The Bethel runway lights are broken? A moan echoed through the terminal. “Are they kidding?” I asked no one in particular.
The man on the PA continued. “Alaska Airlines is adding an extra flight tomorrow. All of you will be rolled over onto that plane and your flights rebooked.”
I borrowed a phone from my friend Julia, who looked to be near tears, and informed my family that I would be spending the night in Bethel. “No, at the moment I have no idea when I’ll be home,” I said.
As I strolled to the counter to retrieve my bag a new fear flashed through my mind. A whole plane load of people would now be looking for hotel rooms in a town of 6,000 people.
Quickly, I retrieved my luggage and went to find a taxi. I’m not sure how we did it, but after standing in the freezing cold for about ten minutes I crammed into a cab with four other people.
Fortunately, I was the first one dropped off. I walked into the Long House Hotel and found a line of five families at the check-in counter.
Reaching the front of the line, I said, “I need a room for tonight.”
“Do you have a reservation?”
“Were you on the flight that was cancelled tonight?”
He nodded. “That sure has been a bonus for the hotel tonight.”
“Do you have any rooms available?”
With a look at the line behind me I said, “I’ll take one.”
I woke the next morning, Sunday the 22nd, just after 6:00 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. I didn’t have to be at the terminal until 10:00 a.m. so breakfast sounded like a good idea, but the restaurant wouldn’t be open until 8:00 a.m. I climbed out of bed, bathed, shaved, dressed, packed and was standing at the door of the restaurant before they unlocked the door.
When they opened I took a booth all for myself and ordered eggs, pancakes and sausage. Lord knows when or where I’ll be eating next. As I finished my meal I heard someone ask, “Would you like some company, Kyle?”
Looking up, I saw Brett, the Principal of Eek School, with his wife and two young children.
I motioned for him to join me. “So, you didn’t get out of Bethel either.” Brett and his family had been trying to leave town on an Era Airlines turboprop flight to Anchorage.
“No,” he said as he sat down. “When the weather delayed us getting out of Eek, we missed our flight. Era is so backed up….” He let the sentence die with a shake of the head. “We spent the night here and now we’re scheduled to fly out on Christmas Eve.”
We spent the next few minutes sharing travel horror stories and then wished each other luck as I left to pack a few last minute things and head to the airport.
We had been told to return to the Alaska Airlines terminal at 10:00 a.m., but at 9:35 when the taxi dropped me off it was already busy. The line coiled around the waiting room like giant snake, and I was the end.
The line slowly moved forwarded while growing longer. The waiting area got ever more crowded. Over an hour later I stepped up to an agent. She confirmed I was booked on the 11:00 a.m. flight to Anchorage.
I looked at my watch. It read 10:50.
“We’re running behind,” the agent said and handed me a boarding pass.
“So, I’m only booked to Anchorage?”
She sighed. “The only available seats are on Christmas morning.”
It was my turn to sigh. “If that is all you have book me on it.”