Why Airports Aren’t Just For Vacationers; From A Flight Attendant

Earlier this morning, I ran through Terminal 4 of the Los Angeles international Airport in tears. And I’m not talking about just a few tears running down my face, or tears of happiness, in fact it was quite the opposite. Tears of fear, sorrow, regret, and hostility filled my face. I was as pale as a ghost, barely able to compose myself to make it through airport security, and I was running because once again I was slightly late. But that was not the reason why I was getting my morning cardio in at LAX today, in fact it was for other reasons way to complex and slightly embarrassing for me to even talk about.
And all that’s going through my head is that shouldn’t airports be places of happiness? Most of us are excited, happy, maybe even anxious to set off on their dream vacation. Others are excited to see family members they haven’t seen in a long time. And others are excited yet nervous for the first time ever to board an airplane for their first time, heading to a destination that seems so magical and unreal to them.
But there is another side to airports that we often fail to realize; a dark side that no one wants to think about, much less have to experience. Not only do people fly for the usual vacation, or business, retreats, or pleasure; but people also fly to attend events that have no casinos, margaritas, or sandy beaches at their final destination. Rather they board flights in search for a new job after they have just lost theirs while they have a family to support, perhaps they have to attend a funeral, or even perhaps to visit a family member that is ill or near-death, or rather they are boarding an aircraft for a voluntary military deployment, in which they do not know when they are going to see their family or loved ones again, if ever. Vacation is not always imminent in their final descent, and we often fail to overlook that aspect in traveling.
And while this argument can be made for any large transportation terminal such as ship ports, train stations, bus depots, and helipads, it just seems more dramatic because we’ve all seen movies of someone running though an airport terminal in tears, at some point in our life. And for those of you that were at the Los Angeles International Airport this morning at 7:30am, you got to see it first hand.
A parade of people asking me if I was ‘OK’, an upgrade to a first class seat on the plane, and people telling me to just ‘relax and breathe’ and to ‘have a nice day’. The quiet noise of the announcements being made in the background in the terminal. It was in that moment that I heard absolutely nothing even though there was so much to be listened too, and that I realized that silence could truly be deafening.
The texts poured in from friends and family members, one by one, and the support was inspirational and comforting to say the least, but unfortunately when you are traveling all alone, all the Facebook posts, texts, emails, calls, and FaceTimes don’t fill the void. But this post is not about how bad things happen to good people, or some attempt to make anyone feel bad for the last few days I have had, rather it’s a reminder. A reminder that we are all not headed to the airport with a tropical island at our final destination, or surfing lessons, or a retreat in somewhere in Thailand, rather some of us are headed their for unpleasant, or not idealistic reasons. And as someone whose worked on an airplane for the last two years, I had not even realized this myself until about a few weeks ago when I was on a lengthy sit time in-between flights I was working in the Dallas/ Fort Worth International airport.
I was sitting at Gate A19 waiting to board my flight back home to New York City, and out of the corner of my eye I could see a young, beautiful girl, who must have not been more than twenty-two years old hysterical crying as she was Skyping someone. She tried to cry as quietly as possible, and didn’t want to make a scene. The makeup ran down her face gracefully, and even with all the wrinkles from crying, smeared make up, and agony portrayed on her face, she was still beautiful.
I instantly looked back over to my crew and told them that we needed to help her. That no one should be left alone in an airport somewhere crying, no matter who they are. And that sometimes all you need is someone who can take a moment out of their busy day to stop what they are doing, and ask another human being if they are alright. And that’s just what we did.
But I’ll spare you the intricacies of this girls life story, and move on with the point. Who would’ve thought that just a few days later, on the next trip that I got called out to work, that that would be me. That is essentially be that girl (rather a boy) that was running through a terminal crying because of everything that had happened the day before? It really made me think once I finally arrived at the gate and boarded the plane, that we all are entitled to bad days. Some of our bad days are going to be much worse than others, but the point is, a bad day is a bad day. And sadly enough, a bad day can happen anywhere.

And just like that girl from a few days ago and myself today, I realized that as sad as it may seem to think about, people do head to airports to fly to some destination somewhere for a reason that may not be ideal or happy. Rather the person could physically be there, getting their ticket, checking their bag, going through security, and continuing on with normal airport related motions, but emotionally they are checked out. They are trying to compose themselves as best as possible, to not break down in tears, and to keep a positive outlook with a half-hearted smile on their face.

Perhaps seeing the girl crying in the airport a few days before myself was some crazy act of foreshadowing by some one, or perhaps it was a test; to see what I would do if I was faced in a situation like that. A test to determine if I was ready to help some one who was in that situation, or rather be able to help myself when in just a few short days I would be in the same exact situation. It was a test that I considered myself to have passed, and it truly made me aware that not everyone in the airport is headed somewhere on vacation. It provided me with the ’empathy’ factor that I badly needed to be able to relate to these other people on their level. To really be able to know how it felt, and have had myself in their place before.

So while it was not an ideal moment in my life, I am writing this blog to raise awareness; awareness that not everyone in an airport is there for a good time. Some people really need that extra ounce of compassion and will appreciate it for as long as they live. Having experienced all of this myself first-hand, I can honestly say that I will forever remember that feeling and keep that in the back of my head at all times whenever I am working, whether it is on the physical plane itself, or even just walking through the terminals of the airports around the world.

So the next time you are running through an airport, take that extra second to really observe your surroundings, and see if anyone can use a moment of your help. I know I will. Until next time, XoXo.

 

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