Day 6, Sunday, June 9, 2013
This day was a little sad; I wasn’t really ready to head home. Our return trip started super early Sunday morning, we had to be at the Disney Magical Bus stop at 4:00 a.m. The big plus side of this plan was being in Oklahoma City at 11:15 a.m., giving all our Monday morning workers the day to rest and prepare for their work week. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men, little did we know the day ahead of us.
We arrived at the airport on time, successfully negotiated the security and luggage checks and found our terminal. The plane boarded, we thought soon to be Houston bound (our connection). Then the drama began; we waited onboard one and a half hours for the repair of mechanical problems with our plane, never good news. We began to feel déjà vu; Tuesday was happening all over again.
Finally, we arrived in Houston on a repaired airplane and yep, you guessed it, our connecting flight was long gone. We eventually found a United Airlines Manager who became our friend and lifeline.
We were able to get four standby tickets and the plan was for Courtney, Roy, Colton, and Kinsey to be on the first Oklahoma bound flight. This was not an easy process; they boarded one at a time and had a United employee working diligently on their behalf, without her help they would never have had seats. Kinsey was the last one to board (Mike stayed with Kinsey so she was never alone during the wait). The United “angel” pleaded with the pilot that she could make room for this little girl, she told him she was very small and her only luggage was a teddy bear. She had assistants bring her pieces from the luggage hold then held them up for the plane to view. If no one claimed the luggage it was removed from the plane. A few large suitcases were discarded and Kinsey was allowed to board.
In a period of 3 to 4 hours the nine of us left stranded in Houston collected enough standby tickets to wallpaper a room. None of the standby flights were successful for us. Our United Manager, by now he is Brandon to me, told me he wanted to secure each one in our group a confirmed flight for the next day and hotel rooms. The weather was deteriorating quickly and he explained that soon flights would start being cancelled, every passenger in the airport would have to reschedule and hotel rooms would be filled. I watched a line of two people (I was one of the two) grow to a line of more than one hundred unhappy frustrated travelers.
With Brandon’s help our group headed to a hotel and we were given vouchers to pay for food for the evening. The afternoon we spent in that stormy Houston airport terminal was not all negative. When you have hours to pass that can open the door to communication which can lead to strengthening relationships.
I want to mention that in the hours of conversation I shared with Brandon I learned that United Airlines is a reputable company that tries to do the right thing. Months earlier our group of thirteen had booked tickets to and from Florida, this consisted of a total of four flights. The actual number of flights changed to nine flying on two different airlines, and of the nine flights the thirteen of us traveled together on only two flights. Brandon knew there was no way to give us back the days we lost flying (or NOT flying) with his airline but he did what was in his power to do. Flight vouchers were issued to all thirteen of us, covering the entire cost of our flights.
This was an exhausting and extremely stressful day, a Sunday I never want to repeat but we survived with a vacation story none of us will ever forget. I always try to find the positive side and in this situation I am happy to say all thirteen of us are taking vacations in 2014 with our flights already paid for.
Day 7, Monday, June 10, 2013
Charity, Mike, Grace, Gabriel and Tyler had another 7:00 a.m. flight, this time they boarded, flew and arrived in OKC, on schedule and basically problem free. Jake and Eric were able to change their 1:15 flight to a 10:30 a.m. and traveled safely home. Mike and I had a 11:15 a.m. flight and spent our Monday morning shopping. I found a Brighton shop and made my layover more enjoyable. We brought up the rear and were the last, exactly as we wanted it, to step back on Oklahoma soil.
Our travel days were far from ideal but I was grateful we were all safe and hoped someday we would all look back and share a chuckle. Vacations are really about spending time together, experiencing new things and most importantly creating memories.
I have shared my memories of our Disney trip but there are so many more, I would love for the rest of my family to add to this. Each one of us had a different experience, my words have of course come from my perspective. Would my dear family please add your thoughts and share at the very least a special memory. Happy blogging.