Coming Home from Key West to Sacramento

Peace-Love-300x243The guy in the second row on the flight from Miami to Dallas / Fort Worth looked friendly enough. He had tousled gray hair, a few wrinkles and a big grin. My husband thought it was worth a shot to ask if he would be willing to trade seats with us because American Airlines somehow messed up our seat assignments. My husband was placed in the bulkhead row. “Sorry,” the friendly guy shook his head, “I need the leg room.”

Whatever. I turned to the guy with the nearly bald head in the bulkhead and asked if he would like to switch seats. He was busy thumbing his cellphone. Bulkhead dude briefly looked up without moving his head, waved at the row across from him and played the kid card. “We’re here with our 3-year-old,” he muttered, and went back to thumbing his phone.

Because he needs to sit directly across the aisle from his wife and daughter. The same daughter who started whining and crying halfway through the flight and never once did he look up at her.

Unfortunately, our flight was delayed, almost an hour late. My husband leaned over the front seat, “Just be prepared,” he warned, “We will probably end up spending the night in Dallas,” because we had exactly 5 minutes to make our connecting flight to Sacramento.

That was not news I wanted to hear. Time to mind-bend reality. Instead, I decided to maintain a positive attitude and was determined we would meet our connecting flight if we had to run like we had just stabbed the gate attendant. Besides, the odds were our connecting flight would be delayed. I was betting on it.

And let me add here that first class on American Airlines is not like first class on other airlines. Other airlines offer its passengers a cold beverage upon boarding, a warm wet towel; the flight attendants know your name. Not American. Coach passengers are free to roam in the first-class cabin, sticking their hairy belly buttons in your face while pushing against the overhead bins as they stumble inebriated to the restrooms, but first-class passengers can’t get so much as get a set of headphones from the flight attendant because the flight attendants are too busy chatting with each other. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it.

OK, maybe the plane was about to crash, and they were keeping this information from us, as a nicety or per flight regulations. The flight attendants could have been discussing life-saving strategies, whispering, “Let’s first save the woman with the Everglades T-shirt.”

As we were taxi-ing in Dallas, I checked my the mobile site for American and discovered our connecting flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Thank god for booking on an airline with a terrible on-time flight performance average — there is a silver lining for lousy customer service. Then, friendly guy in the second row inquired if we would make our connecting flight. Oh, yeah, now he’s all nice and sweet to us. Now that he has enjoyed his comfy seat in the second row for this entire flight.

By the time we made it to Sacramento, we discovered that American lost only one piece of our luggage and not all of it. And that’s a positive thing, too. As I learned from our trip to the Dry Tortugas, things can always get worse.

Photo: Wall at the Miami International Airport by Elizabeth Weintraub

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