I should know better than to make plans for a layover. It’s been that way my whole career. It seems that when plans are made, something happens to mess up the trip.
Back in June, when it came time to bid my July schedule, I had several important things to bid around. In addition to needing a few key days off, I also wanted to extend my vacation. So, I gave no consideration to my birthday when I submitted the bid. If I was awarded it off, I would celebrate with my family. If not, it would just be another day. Who likes getting older, anyway?
Everything worked out great on my July schedule. As I suspected, I was scheduled to work on my birthday.
I flew the trip last week. The crew was fantastic. On day three, we were planned to fly from LAX to Philadelphia with a downtown layover. In honor of my birthday, we decided we would treat ourselves to authentic Philadelphia cheese steaks.
It was my turn to fly so the captain went out and completed the walk-around. When he returned, I was sitting in my seat pulling up the ATIS and entering some preliminary data into the computer. A few minutes later, we learned about the delay. A line of storms was sitting well west of PHL but restricting the arrival flow into the airport. We weren’t going anywhere for three hours.
The captain did an exceptional job keeping guests informed in the boarding area. We had lunch as a crew. We also requested our downtown Philly layover be moved to the airport hotel. Going downtown is preferable, but not on minimum rest.
Sometime during the delay, the aircraft was towed over to our newest gate at LAX… a remote area with no jet bridge. Flight attendants and guests always react positively when boarding an aircraft with good old fashioned air-stairs. Walking at ground level around an A320 is a new experience for most.
About ten minutes before push-back, all the guests were on board and seated. I left the cockpit to visit the lavatory one more time before departure.
I exited the lav and made my normal left turn to take my assigned seat. The cockpit door looked completely closed. Then, I noticed it was barely open with a hand on top pulling it closed from the inside. I tugged, but it wouldn’t open. “What the heck?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, there’s the man of the hour.”
“Today is Brian’s birthday.”
Honestly, I only heard bits and pieces of the rest. He spoke for a long time. I stood there in the front of the plane next to the lead flight attendant with a hundred and thirty pairs of eyes fixed on me. Everyone on the aisle leaned into the middle to see me. I smiled and tried to nod and wave during the highlights of the speech. One of the first class guests yelled “Are we having cake?”
When he finished, the captain opened the door and grinned. I didn’t know whether to hug him or smack him. It was a nice gesture, but also incredibly embarrassing. Oh well… I was willing to take one for the team if it helped alleviate the tension caused by the three hour delay. Everyone seemed to be in a pretty good mood.
Somewhere in my roasting, the captain announced that I would be flying the leg to PHL. After we rotated off 24L, I wondered how many of the guests thought he was letting me fly because it was my birthday. That may be a logical, worrisome conclusion for anyone who doesn’t understand how we share flying duties.
We dodged a ton of weather out west before deviating around the delay-causing weather out east. It was a busy five hour flight. It ended with a southerly deviation down near Baltimore and a turn back up north of Philly. I landed on 27R and we got delayed further behind two regional jets waiting to taxi outbound from the ramp.
The guests were sweet as they deplaned. Most everyone wished me a happy birthday.
We scurried off and checked into the hotel for our very short layover. While everyone else went to the elevator, I took a detour to the hotel gift shop. It was way too late to eat a full meal. I bought a Snickers ice cream bar and box of Crunch-n-Munch. When I got to the room, I honestly wasn’t sure whether to laugh or have a pity-party. So, I called home… and laughed.
Again, don’t ever make plans for a layover.