I'm still out of sorts, but I fly back cross-country tomorrow and I'm hoping the Travel Gods will play nicer this time.
Spoiler alert: it all ends well!
Day of Travel: I had asked Mark to drive me 4 hours early before my flight from San Jose airport as we were having yet another atmospheric river storm, and I wanted to avoid getting stuck in traffic getting over the mountain - Hwy 17. On a good day, it's usually a 40-minute drive. He thought I was crazy, but I insisted. Even though it was pouring down like cats, we had no delays getting there. Mark dropped me off at the airport, and then shortly after, I found out my flight was canceled due to a mechanical problem! Not a good start.
I was flying American Airlines, so I went to their counter, and a very nice AA woman told me, "no problem, honey, you are all set on the 12 pm flight leaving San Francisco". Only - I see this AS A PROBLEM as it was already 10 am and I was in a different airport! She gives me a new ticket and says wait over there for the shuttle. Say what?!
So I waited and waited. I was with five other people passengers now. I returned to the counter a few times, "Are you sure we will make it?". "Don't worry" was always the answer.
Our shuttle finally shows up. Not exactly what I was expecting. A woman rushes into the airport and says, "Let's go," and we all pile in an unmarked white minivan, and then she drives like a bat out of hell on Hwy 101 to get us to San Francisco in time. A lot of silent prayers were happening on this drive.
We got to the airport expecting long lines, but just like the San Jose airport, there were no security lines! Getting through one of the busiest airports seemed easy, and I felt confident again. I even stopped for food and browsed in a couple of shops. (btw - Terminal A in SFO is gorgeous!)
I get to my gate. However, the weather is getting worse outside, and the flights all around me are now "on hold." That sinking feeling comes back.
Then I saw my flight was delayed, and I realized there was no way I would make my connection to Buffalo. There were no attendants at the gate to help, so I spied an AA employee looking bored (or catching a moment of peace) at an empty counter. I ran over and asked her what I should do. Can she rebook me? She said to return to the gate counter and get in line; they would be there one hour before your flight departed. So I did, and I was the first one there. In about 5 minutes, there were 20 people behind me.
At the counter, a very nice AA employee tried to figure out what to do. With my new SFO ticket, I was the last on the plane in row 38. So I asked if I could move up, and he put me in Row 10 (2 behind first class). He said I'd have a chance this way.
As I waited to board, I started looking into my other options. Meanwhile, I was getting emails from AA, and they wanted to rebook me on a 5 am flight from Dallas to Buffalo the next day with a connection through Charlotte. Ugh, and yuk. The airport hotels were all saying - hurry, book now, as there are only three rooms left and no refunds! I knew if I booked a hotel, I'd be sending the wrong signal to the Universe, which is a sure sign I wouldn't make the connection.
We finally boarded and were expected to arrive in Dallas at 6:37 pm, and my flight was at 6:57 pm. Yikes. So I started visualizing AA holding the plane for me or that the Bflo flight would be delayed for some reason. Right before we landed, I asked the flight attendant in the back if she had advice about this airport as I also needed to go from Terminal B to Terminal A. It would be like crossing a freeway, Dallas Fort Worth Airport is HUGE! She looked at my shoes and said, "Take the Skyline; it's only 2 minutes to each terminal, and run!"
Right before we landed, the flight attendant announced that many people needed to make connections and to please wait if this was their last destination. Of course, every passenger in First Class got up, stretched, and took their time before leaving. I may have nudged a few along the way out, I'm not sure.
So I ran…looking for the Skyline signs. By the time I even got there, I was GASSED. A nice man with a huge cowboy hat stepped aside on the escalator as he saw me coming, but I said not to worry I needed to save my energy. Lol.
I got to the Skyline platform, waited for the tram, and got on. I was feeling good. Confident again. Other people were trying to catch the Buffalo flight, so I felt there was safety in numbers.
While we are in the tram, an announcement comes over the loudspeaker "The Skyline to Terminal A is not in operation. Please get off at the next terminal and walk to the Skybridge". I kid you not. I looked at the other passengers going to Buffalo and said, "We'd better run like hell!"
So I pulled an OJ (I think only my generation and older will get this!) I ran SO hard, pushing my pink four-wheel carry-on and laptop bag across my chest. Sidenote: this would be the first time I traveled to Buffalo without a checked bag, so I had worn a few layers of extra clothing! Oy!
The SkyBridge is long (I think it's over a freeway, but I didn't dare to look. Eyes straight ahead!). I was out of breath with shooting pains everywhere when I rounded the bend into Terminal A. I was now at Gate 39, and I needed to be at Gate 19! OMG, 20 gates to go! I am not going to lie, some tears spilled out.
I never checked my watch. I just ran and prayed that they held the plane for me. When I finally saw Gate 21, I started to yell loudly, "HOLD THE PLANE! WAIT, I AM COMING! PLEASE WAIT!" The stares I was getting from random people were priceless. Of course, my gate wasn't in sight as the terminal was not a straight line but along a curve! I was hoping they would at least hear me.
Gate 19 came into view with 3 flight attendants waving me in. I knew right then I had made it. I started to cry and shake, and I couldn't even hand over my boarding pass. I walked onto the plane and could barely breathe. The flight crew said, "Oh, don't worry, just take some deep breaths - you are fine. You made it". Every face on that very, full plane was looking at me, and most were smiling. You could tell they were SO happy for me. Passing every other row, I would say, "Thank you, thank you." (Imagine, I had just won the Oscar and thanked everyone along the way!
So what's the big deal? Just take another flight in the morning from Dallas, but I already have anxiety in airports before I go anywhere (flying is ok, it's the airports that stress me out!). I was at my wit's end with all the things that could go wrong were ACTUALLY going wrong.
However, many things were also going right, and I felt a little watched over during this ordeal. I soon realized on this travel day that visualizing a successful outcome was far better than worrying. I think about the first AA employee I spoke to. "No problem, honey!" Amen to that.
Thanks for reading this very long post!
Also, American Airlines was awesome - their customer service was the best I have experienced in the last few years of traveling.