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Earning Miles the Hard Way

First of all, it’s important to note that ever since I was fourteen years old, I’ve enjoyed many a trip across states and across countries as a passenger on an airplane. At sixty years old now, I can count twenty times across oceans on international flights, and too many flights to count on this continent. And I can safely say, August 1st, 2019 was one for the books.

So many potential titles running through my brain:

  1. The Day Delta Defaulted to Gate A-2
  2. Your Plane’s Been Diverted
  3. Your Flight’s Been Cancelled
  4. Just Kidding: No It Hasn’t
  5. Pretzels and Peanuts for Dinner
  6. The One Time You Check a Bag…

What started out as a perfectly wonderful vacation ended up becoming a real-life Twilight Zone episode.

If you fly regularly, you understand. You’re at the mercy of the airline, and they are at the mercy of the weather. A severe weather condition came over the Boston Logan airport and we witnessed the phenomenon right outside the floor-to-ceiling, enormous windows at our gate. A microburst is an intense, small scale downdraft produced by a thunderstorm. The gnarly off-shoot contains three stages: downburst, outburst and cushion cycles. When our flight schedule for departure came and went, with no audible announcement from Delta, I commented on the conditions quite visible just a few hundred yards away from our window. “Wow! Look at that!” The sky turned purple, and a sudden outburst of wind and rain completely concealed a five-story structure that had been visible just moments before. At one point it even looked like it might be snowing outside (impossible in 80-degree weather–or was it?)

Consequently, all flights coming and going were grounded, or made to circle the airport in an effort to divert passengers already on board. (Joni Mitchell’s “If all our flights are grounded, Libby we’ll go to Paris…” starts playing on repeat in my mind.) Thankfully, we were safely indoors at Gate A-2, staring out the window with our fellow wide-eyed passengers, wondering about all of those poor souls waiting to land or take off in this nightmarish storm, one that would last for quite awhile. (We later heard from many of the stressed-out-already-on-board passengers: some had been forced to sit on the tarmac for hours; others were in the air for an hour-long merry-go-round in the sky.) All of this havoc created a quagmire of missed connections, rescheduled flights and cancelled ones.

The first announcement we heard was “Ladies and Gentlemen, your flight to Pittsburgh has been delayed…” Then again. And again. Until finally (not really finally—hold on for that) “Your flight has been diverted to Providence, Rhode Island.” Wait. What does that mean for us? Were the plane and flight-crew returning at some point to pick us up?

By now, the husband is checking his Delta App at every new ping it made to his email. (He is the real frequent-flyer in the marriage.) The message he received after an hour of wondering what was going on said our flight would be leaving Gate E-11 within the hour. So, off we hustled to a new gate. The only problem with that was E was in another concourse. When we exited, that meant back through security. To make a long story a little shorter, we were in and out of a security check-point three times over the course of that very long day.

What we ultimately decided to do was get on a flight–any flight would do, the husband assured me. He had an important conference call at his office the next day; couldn’t miss it. After a series of difficult phone conversations with a female Delta rep who possessed a very thick Eastern Indian accent, we agreed to catch a flight to Orlando, FL at 11:00 p.m. (It’s important to note here: our original flight was a non-stop, direct from Boston to Pittsburgh, around 11:00 a.m.) From Orlando, we were to connect to Atlanta, and from there, to Pittsburgh, arriving around 6:00 a.m.

At this point, I had completely surrendered to the husband’s and Delta rep’s plans (after texting all my prayer warriors, first.) The husband and I planned to sleep as much as possible on each and every flight.

While waiting, dinnertime (around 10:00 p.m.) became a comical quest for a hot meal (we hadn’t eaten much since early that morning) but by the time we had a definite flight plan in place, the restaurant kitchens were all closed. The bagged pretzels, peanut M&M’s and Diet Pepsi tasted pretty good.

We didn’t take off at 11:00, or 12:00, or 1:30 (the final departure time on the gate–did I tell you we are now back at Gate A-2?–but feeling like zombies, we actually did take off at 2:00 a.m. By that time, we were shell-shocked from all the babies crying, toddlers screaming, handicapped asleep in their wheelchairs, and watching a drunk man (in a Steeler t-shirt) fight to maintain balance while he stood in line. (Thankfully, he disappeared before we actually took off, preventing a most certain “Sir, you are not fit to fly” incident.)

Gratefully, we both were able to sleep on-board several very comfortable jetliners, and our connections were all quite smooth. We flew over Pittsburgh (see photo) at 9:00 a.m, and landed safely soon afterward. That afternoon, we both said we couldn’t quite believe we’d set-foot in Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, all in one day!

Our one checked bag is scheduled to arrive at our doorstep sometime later this afternoon. When the husband tracked it down, it had never even left Boston.

The moral of this story–all more potential titles for this blogpost:

  1. Embrace Delayed Gratification
  2. Count-Your-Lucky-Stars
  3. God is Merciful and Mighty
  4. Go With the Flow



  1. dan on August 2, 2019 at 10:32 am

    thanks sarah😉 we are flying to portland via chicago..then a week later back to denver..then a week later back to pittsburgh..i’m officially scared…these are the things one never imagines when purchasing tickets five months in advance!

    • Sarah Robinson on August 2, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Hi Dan!
      Flexibility is key. Have a wonderful, safe trip!

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