BOBBY BENNETT: WHEN GETTING TO PRI IS ONLY HALF THE FUN
This is the last time this guy will be proactive. And it pains me to say it.
I was working proficiently on Tuesday, getting all my affairs in order for the Performance Racing Industry Show in Indianapolis. One time in a row, which constitutes the beginning of a streak, the schedule was flowing smoothly.
Then an email popped up from American Airlines. ALERT! Your flight could be affected by bad weather in Washington, D.C.
I didn't want to tempt fate, but I didn't want to get stuck in D.C., either. There was a 5:30 meeting I couldn't afford to miss on Wednesday.
So, I went to the American Airlines website and, for no change fee, adjusted my schedule to go through Charlotte instead of D.C. After all, it wasn't a bad swap on paper; I would leave just 30 minutes earlier and get into town two hours ahead of schedule.
It was all going smoothly until I sat in my seat.
The pilot came on the PA and said, "Ladies and gentlemen from the flight deck, we will be at the gate for 40 minutes because of fog going into Charlotte. As we are told, nothing is going in or out of Charlotte, so every flight will be delayed. That didn't bother me, as I had a 90-minute layover. As we got closer to the 40-minute mark, the pilot came on and said we had another 30-minute delay and reassured us nothing was coming in or out of Charlotte and we could deplane for a few minutes.
Imagine, to my surprise as I headed to the gift shop for a beverage and looked over at the next gate, and my original flight was boarding.
I thought to myself, "Those poor souls are going to get stranded in D.C."
I did get a bit concerned when the door closed on the D.C. flight, and pushed back and took off as I stood there waiting to reboard.
I was getting a bit nervous when the 30-minute delay on top of the other delay came and went with us, still waiting to reboard. We were delayed 70 minutes for a 20-minute flight. Five minutes we reboarded and waited another 10 minutes to take off. But, hey, it was okay, everything was delayed in Charlotte, and we should always trust the pilot on everything.
We landed, only to find out another plane was in our gate space. No big deal, my flight is delayed. I looked at the app, but it showed my connecting flight was on time. At this point, I figured it had not been updated. Then I got off the plane and headed to my gate at a reasonably rapid pace.
Guess whose flight was apparently the only one on schedule?
As the door closed just as I got there, the stare came across from the gate agent as if they were saying, "Sucks to be you."
So I went to customer service, where two accommodating agents told me they could rebook me on a New York flight, but I wouldn't get there until 4 PM, or I could fly standby on the next one to Indy. There was an option to go to Cincinnati, but then I'd be on my own for the last leg.
Like Let's Make A Deal, I opted for door number two.
I sat there for 90 minutes, rather optimistic I would be on this flight. Then my confidence took a beating when a gate attendant who was obviously having a bad day and with the bedside manner of a dishrag (with no offense to dishrags) told me when I asked about clearing me for standby to ticketing said, "I ain't gonna clear you until I know I have a seat for you."
So as I watched all my PRI peers board the plane, including Will Smith (the drag racer) and Joe Castello, and finally, one guy who was behind me on the standby list boarded, she looked at me, and said, "This Flight Is Closed."
I called the AAdvantage Line, where I got an agent. I had to explain three times what I needed to do in order to make my flight to Indianapolis on time for the meeting. All the while, I was doing my best impression of O.J. Simpson slicing and dicing through the crowd from Concourse E to B, roughly a half-mile. The flight to La Guardia had become my only remaining option.
Finally, as I hit the B concourse, the customer service rep on the phone said, I cannot get this computer to connect; get the agent at the gate to switch you. Click. Yes, she hung up.
I got to the gate to get another wearied agent who said, "I cannot do anything for you. Go to the customer service booth there."
Back up three gates, and I get the agent who can type as fast as writer Kelly Wade if I guess, types a gazillion words per minute. I wish I could remember her name, but with fire coming off of her fingertips, she said, "I got you a middle seat, if that's okay."
"At this point, I don't mind strapped to the top of the plane," I responded.
As I started to leave, I responded, "My bag?"
"There's no time for that," she responded.
I raced to the gate, handed the seat voucher to the agent, and made the flight.
God is still in the miracle business. Yet there was a bigger miracle that needed to happen.
As I looked on the app, my flight landed at 1:30, and the one for Indy took off at 2 PM. I was on the 18th row and had traded my middle seat for the window to a daughter who wanted to sit by her mom. There was no way I could pull this off on my own.
So I made a deal with the daughter and mom to get the aisle seat for the last 15 minutes since LGA was their final stop. This is where two of the most incredible flight attendants I've ever come in contact with came to my rescue, Glenda Moore and Karen Trulick. Glenda, when I explained my plight, immediately went to work on a plan to get me off the plane and to my gate. Turns out Glenda comes to my hometown, right up the road from the CompetitionPlus.com office, on a regular basis.
Five minutes later, Karen returned with the news I could move to an empty seat five rows up. She also took my bag to a closet on the plane. Then as the plane landed, she safely moved me to the front so I could deplane quickly. It would then be on me to go 12 gates to get on the Indianapolis flight.
Look, I'm sure their actions were not by the company playbook, but they went above and beyond to help a customer, something these hardworking flight attendants hardly ever get credit for. I think in Corporate America, there's too much emphasis put on sticking to a manual when the manual doesn't always have the customer's interests in mind. On this day, two of American Airlines' finest made a loyal 12-year customer happy.
So the door opened, and I raced off of the flight like a racehorse.
I made it to the gate with five minutes to spare. God is good!
The flight landed in Indianapolis on time. I Ubered to the meeting and made it on time. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Well, almost all was well.
Then, the icing on the cake, Jesus (my Uber driver) took me to my room. The peculiar thing about the Uber app, it asked if I had luggage. That would be a resounding No.
About my bag... for some reason, it ended up in Cincinnati, where it remained until Thursday morning leaving me with the clothes on my back and a complimentary toiletry bag from the airlines. All night I wondered if and when I could make it to the show.
Then I was notified it would be sent to Chicago and then to Indy, where it would arrive by 11:45 AM. After Ubering to the airport to pick up my bag, I watched in happiness as it rolled out on the carousel and then Ubered back to the hotel, where, after 24 hours had the glorious feeling of fresh drawers.
I made it to the PRI show at 1:15 PM.
As I rewind back the moments to the email, I am aware of two things. No. 1 God is good all the time, even when life isn't. And, No. 2, when I get a weather advisory notice from the airlines, it's best to just delete the message and move on to the next assignment.