Flight Cancellations & Airport Anxiety

This is a little different to my usual posts, but hopefully one that helps me to get some things off of my chest. I’m certainly writing this on a bit of a whim, it’s currently 23:29 UK time and I should probably be sleeping already as I have a very busy few days ahead.

Basically I just wanted to talk about a few things that have happened lately and have been getting me down. I have suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember, like most people say, I always just thought that I was a worrier. That I worry too much or that I care too much about everything. It’s only in recent years that I have come to realise that I actually over-worry, by a long way, about most things I encounter in daily life. It’s something that I have come to terms with, struggle with every day, and also overcome time and time again. Now I feel like I need to write a disclaimer here, which is unnecessary really, but with the internet being the kind of place that it truly is, I feel like I need to say that this post is not me feeling sorry for myself, fishing for compliments or looking for sympathy, it is simply a little piece of my life that I don’t mind sharing with others.

A few days ago I started my journey to Manchester Airport to catch a 7:00pm flight to the Netherlands at around 1:30 in the afternoon. Several trains, a lot of rushing around and suitcase dragging later, I arrived at the airport. When finally finding my terminal, checking in my hold luggage and passing security I found myself grabbing a coffee in Starbucks and awaiting my gate number. At this time, a huge storm began. Lighting illuminating the sky every few seconds, torrential rain bouncing off the runway and the sound of thunder continuously echoing through the terminal. It was at this point that, like many people in the airport at that time, I began to worry. What if the plane gets struck by lightning? What if I don’t make it to Amsterdam? Will it be safe to fly in these conditions?

A few moments later, the gate number illuminated and I began walking through the terminal. “Nice weather for it” I said awkwardly to a man heading in the same direction, who looked equally as nervous as I felt. It was at that point that a security guy rushing forwards shouted “well at least yours isn’t cancelled yet!” followed by a low chuckle. I felt my heart sink, all this time I was worrying about safety and how turbulent the flight would be, it didn’t even cross my mind that it was unlikely that the plane would even board, never mind take off! Worry filled my body, which must have been apparent on my face as a handful of people offered kind words about how I shouldn’t worry, and everything would be fine. Unfortunately, we knew immediately when approaching the gate that something didn’t seem right. Boarding didn’t begin, the flight number wasn’t even on the screen, and more importantly, the flight staff looked very nervous. Eventually we were told that we would be significantly delayed, as our flight had been diverted due to an inability to land in such weather conditions. We were reassured that the flight would take us when the weather improved, and that we would still arrive that evening.

Well, as you already know the end of this story I will skip the details. Let’s just say a few hours passed and we still were not updated about the situation. It wasn’t until a kind man came up to me, claiming that his flight tracker alerted him that our flight had in fact been cancelled, that I had any new information whatsoever. We were a little weary, as we had not been formally updated by staff, but we headed over to the information desk to find out what we could. Of course, the news we feared was then confirmed, and it’s safe to say that all hell broke loose. People shouting, screaming even, people crying, others with faces brimming with pure disappointment. Looking back, I feel like the atmosphere threw me into a panic. The worst part about this situation is that I had no phone bundle as I hadn’t topped up my prepaid sim. This meant that not only was I travelling alone, but I had no texts, no calls and no data. The fact that the airport only offered one hour free WIFI, which of course I had used previously, made the situation worse as I felt like I really couldn’t get in touch with ANYONE.

After a few seconds of panic, a kind lady at the information desk offered me her phone and I made the calls that I had to. My boyfriend was an absolute star and rebooked my flight for the next day as the staff promised full refunds and accommodation for those who needed it, and I started to calm down a little.

Only what came to follow threw me off once again. Hundreds of people whose flights had been cancelled began to rush through the airport, we all scrambled through passport control and those who had checked in hold luggage went to collect their bags before heading on to the help desk we had been pointed towards. It was at this point that things really started to get a bit too much for me. There were hundreds, and I am not exaggerating here, hundreds of people waiting in line at this one single help desk, all waiting for refunds, flight changes, hotels, the lot. It was in this moment that I remember feeling very uneasy and everything feels like I bit of a blur now I look back. People were shouting, the team were seriously understaffed, and it was all in all absolutely chaotic. There was no wifi, no food, no drinks, not even anywhere to sit comfortably. Just a very long, very messy line of angry travellers who were not getting to their destinations any time soon. I waited in line, luckily I wasn’t too far behind, so I tried to stay as positive as I could, given the situation.

