We sat at the Beaches International Airport in the Florida Panhandle, waiting on the plane that would never come. That’s probably a bit dramatic; the fact is I don’t know if it ever came or not.
We were sitting near our gate when KM got a text that said the flight would be delayed, which wasn’t good because we had to make a connecting flight in Houston, and were already dealing with a pretty tight window.
The final destination was Memphis, where our car was. “Maybe that’s old info,” I said to KM, not really believing it. “Let me go talk to the Southwest girl at the gate over there.”
Our reservation was to leave Florida at 9:50 a.m. Our Houston flight had a 1:05 p.m. departure time.
I walked up to the desk.
“My wife just got a text saying flight 540 was delayed,” I said to the lady. “That’s right,” she said. “It should be here at 12:40.”
“Why?” I had to know.
She looked back down at her screen and bit her bottom lip a little before revealing, “They are trying to find a crew.”
“A crew? You mean like the guys who fly the plane?”
“Isn’t that normally done ahead of time?”
“Normally,” she said.
“Well. I have a connection in Houston leaving at 1:05.”
“Let me see what I can do,” she said as she looked down at the screen. “There’s a flight out from Houston at 5:30 this evening to Memphis – oh, never mind, it’s sold out. The next one is at 7:40, which stops in Dallas and gets to Memphis at 11:10.” It was now 8:45 in the morning.
“So that’s your best offer?” I asked her.
“Unless you want to fly out from here in the morning.”
Actually, one more full day in Florida sounded pretty good, so I pursued that option. “So Southwest will put us up at a hotel on the beach and give us a rental car and buy our dinner.”
She was trying not to laugh. “I can do a hotel near the beach, and we get you there on a shuttle bus, but no dinner,” was her counter.
“Well, we’re near the beach now, so I guess the hotel could be anywhere. And we’ll be stuck there until tomorrow without a car. And no dinner?”
“Right, no dinner. What do you want to do?” she asked.
“Wow, Southwest has really changed,” I told her.
“You have no idea,” she answered.
“Let me check with my wife.”
KM was looking at her phone. She had been up half the night with either a stomach bug or some kind of food poisoning.
“How do you feel about driving home?” I asked her.
“Yeah. The best they can do is get us to Memphis around 11:00 tonight, which gets us home after 1:00. And that’s if nothing else gets delayed, and the odds of that happening are off the board.”
“I don’t mind driving if you’re OK with it,” she told me.
“Well, I think we’ll get home at least three hours quicker, and I don’t much relish the thought of sitting in airports all day. And I’ll bet our flight in either Houston or Dallas will never even show up. Apparently there’s a crew shortage.”
“Let’s drive,” KM voted. So we did.
We made it home a little after 10:00 p.m., which was enough hours saved to make me feel it had been worth my while. It was certainly better than loading up into three different airplanes that were likely still looking for pilots.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.