In the frequent flyer world, there is a recurring joke about the people who think that they are entitled to everything and the moon – we call them DYKWIAs, or “Do You Know Who I Am”s. I try my best in my travels to never be one of them. But tonight? They Knew Who I Was.
My coworkers all had much earlier flights than I did, but I shared a ride to the airport with them anyway. My meetings for the day were done, so I planned to just do the rest of my work from the airport, since it was heads-down, on-my-own kind of stuff. I got to the airport, went through security, and headed up to the Admiral’s Club to sip coffee and work, purposely choosing a table facing the FIDS (flight information display screens – those TV screens that show the gate and status of every departure). Since I was flying on a small RJ (regional jet) and my bag would have to be gate checked anyway, there was no need for early boarding, so I planned to just pack up and head out whenever the status on the screen changed to “now boarding.” My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:05pm, and it was only about 3:45pm when I got there, so I had tons of time.
Around 4:30pm, I started noticing that pretty much every incoming flight was delayed, including the JFK-DCA, which is usually the inbound aircraft. JFK-DCA was supposed to arrive at 6:19pm, meaning that there was no way my 6:05pm departure would be on time. Despite all the delays, most of the departures were still listed as being on time, so I assumed that the gate agents just hadn’t started updating the statuses just yet – sometimes they wait until closer to departure, when they can provide a better estimate of exactly how late the plane will be.
By 5:30pm, a lot of the flight statuses had changed to “delayed until XX time”, but mine was still showing as “on time.” I still had work to do, so I wanted to remain ensconced in the Admiral’s Club as long as possible, but I prepared myself to pack up and head downstairs at any moment. Still, the screens stayed the same – incoming aircraft delayed till 6:19pm, my flight on time. Something didn’t match here, but the DCA-JFK flight often is shuttling a lot of people for international connections, so perhaps the gate agent was just extremely busy trying to reroute people who would miss their original connections. I stayed put.
At 5:50pm, the screen was still showing “on time,” but that was impossible – the door should be shutting in the next 5 minutes, so there was no way a flight that hadn’t yet progressed to “boarding” status would be “on time.” I headed out to speak to the AAngel at the front desk and ask what the new ETD would be – they always have all the info. He called down to the gate to see what was going on, and then turned to me: “Your plane just left.”
A bit more discussion with the GA yielded the fact that the departure FIDS were apparently broken in the Admiral’s Club – they had frozen at some point and were now about an hour behind. NOT HELPFUL. Furthermore, the gate agent is always supposed to call up to the Admiral’s Club if they’re missing a passenger, to ensure that the passenger isn’t just drunk at the bar. (Note: I know you all think I probably know this from prior experience, but it’s actually only because an AAngel had told me that before when I was traveling on an extremely delayed day and was worried in advance about missing my flight by being in the Club). For whatever reason, that failsafe had not worked either… and now my plane was getting ready for takeoff, without me on it. Furthermore, the AAngel told me that the next flight to JFK was not until the next morning (a fact I knew).
I told the AAngel to go ahead and cancel my ticket, and I’d go take the Delta shuttle to LGA instead. I was actually getting excited about this possibility, since I’m in the process of switching my loyalty from AA to Delta, so that would mean another segment on my new alliance. However, he then asked me to hold on for another minute while the gate agent talked to him again. He then turned to me and said, “Go get your stuff and hurry downstairs. The plane is coming back for you.”
Planes do not come back for people who missed them, regardless of the reason for missing them. I don’t care Who You Are (WYA) or how important it is that you reach your destination, a plane is not going to turn around and come back to the gate for you. It doesn’t happen for groups of people, so there was no way it was going to happen for little old me. Confused, I argued this point with the AAngel for a little bit, but he insisted that the plane was coming back for me and I needed to hurry down. Finally, I got my stuff in order to comply, annoyed that I’d have to schlep downstairs only to come back up when the plane wasn’t there.
As I headed through the terminal, I started fantasizing about the possibility that the plane had come back for me. Surprisingly, this was not a nice fantasy, as I knew that if they had managed to get the plane to come back, there would be a lot of angry passengers glaring at me when I waltzed onto the plane. I considered asking the gate agent to just cancel me so I could rebook on Delta (less embarrassment for me, though if they had already brought the plane back just for me, it’d be pretty rotten to then cancel), pretending I didn’t speak English when I boarded, or simply skulking into my seat with a shamed expression that would show I knew it sucked that the plane had returned for me. None of these options were great options, and I was annoyed that I was going to have to look like a pompous jerk simply because AA hadn’t done their job in updating the FIDS and then calling up to the Club.
Lo and behold, when I arrived at the gate, the plane was there. I couldn’t believe it. The door was shut, but I could see the pilots in the cockpit on the phone, presumably calling up to the gate agent to discuss this little matter of coming back to the gate. However, there was no agent in sight, so I just hung out by the door to the jetway, a bit annoyed that not only was I going to have to waltz onto a plane of people, but I wasn’t even going to do it in a timely manner, since there was no one to open the door and let me on.
A few minutes later, the door opened, and the gate agent popped out… followed by a few passengers, angrily deplaning. Huh? The gate agent explained to me that there was an hour delay due to winds, but that the lav was broken so they had come back to let people use the bathroom. Worked out well for me, as it now meant I could sneak onboard without anyone being the wiser.
Well played, my AAngel – thanks for making me feel all special by telling me that the plane had come back “just for me.” You Knew Who I Was.