We started our journey in high spirits, five of the group arrived in Atlanta on time, ready to take the long flight to Joberg. The remaining three were at the Columbus, Ohio airport ready to board the plane so we could meet up with the group in Atlanta.
1st Issue: I received a text from Rebecca saying that our 4:26 flight had been delayed until 6:00 pm. “What” I say, as I had just checked in at the kiosk and no one said anything about a delay. I leave my lunch and head to the flight board, sure enough the flight had been delayed. This would put the three of us in Atlanta at the earliest at 7:46 with our international flight leaving at 8:12 ( if you do the math, we would have had to fly ). I go to another agent who said that I would be able to fly standby on the flight scheduled to leave Columbus at 3:15, getting us into Atlanta at 5:00, great, book em Dano. I send Rebecca a text telling her to re-book flying standby however her flight agent was not quite accommodating and she ended up calling the HELP line where she was placed on the standby list. We were both able to get boarding passes. Great, right, but no, where was our 6th student, he was MIA, we called, we sent texts and then just as I am boarding he is standing there, but the plane is full, he will not be able to get on. Rebecca and I board after I explain the customer service rep what needed to happen, she promised to do what she could. Then the sitting begins, first there is a weather alert in Atlanta, planes were not allowed to land, then it was a problem in the communication system of the plane. 3:15 then 3:45 then 4:00 then 4:15, now it is 4:45 and we have not moved from the gate. Finally at 5:30 they announce that the plane would not be flying to Atlanta this evening, another plane had been called to take everyone to Atlanta, great, right, well no we would arrive in Atlanta at 7:46 sill unable to get on the international flight. Are you wondering what happened to the student, well he did get on and actually was seated in first class. (Too bad he was not able to fly anywhere). Now, here is the big problem. do we take the later flight and stay in Atlanta until we can fly out, well no, because if we do that we cannot just re book that portion of the trip. The Delta HELP line was no help, so then it hit me, call the travel agent who booked the tickets, problem solved right ? Nope, no one is in the office on Saturday but there is an emergency Help line, so I called it. Brian of Altour travel to the rescue… he was able to re book us for the second flight out on Sunday, re book our Atlanta to Joberg flight, our flight to Botswana and find us two hotel rooms at the Joberg airport.
In between all of this Rebecca is trying to find us two hotel rooms for our night in Columbus, Delta at first was not help, The person at the desk there were no rooms available, so I said fine, I will just call my daughter, Jessica Wright. However Rebecca found a hotel room online and asked well why can’t we get a voucher for this room. All of the sudden the customer service rep was able to find two rooms at the Airport Marriott (surprise, surprise). In the meantime, my daughter Jessica, the general manager at the Polaris Rusty Bucket , was sending some much needed food as Delta could not seem to provide us with food. THANK THANK THANK THANK THANK YOU my wonderful daughter, it is important to have friends in high places.
Meantime back in Atlanta, the five students have boarded the flight to Joberg without their fearless leaders. Now it is time for call everyone, Facebook everyone, text everyone you know to find someone to meet the students in Gaborone and escort them to the apartments where we will be staying, to the Main Mall on Monday to buy food and get them to the hospital to start their service learning on Tuesday. A big thank you to Catherine Marshall ( who talked me down off the cliff), Maria Modayil (for providing some additional contact information) and Gillian Ice (for helping me arrange for Dr. Marape to meet the students and shepherd them around until we can get there.) Once again it pays to know people in high places.
So here we are Rebecca Meier, Kyle O’Donnell ( the PT student who has been stuck with us) and myself waiting in the Atlanta airport for 10 hours in order to board the flight to Joberg, great right? No no such luck we will have to spend the night in Joberg and fly out to Gaborone Tuesday am at 7:30 arriving in Gaborone at 8:30 am. So the saga continues….