Have you ever heard of such a thing? Apparently, it’s nonexistent. We’re walking the Via Francigena this summer and we spent much of our 2021-2022 planning this upcoming adventure.
In planning for our flight, we did all the right things. We monitored flights on Hopper, snatched them up when they were exactly what we wanted, at the most acceptable price, and watched the flight every day for months to make sure nothing changed.
But, of course, the flight changed. Our easy, international flight with one layover turned into a moderately easy flight with two layovers. Back to refreshing the app daily for months to make sure nothing else changed. We pivoted, no problem.
72 hours before our flight leaves Mother Nature brews up a big storm on the East Coast. Flights are delayed everywhere. Our flight changed again, back to one layover leaving out of a different airport. We pivot, no problem.
Our travel day arrives and we’re giddy with excitement. So giddy, I could honestly puke. That unsettled feeling in my stomach was a warning sign, I just didn’t know it yet.
Our son arrives at our house a bit early and we’re on our way to the airport. It’s an hour drive on the highway, no problem. Until the traffic comes to a complete stop. It’s an accident and the phone says it’s a 90 minute delay. Our son does a u-turn and we’re on back roads all the way. We arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Our son pivots.
We stroll through security. What? It was frighteningly easy! I jumped with excitement, it was a sight, you should have seen it. Hallelujah! Europe, here we come! We’ve been pivoting and this is our reward.
We’re at our gate, backpacks resting on our backs, and we’re all smiles. Then we hear, “due to weather in Newark, your flight is delayed by 30 minutes.” No worries, that leaves us with 90 minutes after we land before our next flight leaves. The plane starts to board, we’re at the nose of the plane about to step on when we hear, “turn around! Everyone, turn around! We’re delayed for 90 minutes!” Say, what? That was all of the wiggle room we had left! How does one pivot from that?
We get back to the terminal and immediately call customer service. I’m on hold for 45 minutes because nobody is at the gate to help. I finally get someone and he says, “I’m sorry, all the flights are full.” I plead, I want to pivot but I’m getting exhausted. We’re going to miss our connection by minutes. The true nature of my unsettled stomach is starting to make sense. He says he’ll hit refresh until he finds something. Alas, he thinks he has success but it’s time to board the plane. Should we get on? I don’t know what to do. I’m on hold. The gate agent says, “make a decision!” We get on the plane.
We decide to figure out our pivot move in Newark. Heck, we hadn’t even missed our connection yet. The plane sits on the tarmac for 20 minutes. We’re definitely missing the connection now. No problem, we convince ourselves, it’s all going to be ok.
When we land the gate agent tells us to go to customer service. We swiftly head over there. We see a ton of flights to Europe on the big board, as long as we get across the pond it will all be ok.
We get to customer service and the line is easily two hours long. While in line, I get on the phone to call customer service, and Brian starts a text conversation with them. I am the first one to get help, I explain the situation. She begins the search. She tells me there is nothing. But the big board shows a plethora of flights, please refresh. I have pivoted back to pleading.
An hour passes, and we are still in line. We beg, “please, there’s a flight leaving soon for Paris. I am sure we can get a connection, just get us on that flight.” Despite my request, she pursues an entirely different flight. She’s refreshing her screen. She wants us to go to Frankfort, Germany. Ok, well, it’s over the pond but neither one of us downloaded German on our Google Translate app. Whatever just get us on a plane.
We get disconnected. Are you kidding me? 90 minutes on the phone, a possible confirmed flight, and we get disconnected. She calls me back, but she can’t hear me. She calls me back again, I can’t hear her. We are so close to the front of the line where a human stands facing all of these displaced passengers. I refresh the airline’s app on my phone. She has us on a flight to Frankfort with a connection to Geneva. There’s hope that we’ll make it and make our Lake Geneva ferry ride. We get out of the 2 hour customer service line and speed walk to the gate.
It’s a mad house! We don’t have boarding passes and there is no way we’re going to get help at our gate. The flight is delayed. We go to the gate next to ours. It’s the Paris flight, she’s locking the doors. She smiles, “How can I help you?” We tell her the situation, our newest delay, our newest missed connection. She says, I kid you not, “Oh, there was plenty of room on this flight, if only you were a few minutes earlier.” If only, if only.
I am disappointed but remain calm because I know it’s the only thing that will get us through this situation. She sends us back to the madhouse. We wait in another line. My ultra cool husband that never gets mad is starting to snap. We calm each other down. We get to the front of the new line and they have no idea how to help. Oh, and only one computer of three is working. The flight is further delayed and it’s obvious we’re going to miss our connection, again. But if we can just get over the pond, if we can just be in Europe, everything will be ok. A good pivot is needed.
We’re on the plane. I am texting with customer service about our connection. The flight we’re sitting on is delayed further because of an unruly passenger who’s getting escorted off of the plane. I would rather him get escorted off now than cause more trouble later. Thank goodness the flight crew still has the ability to pivot.
I’m on a text hold while I wait for a customer service agent. 20 minutes later, someone is finally texting me. I explain the problem, again. She says there are no options. I plead, she refreshes her screen. You know the drill now.
Thank goodness for free wi-fi on the plane within the app because it took two hours but we’re confirmed on yet another plane. Unfortunately, we have a 4 hour layover when we land in Frankfort and another layover in Zurich, Switzerland before ultimately making it to Geneva. We will continue to pivot and I am confident at this point, we’ll make it.
Brian and I watch a movie, sip on our complimentary wine, and drift off into sleep. It’s an 8 hour flight, we will feel refreshed soon and be able to handle whatever happens when we land.
There’s some turbulence, not the best sleep, but we’re managing. Then comes the intercom, you have heard this one in the movies, “Is there a doctor on board the plane? Is there a doctor on the plane?” I bolt awake. No, I’m not a doctor but maybe this is all a theatrical dream. This could not be actually happening. I don’t know what happened to the person who needed a doctor, I pray whoever it remains ok and there was a doctor on the plane. There are 290 people on here, I have to think this person is ok. When we landed an ambulance and fire truck was waiting while the person was escorted off the plane.
It’s at the point of being startled out of my mediocre slumber where this blog post begins to take shape. I wasn’t going to write about our flight to Geneva. It was supposed to be an easy flight. Meanwhile, Brian holds my hand. He’s glad I didn’t need medical help and he drifts back into his uneasy slumber. Me? I type this all out before my brain can no longer process what’s happened.
We arrive in Geneva and you would hope this drama would be over but alas something else has to happen, you know that by now. We made it but our luggage was not so lucky. Fortunately, we have everything we need on our backs; however, our hiking sticks, umbrellas, pocket knives, and a few larger toiletries did not arrive. Hopefully, they will arrive at our destination tomorrow.
Ultimately the journey is more important than the destination. We had a good time, we practiced our chill skills, and we master our ability to pivot. The more we travel the better we are at expecting the unexpected and learning to calmly work through whatever comes our way. I wonder what lessons this pilgrimage will teach us.
Check out our travel video on YouTube!