God, the Airline, and Us

It’s super easy for me to get frustrated with airlines, especially one in particular, when traveling. The company’s general lack of empathy, effectiveness, and common sense astounds me. I often wonder how it’s still in business — especially when it seems that the carrier’s primary business is in annoying its customers.

But as I sit in the Denver Airport, I want to share a testimony with you — about how God can use even the most frustrating circumstances for good.

When I’m hacked off, it’s seriously difficult for me to see any looming positives. (I’m sure many of you can relate.) I can get so mad that I don’t even want to take note of any upsides, as that would risk my justification that (insert company/person name here) is truly awful!

That kind of attitude doesn’t give God any room to work — no room for redemption, restoration, or divine glory.

Yesterday, Tony and I had to leave Casper, Wyoming a day early. A snow storm was heading our way, and one way or another, we were going to have to yield to it. So we rented an SUV and trekked five hours down the interstate to Denver, in hopes of catching an earlier flight. If we could make it back to Tennessee for Thanksgiving, that’d be awesome!

We turned in our rental car, then made our way to the airport. “Sorry,” the ticketing agent told us. “I can’t put you on another flight because you’re traveling on award points.” There were at least two flights available, but she wouldn’t budge. There were three flights available early the next morning, but she refused to put us on any of those, too.

We walked away from the ticket counter, defeated, and let the reality of staying the night in Denver settle in.

Since being in the States, I’ve already had three pretty terrible encounters with the airline, so honestly, I wasn’t expecting a different outcome. Nonetheless, the situation sucked. I’ve traveled enough to know that agents can help you… when they want to. They can issue hotel vouchers. They can book you on a different flight. And they can work around the inch-thick red tape that their employer has established. As a customer, you’re basically at the mercy of personality and mood.

Still, I knew this situation was a bit different. Technically, the airline hadn’t done anything wrong (not yet anyway). And since no one ever moved a mountain for me when it was in the wrong, I didn't anticipate anyone to do so in this case either.

I found our preferred nearby hotel and booked a room. $113 and 30 minutes later, we were on a shuttle to the Hyatt House.

A lady named Bev had taken a seat next to us, and like always, Tony struck up a conversation. She told us all about the hotel — how nice it was and how we’d make it just in time for happy hour!

We arrived, settled in, then made our way to the lobby. To our surprise, we found more than a happy hour. We found a full-blown free dinner. We took a table next to Bev’s and continued our chat over soup, salad, and lettuce wraps.

“I used to sit on the board of four nonprofits in Denver,” Bev told us. “I even developed a dashboard that allows organizations to track the effectiveness of their board and staff. If you give me your email address, I’d be happy to send it to you!”

“What?!” Tony and I thought. He replied, “Yes, please!”

After dinner, we headed back to our room. A movie I’d be wanting to see was starting in five minutes, and our friend Mel had just gifted us with a dark chocolate bar. We nestled into the sofa and watched as Kevin Costner’s character turned Draft Day around for his NFL team, the Cleveland Browns.

By the end of the night, we’d all but forgotten about the events at the airport. God had literally sent us on a date… and He footed the bill! 

He knows us intimately. He knew Tony and I have hardly had any alone time together in the last two months. He knew we needed it. But He wasn’t done yet. The next morning: another free meal before shuttling back to the airport.

We made our way through the long security line to our gate. It was almost boarding time, and we only had a 35-minute connection in Salt Lake City. “Don’t worry,” an agent told me the previous day. “Your plane to Salt Lake City is the same plane taking you to Nashville. There’s no way you’ll miss your connection.”

Then, the bad news came: Our plane was delayed in Denver.

I got a text message letting me know that I needed to book an alternate flight, as we definitely wouldn’t be making our 35-minute connection in SLC. I called a help line to ensure that what the “don’t worry” agent told me was accurate and that we’d be OK.

“No,” the new agent said. “It’s not the same plane. You’re actually landing in Terminal B, and you’re departing in Terminal D. You’ll definitely miss your flight.” And if that news wasn’t bad enough, he proceeded. “There are no more flights to Nashville out of Denver today. It looks like you’re staying the night in Denver.”

“What?” I questioned. “There are no more flights? What about the 2:00 p.m. through Atlanta?” He replied, “The only seats available on that flight are in first class, and I definitely can’t move you up to first class.”

I might’ve uttered something ugly then hung up the phone.

Tony was waiting in line to speak to a gate agent about his seating assignment when I gave him the update. We finally arrived at the front of the line, and stepped up to chat with a lady named Katy. Again, I didn’t have high hopes.

We were supposed to meet my dad in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee the following day for a belated Thanksgiving celebration, and now, we weren’t going to make it. He’d already be on his way back to Knoxville by the time we’d arrive. My head hung low.

But Katy went to town on our behalf. We stood across the desk from her for at least 10 minutes. She called coworkers, and she called other airlines. There was nothing available — nothing but those first class seats.

Finally, she pulled some strings. Four tickets shot out of a machine, and she handed them to us. “You’re booked for first class on the 2:00 p.m. flight. You’ll be in Nashville by 9:00 this evening.”

I was shocked. I had never experienced such good service from an airline before!

I know that I know that I know that God sent us on that “dinner and a movie” date... and now He was busing us home — first class.

Another free meal and another divine appointment (this time with a couple from Montana) took place before we finally landed in Nashville — safe, sound, and just in time for our belated turkey celebration. I pray that I learn to look out for God intervention and restoration more often. With that kind of attitude, life is certainly much more enjoyable!