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A slight change of plans

So with my bag packed and in the truck, I stopped by the office for a half day before heading to the airport to catch my afternoon flight to Honolulu on ATA Airlines. Wrapping up some business here with Linabel on the phone, I let her know that I’ll be leaving for Hawaii in a few hours. What she said next made my heart stop:

“I hope it’s not ATA.”

WHAT? I’m thinking. First, there’s no way Linabel’d know I was on ATA, so the idea of her pulling my leg was out of the question. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

“ATA filed for bankruptcy a few minutes ago.”

And so the numbness set in, offset only by a handful of random obscenities both spoken and tweeted. The news was so paralyzing that I couldn’t even digest it. Why? Because the EXACT same thing happened to me over twenty years ago.

Back in 1985, I was here in LA while my family was on a road trip through Montana, Yellowstone, the whole thing. I was to fly up with a buddy and meet them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We had tickets on Frontier Airlines, and I confirmed the flight that morning on the phone. We waltz in to LAX with our backpacks a few hours later, walk up to the Frontier Airlines check-in counter, and find it unmanned with a single handwritten note thumbtacked to the orange carpet wall below their logo. It read: “FRONTIER AIRLINES HAS FILED CHAPTER 11 AS OF THIS MORNING. ALL FLIGHTS CANCELED.”

What happened next would be another story. Back to my conversation with Linabel:

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask her, simultaneously checking my flight status on Travelocity, knowing what I was going to find yet hoping it was all just a hallucination. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”

“It’s on the news,” she said. “They announced it about twenty minutes ago.”

And indeed they did:


The next few hours have been a blur. I do remember getting hung up on by my credit card company about, oh, let’s round it off to thirty times. While on those holds, Mom and I were firing shots at Kayak, Priceline, and other aggregators, looking for another flight. Prices were steadily rising, thanks to both the ATA crash as well as the recent death of Aloha Airlines the other day. All these circumstances made for a situation where getting a flight to Hawaii was next to impossible. Or, at least, way into the four digits, with most options including a short nine day layover in Atlanta.

As the minutes progressed, we kept running out of luck with the tickets. The frustrating thing, particularly with Delta, was that we’d get all the way through the booking process, enter the payment information, check out, and then get denied with a SOLD OUT notification. Can’t these people freeze the ticket during the booking process? But that’s another rant.

Denied, denied, denied, with tickets pushing $2500. I finally swallowed the reality that it wasn’t gonna happen. Wasn’t going to Dad’s induction. The twist of events was so disorienting that I almost started laughing. Delirious.

A few minutes later, Mom calls to let me know that she clicked a button and got thrown into another itinerary that leaves tomorrow from LAX, bringing me back next Wednesday on a red eye that only takes about seventeen hours by way of a layover in Salt Lake. So it looks like I’m in, thanks to my winglady of the hour. Thanks Mommy!

As a bonus, the new flight only cost about five times more than my original ATA ticket. What a bargain. But being there for Dad’s moment is priceless, and missing it would hurt more than any dollar figure. So, Hallelujah.

This all happened for a reason, right? It had to. I don’t know why, but there’s gotta be something more going on than meets the eye. Is there a story that’s supposed to be written? Maybe. Is something significant going to happen to me in Los Angeles over the course of the next twenty-four hours, an opportunity that otherwise would have never been realized? I’m open to anything.

The Universe can be a frustrating, confusing, and exciting place sometimes. I can’t help from feeling right now that its author is entertaining my taste for a good twist ending.

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