It’s never been easy to fly home from the Philippines. As an airline employee, I travel on a standby basis, and that particular part of the world is very limited in flight options for a non revenue traveler. A warning to any buddy pass riders out there who have ideas of an easy flight to Asia!
There are only two flights per day leaving Manila for Japan and the U.S. with my airline. One goes through Narita Airport in Tokyo and handles the majority of passengers to the U.S. who split off to there individual cities from Tokyo. So that flight is always packed coming back, it’s like having four flights worth of passengers combined on to one plane.
The other option is Manila to Nagoya, Japan. That flight is an option because it doesn’t splinter off in Nagoya. All the passengers from Manila are either getting off in Japan, or going on through to Detroit. The problem with that flight is that its relatively easy to get to Nagoya, but from there the plane can fill up with travelers boarding to the U.S. If you happen to be bumped off the plane like I was last week, you are pretty much screwed for the rest of the day, the only other option being the Honolulu flight that leaves later in the evening. That where my story begins.
Sure enough, I was one seat shy of getting on the Nagoya / Detroit connection and my only option was to wait the nine hours and catch the Honolulu flight. Normally, that’s not so bad, as you arrive early enough and leave late enough that you can find some fun things to do on the island. This trip I was hell bent on getting home. I was feeling like a cold or flu was coming on, and the worst torture was the constant playing of the same six Christmas songs over the Nagoya Airport intercom. This loop went on for the nine hour delay I experienced while I waited to board the Honolulu flight.
I don’t want to come across like a Scrooge, but nine hours of the same six Christmas songs is enough to drive a healthy person banana’s, much less a sick airline employee flying standby who missed his flight by one seat and thus added another 20 hours or more to his trip home. Elevator music would have been like a symphony to me, because when you hear a Christmas song, it tends to get stuck in your head!
So I made it through to my flight to Honolulu, and even got a business class seat in the process! Once in Hawaii, I started to feel the effect of a viscous Asian flu or Rhino virus, that felt like being the recipient of a ground and pound attack by a three hundred pound islander. Suffering in silence, I tried to occupy my time the best I could by sitting in the Japanese Garden or just walking around, while waiting to see if I could get on the next available flight to the mainland.
Luck of lucks, I managed to get the last seat available on the Atlanta “Red Eye!” That’s the flight that leaves at five pm and arrives in Atlanta the morning of the next day. The seat was the coveted middle seat, farthest back row, in front of the biffy. I was trapped between a large sleeping hombre and an irritated women who had a bladder of steel. I had the major nose drainage, coughs and sneezes by then, all I could do was cover my face with the little red blanket the airline provided and try not to drink anything, so I wouldn’t bother my fellow passengers on either side by having to use the rest room.
Needless to say, that took the cake for the most uncomfortable flight ever, trapped and squeezed, sick as a frog, and over fifty hours of travel time from start to finish. The one good thing was that I made it home eventually, and got three sick days off work to recover. The nature of the bug that bit me was such that it took a full month to get over, even with antibiotics, killer cough syrup and nasal spray. I was a hurting puppy for a full month after I returned home and went back to work.
Work was no reprieve, as we had one of the worst holiday storms ever, canceling flights and causing a backlog that took a full two weeks to recover from. The things I go through for love and adventure!