Although my job has had me traveling since 2005, my first business trip definitely made a lasting impression. The itinerary sent me from Dallas, TX to Anchorage, AK, and then from Anchorage to LA for a night in order to get a visa, only to go back to Dallas before finally landing in London, UK. This all happened within a week — I enjoyed every minute of it.
Since then, the traveling only continued and I absolutely love it. When you travel as much as I do, it feels like the unconventional and interesting travel tales seem to pile up. As a result, I have decided to share a few on my blog this month.
4 Hours in the Air to Nowhere
Around the time of my early business trips, I worked as a consultant in Richmond, VA for CapitalOne. On one occasion, I set out on a seemingly normal flight from Richmond to Dallas. However, after about 2 hours in the air the pilot suddenly announced, ‘We are returning to Richmond asDFW airport is closed due to weather issues, and flights are being diverted.’
The total flight time from Richmond to Dallas is about 3 hours, so I was surprised that we were suddenly turning around after two hours.Catching me off guard, it taught me early on that inclement weather can result in landing right back where you started, even if you have almost made it to your destination. Recently, I heard of a similar situation at LAX, but for different reasons.
After about 4 and half hours up in the air we returned to Richmond. As soon as I got off, I rushed to an American Airlines agent and asked about my options. The agent very politely said ‘Whatever you would like, Mr. Gupta!’ I asked if she could find a flight to New York city for a night, followed by a 2 pm flight to Dallas the following day. Just like that, she made it happen. I had the chance to explore a new city and still make it home. I learned in times of travel disruptions, these agents truly want to help, and they will make every effort to accommodate you if you approach the situation the right way.
Airlines Can Make You Feel Like a Celebrity
12 years later and more than 2 million miles in flight, one might assume I was done after all the good, the bad and the ugly that accompanies so much air time, but my love for travel doesn’t seem to wane.
A few months ago, I switched to Delta from American Airlines due to their more convenient flight schedule. This January, I flew from Dallas to northern Canada with a connection in Minneapolis. The connection time between the flights was 40 minutes: not a lot of time, but not unheard of. I have been taking the same flight and connection since August 2017, and had no reason to think that this instance would be any different.
I was traveling in business class and as soon as I got off the plane I was greeted by a lady holding an iPad with my name on it. Confused, I asked, ‘What’s this about?’ She asked if I needed a ride to my next gate. I quickly said that I would be fine, assuming that this meant she would take me on a golf cart within the terminal, and figuring that I may as well just use this as an opportunity to get in more steps. Then it somehow clicked that she wasn’t in the terminal, but standing just outside the gate. I asked if she would take me through the tarmac.
She didn’t answer, instead asking again if I needed a ride. I thought ‘Okay, let me see what this is all about.’ She took to the terrace without entering the terminal as I followed. Then I saw a nice black Porsche Cayenne waiting for me. I was the only passenger. She drove through the streets of the airport and dropped me next to the gate next to my flight.
I asked what this was all about and why I got this service today. She explained that this service was for “Celebrities” but sometimes offered to Delta elite members if they have a tight connection time. Man, I definitely felt like a celebrity for that moment. And here I thought I would never be surprised by an airline after so many years.
How about Jumping Off an Airplane?
This one is one of my favorite travel stories only because I lived to tell the tale.
That day, my journey began a little differently. If I remember correctly, the mobile boarding passes we have today weren’t in use yet. Therefore, I had to stop at the American Airlines (AA) counter to grab one. To my surprise I saw the poster reading, “Please Ring Bell for Service,” as that was the only AA counter at Wausau airport. I clicked a picture since it was the first time I had been in this situation. I didn’t know that more exciting things were in store for me on the journey.
How often do you hold on to or click pictures of your boarding pass? I did, because this was a special trip andI had a special seat. I was sitting in seat 1A, which means in case of an emergency, I would be the first to jump out of the plane and the one to lead the pack of jumpers.
The flight from Wausau airport was just like a regular flight. It took off without any hiccups. Only while landing the plane did a problem become apparent. As we headed for the landing strip, the pilot suddenly took off again. At first we didn’t understand, but after a few minutes the pilot announced that the landing gear didn’t deploy hence the reason he couldn’t land. He said he would try to see if the tower could spot the landing gear and confirm this from the outside of the the plane. However, this could not be confirmed, calling for the execution of emergency protocols. This included burning fuel, so we circled Chicago for about 30 minutes. In the air, the flight attendant (there was only one on that flight as it was a small airplane) prepared passengers on what to expect and what position we should take when we land. As we were getting ready for the emergency landing I asked nicely if I could carry my iPad along with me during the emergency evacuation. She politely said ‘Honey, this is the last thing in the world you should be worried about.’ Looking back, I am still trying to figure out why I asked for my iPad. I must admit that I was enjoying the experience without knowing what was ahead. I strongly believe that if something has to happen good or bad it will happen no matter what you do. These beliefs may explain why I was so calm.
In the end, it was a textbook perfect landing. We didn’t feel anything, but the pilot was not sure if there was any danger outside the plane or if something had caught fire (like one of the other stories I heard). He simply announced “Evacuate.” After that, the flight attendant yelled ‘evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.” I just took off from my 1A seat and was first to jump from the plane. The height from where I jumped was more than 5 feet. I landed perfectly, but my sunglasses fell off my head. I quickly picked them up and ran as fast as I could away from the plane as instructed, enjoying the entire experience.
In cold Chicago weather, I looked around the tarmac expecting some sort of danger, but once further away I realized there was no fire at all. Only 2 additional passengers jumped after me. Given that one hurt his ankle, no others were permitted to jump. By this time the emergency crew had arrived and gotten the situation under control. One of the fire crew members instructed me to get in the fire engine. I got in and started clicking pictures. The pictures below were taken from the inside of the fire engine with the plane surrounded by many emergency vehicles.
Originally published at funwithamit.com on February 22, 2018.