I finally arrived at the help desk, explaining how I had rebooked my flight for the following afternoon and all I needed was a single bed hotel room for the night. I was told that this was fine, and I could wait with the large group of people towards the left, who were also waiting for accommodation. Time passed, and passed, and passed. 11pm arrived and everyone had started to have enough, staff didn’t have any information and were starting to ask people to make their own arrangements, as hotels in the city were all booked up, due to a large football match that was taking place in the city. At this point, I am not going to sugar coat it, I broke down. I was tired, I hadn’t had a bite to eat since 10am, I had travelled for the most part of my day and ALL I wanted was to go home. So, after trying several different options, I decided enough was enough. Through floods of tears, I confirmed with the staff that I could get a full refund on my initial flight and called my parents. After also trying everything he could to get me a hotel room, Rob had ever so kindly topped up my phone for me online, so luckily I was now able to make calls! I sobbed through the phone to my poor mum at past 11pm, and she agreed they would come to collect me.

Now, bearing in mind the airport is almost a 2 hour drive each way, and it was nearing upon midnight…I have never been so grateful to have the most kind, generous and loving parents in the world. I knew how much it was to ask, I knew we wouldn’t get home until almost 4am, and worst of all, I knew that they both had to be up for work only hours following this. But, of course, they just wanted the best for me, and they will have known that I had truly had enough if I was asking so much of them at such a ridiculous hour.

Two hours passed, and my parents arrived. I have never been so relieved in all of my life. I know it probably doesn’t sound like such a big deal to most people. I can already feel your eyes rolling and the muttering of “get over it” or “it could be so much worse!” Truly, I know this. And deep down, in that moment, I also knew it could be worse. But for me, the atmosphere and situation was too much. I felt very panicked and very alone, despite being surrounded by people, and, like in most bad situations, all I wanted was my mum. It still warms my heart now knowing how lucky I am to be surrounded by good people, who will do everything that they can to keep me safe and comfortable.

I guess what message I wanted to convey in this post is that, even when times feel the most tough, there is almost always something there to remind you that there is light.

Love exists in a world bursting with hate, and I just think that even a story as simple and mundane as this one, reminds us that we are not alone, not ever, really. Thanks to the kind lady who let me borrow her mobile phone, to the one helpful staff member who was honest and straightforward when I needed it, to my wonderful parents and boyfriend who saved the day, to the lovely Dutch lady who calmed me down in the queue and to the young girl who stuck by me like we were old friends, making me feel less alone in all of the chaos.

I want to note that thankfully I managed to book my flight for a slightly later date. Even now, days later, the thought of going back to the airport fills me with dread. It’s an odd feeling, to suddenly be so afraid of something that you have done so often before with little difficulty. I travel often, and airports and flying have never bothered me before, not really. Now I suddenly feel anxious, and very scared to go there, all because of one flight cancellation. It’s strange really, because I know deep down the chances of this happening again are slim, but the “what if’s” still linger in your mind. I’m doing my best to stay positive, and hopefully my second attempt of getting back to the Netherlands will go much more smoothly.

If you read this far, then thank you so much. I know this story wasn’t particularly fascinating, but sometimes it just feels good to let the words roll out onto the screen rather than bustling around in your mind. To everyone struggling with anxiety, or whatever else it might be, know that you are not alone. It may sound cliche, but everyone struggles with something, whether someone wants to call it petty, or ridiculous, or just damn annoying, it doesn’t make it any smaller of a problem for the people who have those feelings. Be loving, be warm, and be humble. Being a nice person really doesn’t cost a penny, and I think in this world we really ought to be a bit more understanding of one another in order to move forward.

 

Despite being a little different, I hope that you enjoyed this essay of a blog post. And I will see you in the next one. Enjoy the weekend.

 

Love,

Loren

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