Life as an anxious flyer is not in any way, fun. Especially when you live nearly 5,000 miles away from home. I posted during the summer a blog that contained an insight into the ways in which I deal with my airport/flight anxiety and I was so pleased to hear that there was so many of you out there who still get nervous about flying, even in 2016 when flying has become almost as frequent as riding a bus! I am currently on my third flight since writing that blog post about flying home for Summer, and it has only been a mere 6 months.
Back in late-November, Gino and I flew to Boston for Thanksgiving, due to Thanksgiving weekend travel price inflations and the timings of our schedules, flying out was the most viable. For this flight however I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am. Up until this point I had never flown with a partner, only friends and family. But as Gino and I continue to become more and more dependent and a “New York” family if you like I feel like I’m more protected. After persuading Gino to say “yes” to going to the airport early (way too early on reflection) I felt a lot better about organising where my head was at. I felt safe. That being said, in comparison to the long haul flights of 10+ hours I have been on. A 37-minute flight from La Guardia to Boston was hardly anything to be nervous about. Never the less I was very proud to have embarked on such a journey as I did. I barely batted an eyelid, a very different experience to my last update on flying!
This time around, as I fly back to England for Christmas I am having a very different experience. Currently tapping away at my Mac from way above the Atlantic, 3 hours into my 6 hour flight I’ve had varying experiences. It started last night when I checked in for the flight. I checked in online as per usual and went to select my seat when I saw that there was no more assigned seating available in the section I was booked for. My ticket said that I would be receiving my seat allocation “at the gate”. At this point I made the big mistake of Google-ing what this meant and of course to no surprise I discovered horror stories of overbooking, reservation bumping, all sorts. Although I was sure it was nothing I knew that as I went to rest me head on my pillow later on, I was going to be annoying myself with “what ifs”. I called up Virgin Atlantic 24 Hour Customer Service and the gentleman on the phone reassured me that I would be on the flight. Great, I could sleep soundly and I did! However at 7:30AM I woke up, and it was snowing, heavily. Of course I immediately go to check my flight status and there it is. The 6:30PM Virgin Atlantic Flight from JFK to London Heathrow, still on time. Even better, but both the seat reservation and the weather warnings were nibbling away at my pre-flight calm! I kept telling myself “you know what, its out of your hands Luke” and went about getting ready. As I was about to leave I decided to chop the huge journey from my apartment in Brooklyn to my front door in County Durham, UK into tiny legs of the journey, with the promise that I will relax with the completion of each leg.
LEG 1 – Getting all my bags onto the Subway – Last night before I slept and before the snow I went along to the Classon Avenue Subway stop and topped up my MetroCard. A petty move on reflection but it was peace of mind. When having to drag, haul and carry my suitcase and 2 pieces of hand luggage through the melting snow, I was thankful for missing out the step of having to wait in line for a Subway card. I made it to the G. Leg 1 complete. I felt like this was working.
LEG 2 – Get to the airport and get your seat! – This leg was when I started to feel a bit more anxious at this point than usual. I got to the airport fine, however when handing over my passport and boarding card to the check-in attendant. I was told that the flight was overbooked and would I be willing to volunteer for the following 7PM flight. Of course! Anyone who knows me knows that I am not someone who puts up much of a fight when it comes to customer service, so I expressed my need to be in London by 8AM max for a connecting flight and obliged. Well I think they could tell by my immediate reaction of sheer terror that they were going to tell me something way worse that I was someone who really didn’t fully enjoy flying, and they really shifted the focus from the task in hand by entertaining Christmas-talk. If you haven’t noticed from BLOGMAS, I am not shy when it comes to talking Christmas. In the middle of chatting Christmas Day traditions a check-in attendant had told me that she had in fact managed to get me onto the original flight I was booked on, and that because I had arrived so early, I was infact guaranteed a seat and she had allocated one to me! AMAZING! So there IS a pro to arriving early…I guess. Little did I know that whilst this was happening, back in England my parents were having a nightmare as my connecting flight had been cancelled, along with all other flights to Newcastle…GREAT
LEG 3 – Sort out what is happening on the other side of my long haul flight & get through security – Well for the first time in my travel experience, JFK security was a breeze with minimal crowds and minimal wait time. Whilst I had been queuing it seemed my parents and extended family/neighbor Debi had set up “Operation Get Luke Home” with various dramatic, funny but real cries for help on Facebook. LOL! After no compliance at all from British Airways, (the airline I was flying from London to Newcastle with) their insistence that there will be no more flights until Monday, and extortionately priced train tickets, it was decided that my parents and sister were going to be driving down to London (a 4.5 hour drive) to come and get me! GAH! Family ey! I don’t know what I’d do without them. Bless them! I said goodnight and goodbye quite early as by the time this was all sorted it was nearly 11:30PM back in England, and driving to London to grab me in time would require a wake up call of 3AM…ouch. We decided it will be fun, 4.5 hours of catching up, Christmas songs and myself probably passed out in the back seat.
