Flying for Free

February 22, 2017
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I can fly for free. My Mom used to work for an an airline, so we get flight benefits. The way it works is we can get on a plane for free if there are empty seats. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Me, my mom, and my brother were coming back from Florida. We arrive at the airport in Miami with plenty of time, and check our biggest suitcase. Inside the crowded airport, I grip the handle on my bag. Suitcases zoom along behind people as they rush to catch their flights.

We get through security and make our way to the gate. We wait, hoping for open seats on the flight, only to see the jetbridge door being closed. We weren’t worried - yet. There was a flight at 8:00 that according to my Mom’s computer, wasn’t full.

Time to explore the airport. The knick knacks in the shop windows call to my inner shopper. Eventually, we start walking in the direction of our gate. We stop to get burgers and chicken strips at the food court.

At the gate, our names were at the top of the standby list on the screen, and we hope they will start calling the names soon. Yet, with boarding time is approaching, there are no agents at the gate, or the airplane for that matter.

Time passes, and I raise my eyebrows at my brother, who frowns at the black clouds covering the sky. Flight status screens show storms and flight delays. We hear an announcement that our gate has changed. There is a lot of grumbling from the crowd as everyone makes their way to the new gate, where once again, there is no agent. Finally, at 11:00 pm, we see an agent approach the podium. We get our boarding passes, and she announces that the flight is ready for boarding. People stand up and cheer.

I am so relieved as we walk down the jetbridge. I sit down in my seat, and look out the window. Buckets of rain are pouring from the dark sky.  Then the flight attendant announces that there are no pilots for the plane. People begin to fidget in their seats, and soon after, the flight attendant tells us that the flight is cancelled.

We trudged back through the jet bridge and back to the terminal.  People stopped at the gate to yell at the agent. We keep walking. We look around and see people sleeping in chairs or on the floors, near overflowing trash cans. Mom finds us a hotel room on her computer, and we hurry to catch the shuttle.

We’re packed shoulder-to-shoulder on the ride to the hotel. When we arrive, adults push past me as I tried to squeeze through the crowd behind my family.  Inside, the line is long. Passengers from other cancelled flights are yelling, mostly in Spanish, and demanding rooms. After 90 minutes, we are finally handed a room key. The desk clerk says it’s the last room they have. At 2:00 AM, we finally make it to our room. My eyelids are drooping and I feel sluggish. After hours of the airport, all I want is a hot shower and sleep. The bed is so comfortable. We wake up the next morning and take the shuttle back to the airport.

The morning flights are all full, but we do eventually get on a flight home. I feel like a weight is lifted off our shoulders, as I am handed my boarding pass, and the sky outside is clear and blue.

After landing in Detroit we stop by baggage claim to get our suitcase. It isn’t there. We go to the baggage claim office, where after a few questions and typing something on her computer, the employee stares at her screen and tells us that our bag was sent to Mexico.

Flying for free is an adventure, to say the least. While we all were happy to return home and relax after so many hours in airports, I still want to travel, and visit many new places. One of them is Mexico, because while I haven’t been there, my suitcase has.

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