didn’t make the cut as there was too much to see on my short visit.
I marked the Meow Wolf and Ojo Caliente mineral springs for my next bucket list of this area based on her reviews.
Seems like striking up a conversation in the airport is becoming less and less frequent as people plug into their electronics, eluding most interpersonal interactions.
I’ll admit, I’ve done it myself.
I was refreshed with this interesting conversation that otherwise would not have happened albeit the flight delay.
The soul worker of the cafe said she was closing up so all of us stranded passengers headed back to the gate to have the final verdict handed down to us: the flight was rescheduled for 10 am the next day.
The key around travel stresses: one's perspective
A line trailed out from the counter with folks trying to figure out how to spend the next 10 hours. One woman started to chant “Hotel! Hotel!” in the hopes to start up more disgruntlement but it fizzled out fairly quickly. A few others shouted out complaints.
These outbursts intrigued me, as this wasn’t a protest for some worthy cause, but just that we were all a bit tired and frustrated.
Reactions to discomfort in the States is a far cry from around the world where people wait for hours outside train or bus stations and not a chant heard. It’s the norm there.
The airline said they couldn’t offer room vouchers up as the town was booked out for a conference. A promise was made that if you did find a room in town, they would reimburse you.
Normally, I am a die hard traveler and prepared to crash at an airport or wherever I may get stranded, but I was beat. I gambled taking a room hoping for said reimbursement at a local small hotel that had a shuttle so I wouldn’t even have to use Uber.
Of course, the cell phone app I used made the difference between taking a bed space at the airport or a nearby hotel, so sometimes technology does pay when traveling.
I would most likely have roughed it had I been footing the bill, marking it as one of my travel adventures that would build up my traveler legs. But, going horizontal for a few hours sounded pretty good.
As I passed the New York bound Gate, the New Yorker handed me a beautiful card from a Sante Fe gallery. She said she heard the news of my flight and felt bad. I was touched. This is how I remember flying in days passed. We parted with a hug.
The realization? Rest and refocus promote a sunny view of situation
The next morning after it appeared most passengers had gotten some shut eye, folks were in a more jovial mood. Snacks were at the gate and people were actually talking with one another. Had we not had this shared experience, maybe everyone would be plugged in to themselves.
We were now just waiting for the crew to arrive so we could board. Claps and cheers erupted as the crew walked by with their neat roller bags following behind. Some of them waved. The passengers had transformed. Was it the excitement to be boarding soon or was it something bigger?
We had all connected somehow due to our delay. As troublesome as it may have been to some, I actually didn’t mind the lost time as it allowed me to just "be" for a few extra hours with no "should be" doing something "vital".
It was a break in life’s fast pace and a chance to stretch the traveler's limit on the virtues of patience, tolerance, and compassion.
We were not harmed by this interruption in life, only delayed for a bit to form new random shared connections and some cherished travel memories.
Addendum: When events like this do happen, it is always good to follow up with the airline, as they usually give some sort of compensation for your inconvenience.
And perhaps politely challenge their first offer to you as they have some leeway for these situations.