LEG 4 – Wait to board the plane and take off on time – This again, much like most things to do with flying, and the main source of flight anxiety, was out of my control. However the whole experience was made easier when my bestie and roommate Jordan called me to ask if I happened to be in Terminal 4. I did! Just seeing her chilled me out instantly. We have lived together for a year an half now and have shared the same classes for the past 2 semesters, she knows me inside and out, and knew that witty banter and hilarity would soon sort me out! Even after saying goodbye for the second time, she came back to hang out with me as her flight was delayed bless her! Just before boarding myself we said goodbye for the THIRD time and we parted ways. And to my luck I was happy to find my flight would be boarding on time. Right before ticket check however my name was read out on the announcement system asking if I could come to the desk. Whilst suppressing the sickening feeling that was instantly brewing in me, again I was pleased to know it was to ask if I would kindly move a row behind my allocated seat so that a couple and their young baby could sit together. Of course, because I am not Satan himself, I said yes.
LEG 5 – Taxi, take-off and cruising – Here I am, after doing the first two, cruising at 33,000 feet above the Atlantic, typing up BLOGMAS. Prior to opening my laptop I have watched two British TV programs, eaten dinner, downed two bottles of red wine and read more of my book. I feel like 3 hours in, I’m more nervous than usual. Turbulance thus far has been relatively okay, with the seatbelt sign only needed to pop on for a brief 15 minutes, once. However I’m clearly quite antsy as I can’t quite seem to focus. I’ve taken it upon my self to really breathe, and reflect on everything I’ve been through so far this day. At this very moment I have a comforting feeling knowing that in England my parents are waking up to begin driving to London, a comforting feeling I know for a fact the three of them, do not have! HAHA! But I really thought this Summer I had figured out the root of my travel anxiety, however I really feel like its going to be different everytime. I’m more than sure the anxious rollercoaster I have been on “pre-flight” will have something to do with it, but on this long haul flight I’m finding it hard to settle down. However in saying that, I have spent the last half an hour writing away at this. Perhaps I will plan and write up some more blogs for January.
LEG 6 – Descent, land, baggage and arrival – This is my favourite leg of any journey, I know I’m nearly at my destination and feeling of accomplishment is bubbling and enveloping my anxious self. I’m sure Gino will laugh at this post as he knows how much of a worrier I am, I mean he’s in for a treat when he travels back to New York with me in January, think he might need more than the little bottles of red wine they give you on-board. Descent into Heathrow was complete in a matter of minutes. With the thick heavy fog over London we couldn’t tell how close we were to the ground. But my anxiety during the descent disappeared and out of it came this pure excitement to see my family! Getting through border control and baggage claim was so so quick and within 20 minutes….look who I was reunited with!!!!!
I can’t tell you the complete and utter joy I feel right now as I finish off writing this post from the comfort of my own childhood home!! And although I am riding on 3 hours sleep, I am SO excited to get the Christmas festivities at home started!!!
I think breaking the trip up like that not only made it bearable for me but also just let me focus on what was happening rather than what COULD happen. Now that I am safe in the comfort of my own home, this whole post seems a little silly, but that is the thing with flying for me. At the time when I'm flying, a wave of different emotions are involved. When I'm at my destination I'm casually throwing off how I felt and comparing it to hopping on a bus! GAH! The human mind!
I hope that all of you that are flying out this weekend or coming week have safe journeys home!
HAPPY BLOGMAS EVERYONE!
Christmas Song of the Day: DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS - CHRIS REA