“The flight to nowhere”
Anyone that travels on commercial airlines regularly knows the benefits that come with having a high frequent flyer status. You have to travel so many miles a year to earn different levels. For instance, if you are a Delta Frequent Flyer, you work towards Silver, Gold, Platinum and finally Diamond Medallion Status.
The higher your level, the earlier you board the plane, the better your seat selection, the less likely you will ever be bumped, and the more likely you will be able to get really good free flights with your accumulated miles. In other words, it pays to move up to the next level if you are close to the threshold.
Needing just two thousand miles before the end of 2016 to retain my Platinum status, I took one more flight with Delta. I searched for the shortest flights available to give me the needed miles. I just needed the miles; I really wasn’t going anywhere.
With that in mind, I flew from Tallahassee, to Atlanta, to Orlando and then back. Four flights in 10 hours. It actually turned out to be a pretty good day.
The person ahead of me in the security line was a dog. Actually a real dog. Her owner was an attractive lady who always flies with her pet. It turns out she was a commercial airline pilot.
I took the early morning flight from Tallahassee, taking off when it was still pitch dark. In fact, it was on December 21st, the shortest day of the year. I was treated to an incredible sunrise from 30,000 feet. The sky was all brilliant in my favorite colors, orange and blue, before I landed in Atlanta.
I ate breakfast sitting at a window watching the traffic between two of the concourses. It was like watching an army of ants below. Carts and trucks and baggage were all weaving in and out of the traffic lanes without any lighted signals. The planes moving out to the runway had the right of way, of course.
The busiest places to get breakfast were the premium coffee shops. Seattle’s Finest Coffee and Starbucks both had dozens of people waiting in line. It appears that the need for caffeine is particularly strong with early morning fliers.
I boarded the flight to Orlando, sitting in the last row in first class. That particular location let me hear the full throated kid seated a row behind me yelling at the top of his voice. He wasn’t screaming, rather he was just yelling. Apparently he was yelling in different languages as I never did understand a word the kid said. I also never heard the kid’s father tell him to be quiet.
Oh well, it didn’t matter as I promptly went to sleep as we were taking off. I woke up on the approach to Orlando, with the kid still yelling. Looking out the window, the clouds looked like a field of snow for as far as you could see. It was the closest thing to a white Christmas I will have this year.
I forgot the cord to my laptop so the plan to work for a couple of hours in Orlando didn’t work out. Having no Plan B, I decided to just chill for the rest of the day and not worry or think about anything. I had lunch at an Outback Steakhouse in the middle of the Orlando terminal and spent the next hour doing some serious people watching. Orlando is a good place to watch people from all over the world.
Returning to Atlanta, I discovered our plane was a new A321, designed with all the latest bells and whistles to make you forget just how crowded planes are these days. I watched a movie, “The Hollars”, on my personal entertainment screen. It was one of those movies you would never go see with the guys, but even the most hardnosed men would have tears streaming down their faces if they watched it alone. I watched 90% of the movie before we landed. I guess I will have to go to the theater to find out how it ended.
I landed in Tallahassee right at sunset. It was a beautiful ending to a pretty nice day. I did nothing on a plane to nowhere and came back totally relaxed. Maybe I should do this more often.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org