Low on Gas, My Ass!

July 2007 was a holiday that could be considered perfect.

I had spent a wonderful two weeks in Southern California with my dear family; soaking up the 70 degree heat, enjoying the pool and the sights and sounds of the local area, only to be disappointed by an event that no one could possibly see coming.

Once arriving at LAX airport to begin my journey home, my only wish was that the journey would be as easy as the one on the way out. Everything was going along as normal; check in was fine, all paper work was fine, and even the flight set off on time – what more could one hope for?

It had been a couple of hours into the flight when an announcement was made by the pilot; we needed to stop at JFK Airport as we had “erm…run out of fuel.”

The woman sitting next to me turned to me, and said “oh dear, that’s unfortunate” and laughed. Was she displaying denial, or really convinced that we were short on fuel? I will never know.

I was not convinced however. In my own opinion, it was one of the worst attempts at lying that I had ever heard – they were hiding something and did not want to panic people.

We landed at JFK and waited on the plane for an hour, knowing nothing of the current situation. The one highlight that could be picked from this gradual journey of hell was meeting the hundreds of other characters on the plane; a tourist group on their way to Edinburgh – a great start to their trip!

Eventually we were all informed to get off the plane, and wait to pick up our luggage in the airport; we all sighed with frustration, thinking nothing could get worse than this; without being aware of the further hour wait for our luggage. There were no refreshment stands nearby, our only options were to try and stay awake and twiddle our thumbs.

I tried to phone both parents; but of course my battery power was running low. Once the luggage started arriving, there was a sudden upbeat atmosphere in the air – progress had finally been made, however if there was one thing to learn about this journey, it was do not assume anything.

A further two hour wait followed to have a re check-in. Everyone was struggling to keep their eyes open; I was doing okay until the smell of a coffee cart came to my attention.

It is amazing how common sense leaves you when in a state of nothing but tiredness. I asked the couple behind me in the queue to look after my suitcase while I ran to buy a bucket of coffee; true, there was nothing of interest in it, but still one of the most stupid things that I had ever done. Once back in the queue however, I returned the favour and they went to buy their caffeine kick; and boy did we need it.

Stating that we all had a 24 hour delay would not be any real exaggeration, taking into consideration all of the points where we were delayed. And we were kept so much in our little bubble, that we did not realise that this flight; our flight was big news. Reporters had shown up at the airport; I was approached by CNN! And so frustrated I was, that I had no problem in highlighting how the airline had messed up, and told us that they were “low on fuel”, when in fact they had let someone on without a boarding pass. It felt good to get it off my chest, I won’t lie. However, when they asked to put the cameras on me, I had to bow out, despite how great my tan looked.

The rest of the day was filler; money was limited, so the idea of heading to New York for the day was one that was not meant to be. There was a limited amount of things to do in that airport; so I walked around inside and outside taking pictures of anything “NYC” – a particular favourite of a sign with “Manhattan, THAT WAY”.

It sounds as if I were bored, and angry – and I was. But looking back on it now, it is something that is very entertaining to tell people about; not the being on a suspected terrorist flight, but interviewed by CNN is always something to bring up casually in conversation!

F Westall

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