Miss C and I almost didn’t make it to Texas.
Weeks in advance, I booked us a flight on Southwest Airlines from Baltimore to San Antonio to attend Martin’s graduation from Air Force Basic Military Training.
The day of the flight, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to find a good parking spot, get into the airport, check our baggage, make our way through security, and find some seats in the waiting area in front of our gate.
Things were going smoothly.
Until our names were called to the desk.
That’s where we learned that Southwest Airlines overbooks their flights. That means they sell up to 20% more seats than they have available because they expect a percentage of their customers to not show up.
However, when all paying customers show up, some customers are left stranded.
Miss C and I were left stranded. We were kicked off the flight.
It’s a horrible business practice. The airline’s been slapped with fines about it in the past. I had no idea about it, until I was standing at the counter, trying to digest what the agent was telling me.
She couldn’t get us to Texas that day. She could only put us on standby for the next couple flights … all which left the next morning. The earliest she could guarantee us a flight to Texas was Friday morning, putting us in San Antonio hours after Martin’s graduation ceremony.
I was able to hold it together at the counter and try to get something worked out … until I turned around and saw Miss C, who heard and understood everything the agent was telling me.
Big, fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I’m not going to see Dad?” she wailed.
Bless the businessman who saw what was happening and stepped forward. He gave up his seat so that Miss C could get a boarding pass.
When I managed to catch my breath and explain why Miss C (and I) were so upset, he then went around the crowded waiting area, and tried to find another volunteer, saying he grew up in San Antonio and saw many military families reunite.
Unfortunately, nobody else volunteered, but at least Miss C was able to get a boarding pass because of that gentleman.
At least there was that.
It was a tense 20 minutes as the attendant tried to find another way to get me on the flight. Meanwhile, I was on my cell phone with my friend Annette, who lives in San Antonio and was going to meet us at the airport. She immediately volunteered to meet and take Miss C if my daughter ended up traveling alone, and I knew my network of friends down there would ensure Miss C got to see her father.
I had no doubt.
The agent did, though. She didn’t think we could get through the unaccompanied minor paperwork fast enough. So she made one more phone call to the crew on the plane, who said they had three empty seats that weren’t showing up on the computer up front.
“You mean you have three empty seats?” the agent asked. When she got confirmation, she pointed at Miss C, me, and the one other lady who was also bumped to follow her.
“You two ladies won’t have boarding passes, but I’m putting you on this flight,” she said.
Once we go on board, we realized how the three seats became an issue.
Three people bought extra seats. Those seats bumped Miss C, me, and the other lady off the flight.
Miss C had the businessman’s boarding pass, but we still needed two seats for me and the other lady. Eventually, two of those passengers gave up their extra seats when the air crew promised vouchers for the money they had spent on them.
Of course, none of these three seats were anywhere close to each other, but Miss C and I didn’t care. After I got her settled in the front of the plane, I made my way toward the back. But when others noticed she and I were being split up, a few agreed to swap seats, even though they knew it was going to be uncomfortable.
Despite my great annoyance at the airline, I was humbled by the generosity of others.
Because of them, Miss C and I were able to fly down to Texas that day sitting next to each other.
So, as previously arranged, Annette greeted us at the San Antonio airport with a huge, colorful sign to welcome us to the great state of Texas after a three-hour flight that stretched to six hours due to the delayed boarding and massive storms that rolled across the midwest, resulting in a route change.
Needless to say, we were happy to see her.
She immediately took us to a local diner for some food, and it was absolutely wonderful to sit and catch up with her. We hadn’t seen each other in years — Lola was just a baby — but ours is one of those friendships that just roll right into being as if we’d only seen each other days ago.
It was close to midnight by the time Miss C and I got to our hotel room.
In my letters to Martin, I told him we were actually staying at a cheap roadside motel near the base that was way under budget.
But actually, we were staying at a resort hotel that was slightly a splurge.
I booked a king suite, and sure enough, there was a huge, comfortable bed waiting for us, along with slippers and robes and a platter of special cheeses, fruit, and crackers, along with sparkling water.
Miss C and I were very impressed.
But also exhausted and drained, and anxious for the next morning, when we would finally be able to see Martin for the first time in over two months.
We went to bed almost immediately, relieved just to finally be in Texas.
From today … I’m probably jinxing myself, but all three children are playing nicely together, building a racetrack in our family room. Yesssss!