That time I took 12 flights in 20 days (Part 2)

I spent the three days after our Langkawi trip trying to get on East Coast time. Not an easy feat when the EST is 13 hours behind your current time zone. Plus, I was starting to get so excited to finally execute my plan. I would be flying to Richmond to surprise my family with a very short 2 day visit before flying the rest of the way to Cancun to spend 3 days celebrating Mo and Wade’s wedding. The only people in Richmond who knew I was coming were My brother Aaron, and his wife Jayci, as they were helping me execute the surprise. My flight was Monday the 14th at 11pm, so I slept from 10am-5pm during the day in hopes of getting on the right schedule. Lesson 3: Trying to get on a time zone 13hours behind yours is impossible, especially when you can’t sleep on planes. No matter what, you’re screwed. But don’t tell just-boarded flight 5 me that:

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Flight 5: KUL to London-Heathrow. Malaysian Airlines, Airbus 380.  Here I am boarding the plane right on time, at 11:00pm for an 11:30 pm take off. I’ve just slept all day (EST night), had a delicious Starbucks coffee, and I’m excited about the best economy seat ever! (I’m so, so very naive)

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So much legroom! I was in the first seat on the UPSTAIRS economy section, it was like the limo of economy seats. Lots of overhead room, tons of legroom, my legs were stretched out in this photo! Plus:

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A compartment next to might seat that held my entire carry on! Those Airbus 380s are NICE! Oh it was looking to be a fantastic flight!

But this is where Lesson 1 really hit home. We boarded at 11:00, and then soon heard that we would be waiting for more people to come aboard as well as load some more cargo. Then a little later we also heard we had to wait for some lightning…seems like a lot of different excuses. All the while they kept playing the elevator version of that Brian McKnight song, ‘Start Back at One’. Hearing that song over and over for 2 hours while not knowing when you’re going to take off is basically like waterboarding. Then they tell us they changed the flight pattern, so what should be a 14 hour flight will now be a 15 hour flight. I felt like I was in that episode of 30 Rock when Liz Lemon is stuck on the plane and goes nuts and Matt Damon threatens to shoot her. By the time we FINALLY took off at 1:11 am, I already know I’ll miss my connecting flight. Nothing makes a 15 hour flight more relaxing than not knowing what will happen when you land, fearing that all your six months of planning the biggest surprise EVER will be ruined,maybe you won’t even see your family at all, maybe you’ll be stuck in the Heathrow airport for a week because you don’t have any money or any way to get home, maybe…needless to say no amount of  legroom or dramamine or wine could have made that enjoyable. Plus for a 15 hour flight there has to be some good in flight entertainment…but when the highlights were ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ and Lord of The Rings, I knew I was in for a really long flight. But it was pretty awesome to watch our flight pattern and see that I was flying over some pretty cool places. We flew right between Medina and Mecca. We flew right over THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS!!! It was night, but I could see lights along the Nile River. If it had been daytime and a clear day, I could have seen the pyramids! W were chasing the night on that flight, and even through we took off at 1am, it wasn’t until we were flying over the Alps, 13 hours later, that we finally saw dawn. That was a pretty cool view; dawn over the Alps. Anyway, it was already 8:10 London time by the time we landed, which was when my next flight was supposed to take off. The onboard staff wasn’t super helpful, which was a bit surprising since I have to believe that people miss connections every single flight since they are ALWAYS late. However, the Malaysian Airlines staff at the gate were very helpful. They had already booked me on the next American Airlines flight to Philadelphia, and then on to Richmond, and I would be getting in only 2+ hours later than originally scheduled. They told me to head over to the American Airlines terminal and everything would be straight.

Lesson 4: When people tell you Heathrow Airport is a nightmare, they are correct. Learning this lesson for yourself sucks. All the terminals are separate buildings, and if you are connecting, the only way to get from one to the other is on a bus. A bus that only runs every 10 minutes, and takes 10 minutes to get from one terminal to the next.So I rush to the bus to get the the American Airlines terminal, I rush through the terminal, I get to the counter. Lucky for me there’s no line, and I get right up to the front. Then the woman tells me I’m not booked on the next flight, and that Malaysian Airlines has to do that because they were the ones who made me late. I’m sleep deprived, and had already spent 30 minutes running through the airport, so I’m crying when I ask her exactly what I need to do next. I spend 30 minutes crying and going back to the other terminal. There I find the nicest people. They assure me I am booked on the next American Airlines flights, they give me all the information, and they tell me not to leave that American Airlines counter until they give me my boarding passes. I feel a ton better. But my flight is a 12:10, and now it’s already almost 10am, when I got off the plane at 8:15. So I take the bus back to the American terminal, walk into the counter area, and find….

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a room full, I mean FULL of people. I was so cracked out from my crazy flight, weird schedule, and running around the London airport, that this was the best picture I took of the crazy lines. Thirty minutes earlier there had been no one here, and now the room was a mad house. So I wait in line for another hour+. I finally get up to the front, where they still tell me I’m not booked on the flights. This time the very kind American Airlines representative puts me on the flights, and is nothing but nice amidst chaos. I also have to hand it to the Heathrow immigration and security that were there, managing the lines, handing out water, helping people left and right. Anyway, I finally have my boarding passes, and the fear that I’ll spend a week stuck in this hellish airport melts away. I rush through security and head to my gate. By the time I’m there I have about 10 minutes to update Aaron and Jayci on the change in flight before I get on the 12:10 flight. That’s right, I landed at 8:10, and it took 4 hours to get to my next gate. So finally-

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Flight 6: London-Philly, American Airlines. The flight was only half full, so even though I was in the isle seat of the middle section, no one was next to me, and I could get comfortable. The in-flight entertainment was awesome, American uses really big plastic cups so I got lots of water, and too much wine with lunch(?). At this point I have no clue what time even is anymore. I was impressed by the American flight though. I felt comfortable, it only took about 6.5 hours, and the food was actually better than the Malaysian airlines food. Landing in Philly was a breeze. Customs was fast, not crowded, re-checking my bag took all of 30 seconds, and everyone was pleasant. Maybe I just liked being back in the states, but really it was lovely. I had time to wash my face, brush my teeth, and relax for a few before my last flight.

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Relaxing at the Philly airport before flight 7: Philly to RIC. Just a few hours before I get to surprise everyone. It was an easy, short flight, and at the airport, 32 hours after boarding my first flight I got to hug my brother, my sister (in law), and my adorable nephew who had grown so much in just few short months. Then it was off to surprise everyone! I walked in to the restaurant carrying my nephew and it took everyone a few seconds to actually let it settle in that it was really me! The look on my mom’s face when I walked in the room at my brother’s house was priceless! The next 48 hours passed way too quickly between wrapping and sending all our Malaysian gifts, eating delicious food, drinking good beer, and lots and lots and lots of hugs.

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Real American breakfast with mom!!! With salt bagels,  regular style bacon, and crappy deli coffee…YES!

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Dinner with the family at MeKong! We missed you Bryan!!!

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A way too short visit with all these besties!!! I miss you guys!!! I do not miss the open mic comedy show though…sorry guys…

Then it was up crazy early on Friday December 18th so Dad and Shirley could drive me an hour plus down to Newport News to catch my plane to sunny Mexico, flight 8.

 


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