The Five Stages of Flight Cancellation Grief

Strutting up to the self-check in at Hobby Airport in Houston, I was so proud that I had arrived early for my Houston-Dallas flight after a harrowing drive through construction traffic. My ego was quickly deflated as the ticket agent drew my attention to my ticket that read “George W. Bush Airport”. I went to the wrong airport! Stupid! When I made my reservations, it was cheaper to buy two one-way tickets and I just blindly assumed I was coming and going from the same airport. No need to remind me what happens when I assume…

So, after being assured that I still had time to make it to the other airport, I hopped in a cab and begged him to “step on it”. Yes, I agree that I’ve seen too many action movies.  The cabbie bobbed and weaved through rush hour traffic to get me to the airport in time for my flight. I tried to avert my eyes. I said a few prayers that I would live to see my loving husband and children again. Several times, I checked online to make sure the flight was still on-time. It was.

I breezed through security and made it to the gate just as the gate agent began to announce that we would begin boarding soon. Whew, I had made it! I may have done a modified version of a touchdown dance right there at the gate. The early bird boarders began standing up and gathering around the gate, anxiously awaiting the precious moment when their group would be called so they could scurry to the front of the line. Then, she changed her tune.

“Unfortunately…blah blah blah…mechanical issues…blah…see if we can get another plane…blah blah…keep you posted…delayed 30 minutes,” she droned.

Everyone at the packed gate jockeyed to find a seat back at the gate. A few minutes later, the agent of doom came back on to announce that there would be no other plane. Our flight was cancelled. I’ve had many flights delayed but cancelled was new for me. Trust me when I say that it’s a lot worse. You go from slightly inconvenienced to stranded.

As I stood there at the gate, my pulse still racing from my wrong airport and subsequent death defying cab ride ordeal, it dawned on me that I was beginning to go through the five stages of flight cancellation grief.

1. First I was in denial– No, you see, my flight can’t be canceled. That cabbie drove like a bat outta hell to get me here for this flight. We made it just in time! I checked online many times and it said the flight was on-time so you can’t cancel it now!

2. Then I quickly moved into anger-Are you freaking kidding me? Why couldn’t you have made this decision an hour ago when I was at the other airport? I could have caught a flight out of there! You’re telling me the mechanical issues just happened, just now? So, I risked my life and spent money on a pricey cab ride for nothing? Grrrrrr

3. Next came bargaining-God, it’s me, Jennifer. I hate to bother you but I could use your help. I really need to figure out a way to get home, preferably tonight so if you could help me out by giving me a little extra patience and wisdom right now, it would be much appreciated. I’ll be extra good this week. Thank you!

4. Ever so briefly, I fell into depression-I may just be stuck here in Houston tonight, despite my best efforts. I won’t get to kiss adorable little Griffin and Kyle good night tonight or see my family as I’d hoped. Ho hum.

5. Then, I quickly moved into acceptance– There was a guy from the airlines handing out cards with the rebooking assistance phone number on it. I snatched one out of his hand and called right away. I was told that there was a later flight from Houston to Dallas but no more flights from Dallas to OKC. Even if I made it to Dallas, I’d be stuck there. My only option was to fly to Chicago then to OKC arriving at 12:30 am. It was my only hope of getting home that night and there were 2 seats left. Did I want one of them? I had to decide right then. As I looked around the room, at all of the other people on their cell phones, dialing the same rebooking number, I realized I couldn’t take a moment to think about it. I couldn’t consult with my husband. I had to decide. The Chicago flight was about to begin boarding. So, I made a split second decision to go to Chicago when I was supposed to be going to Dallas. Flying isn’t for the faint of heart!

I called my husband, Justin, from the plane to let him know I’d be getting in later and from Chicago instead of Dallas. As a former traveling salesman, he just laughed. He knows the drill. It sure is nice to have someone so supportive on my side as I adjust to the constant curve balls that traveling for my new job throws my way. Sometimes I am able to hit those curve balls out of the park. Other times, it feels like they’re being flung at my head. I’m learning to roll with the challenges. I must control what I can, learn from my vast mistakes, and not get stressed about the stuff (like flight cancellations) that I can’t do anything about. I reminded myself that I didn’t really want to fly on a plane with mechanical problems anyway! The more adversity comes my way, the more I feel myself growing-as a traveler and as a person.

Travel lessons learned: Double check your ticket to make sure you know which airport you’re leaving from. Also, call the rebooking number right away if your flight is ever cancelled. They can help you find a way home, if there’s an option of one. If you hesitate, others may take the available seats. Be ready to make split second decisions.

Happy trails,

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About okiegirlunleashed

Wife, mom, traveler, dreamer.
This entry was posted in Oklahoma, Travel, Women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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