It took us three tries to finally make it onto our flight to Atlanta. We even got to the airport extra early, just to give us one more flight to try to get on. No room on the 8 a.m., no room on the 11 a.m… But we did get on the 1:50 p.m.!
It’s quite the adrenaline rush, as you don’t really know if you’ll get on the flight until five minutes before it takes off. You’re literally the last people to board and the whole time, you’re just waiting at the gate, seeing your name on a TV screen listing your priority number and how many seats are available. It ticks down slowly until your name is or isn’t called and you’re given a boarding pass.
Once we were in Atlanta, we were too late for our original target flight to Frankfurt. We decided to stay at the airport for a few hours and try other flights to Europe such as London and Paris, but they didn’t have room for us, so we had to spend that night in a hotel. We used my dad’s hotel points (thanks Dad!) and got some rest at a hotel close by.
To our next help desk, then. We were told that yes, the train was cancelled and we would have to catch a different (slower) train and then a bus (??). That train was going to leave in 3-5 minutes. We ran. We caught it. We would now get home two hours later than planned.
We found some people in the same situation as us and decided which route would be best to take. It turned out, there was no bus. We developed a plan in which we would take a different train than advised, get there maybe ten minutes later, but have less train changes, meaning we could stay on the same train and make ourselves comfortable. Ah, yes. To not be running from train to train with our luggage. Good idea. Thank you nice strangers.
At last, we were sitting in a comfy train cabin (similar to Harry Potter, minus the candy carts). We just had to sit there until we came to our stop, where Gwyn’s dad would pick us up.
After a little while, I connected to the wifi and got an email notification from the Frankfurt airport. My luggage had arrived. I guess my bag made it on the flight we tried to get on. Luck would have it that our train was going to stop at the airport. We arranged to be picked up there so we could find my lost and lonely suitcase, and finally head home.
Once at the airport, one of our new train friends helped us find our way to the right terminal. We got special access into the international baggage claim to pick up my suitcase. Before it was our turn in line to pick up my bag, I had to run to the lou. When I came back out, Gwyn was gone, and I had left all my belongings with him, including my phone. I felt like I was five again and had lost my mother.
Luckily, I found someone who worked at baggage claim and asked him where my husband had gone. He realized who I was and sent me to the office where he had sent Gwyn. I had a few moments to think about what that meant before I saw Gwyn. Why would the luggage claim desk send my husband elsewhere? Was my suitcase found and then lost yet again? I didn’t have too long to think such worst-case scenario thoughts, because I found Gwyn and my suitcase past a crowd of people. The only thing that was missing was my luggage tag. (Which in hindsight, the airport probably accidentally kept after using it to find my email and notify me that my luggage was found.) That’s fine. They can keep my luggage tag. I’ll take the luggage.
Apparently Gwyn told them he came from Amsterdam, so they got confused and told him our items would be at a different location, but my bag was there.
We left the baggage area and found Gwyn’s dad. Boy, was I glad to see him. We made it. We just had to get in the car and drive home. (After our cousin found us and added Gwyn’s name to her car rental for the wedding) Soon, we could shower and go to bed. We got home at 6 or 7 p.m. on Thursday, after traveling since 4 a.m. on Tuesday (Utah time). I don’t recommend it.
What did I learn in this experience? Standby can be the best worst thing to happen to you. You save money, but it can be very stressful and ultimately expensive. (For example, you could take a different flight, and then have to pay extra to take the train to your destination.)
We also dressed business casual to make us more likely to be upgraded, but ultimately, it seemed as if that didn’t matter. We were a number on a list and we could’ve just worn jeans.
Will this be our last time flying standby? Well, no. Gwyn’s going to be an airline pilot, but it’ll be a different airline and with much higher priority. We’ll hopefully be in that group of people that actually gets on the flight the first time instead of waiting and waiting, and saying ‘screw it’ and spending almost as much money on alternative travel as actual plane tickets to just get home.
We’re just grateful to be able to travel in the first place, and have such helpful people in our lives, like our family, friends and those train strangers.