All I Want For Christmas Is To Make It Home

September 8, 2010

in Passenger Stories

I think it was 1999. I was living in Virginia at the time and the week before Christmas I had to travel to Los Angeles for some business. I had traveled from Greensboro, NC which was only about 90 minutes from home, and US Air had an easy connection through Charlotte to get me to LAX. This was a trip I was making about once a month for almost a year and I had never had any issues.

I was scheduled to fly home 3 days before Christmas, but due to some difficulties with my client in LA I had to stay an extra day. I called US Air to reschedule my trip and I was unable to be confirmed on a flight the next day. I should have known this was going to be the start of a huge ordeal.

So, now two days before Christmas, I am hanging out at LAX waiting to get confirmed on a flight, and after spending a whole day there I was unsuccessful in getting home. Another twist to the story here is that my wife and I were planning on driving to Columbia, SC on this day to visit her family over Christmas. I told her to make the trip without me and I would somehow get down there. Of course, US Air was unwilling to re-route me to Columbia without charging me several hundred dollars, and at this point I was unwilling to give them any more money.

So after another night at an airport hotel, I was once again back at LAX trying to get back east. I was finally confirmed on a flight from LAX to PIT, then a flight from PIT to GSO. I had also secured a one-way rental car from GSO to Columbia, SC, so with a little luck I was going to make it there before the Christmas festivities would begin.

The 757 that we were to take to PIT was coming from PIT and it was late by three hours due to snow in PIT. I knew that these three hours may be detrimental in me making may connection to GSO, but I was still hopeful I would make it.

The plane finally arrived and we quickly boarded and before long we were underway. I was seated in first class with only a few other folks. I was alone in my row with a couple sitting right behind me. I had noticed while boarding that the man sitting behind me seemed to be drunk and while we were boarding he continued drinking beer. I was surprised the first class flight attendant was letting him drink alcohol as he was obviously drunk. Only a few minutes after takeoff, while we were climbing out of LAX, this guy started yelling at his wife/girlfriend, and he was threatening to hit her. I really couldn’t believe this! I continued to listen and decided that if he got violent I was going to have to step in. Just a few minutes later he did hit her, and it sounded like a slap to the face of the woman. Right away a small, very frail looking male flight attendant appeared and told the man he was going to have to stop hitting this lady. The passenger, who was a large muscular guy, then pushed the flight attendant and threatened him. The flight attendant ran away to the front of the plane. I then unbuckled my seat belt and turned around and said, “Hey Pal, I’m trying to get home for Christmas, and you beating people up is going to seriously mess up my plans, so settle down or we’re going to have a big problem.”

Now I’m a pretty good sized guy myself, but I am not one to pick a fight. But I really needed to redirect this guy from beating up this lady. He then said to me that he was “coming up to kick my ass.” As he started to stand I decided I needed to myself so I could at least defend myself, but I was also thinking I needed to subdue this guy somehow. Just as we stood the Captain appeared out of nowhere. Now I don’t know what the rules are for those guys leaving the flight deck, especially during climb-out, but there he was. He got right up in the guy’s face and told him very boldly, “You will sit your ass back down and not make another sound. If you do I will land this plane and you WILL go to jail! Do you understand me?”

The only thought I’m having at this point is if this guy beats up the Captain then we’re really in trouble. But, this guy immediately sat down and very wisely decided he needed to chill out. The captain looked at me and thanked me for stepping in. He then told the guy that he was assigning me as this guy’s baby-sitter and if I reported any issues then he would land the plane wherever we were and he would be arrested. He told the guy if he was nice for the rest of the flight he wouldn’t press any charges. The guy said he understood and after the lady was relocated to another seat he never uttered another word.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh, the Captain announced that we needed to stay in our seats until he said it was OK to get up, and as soon as we got to the gate police came onto the plane and arrested the guy. I was very happy to see that, and the pilot was smart to lie to the guy earlier which kept him calm. After the guy was escorted off in handcuffs the Captain went out of his way to thank me for helping him and he told me that he should have landed in LAX but he really wanted to make it home for Christmas too. I thanked him for not landing and handling the situation the way he did.

My flight to GSO, the last one of the night, was still there when I arrived. I called the rental car counter from the plane (this was back when there was still phones in the planes) at GSO and begged them not to close until I arrived (one hour after they were supposed to close). They were nice enough to wait on me and after driving all night to Columbia, I made it there by 6am, just in time to open presents. I made a promise to myself that I would never travel for business again the week before Christmas.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Peace Lover September 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

Isn't it great when people want to spend the beloved time of Christmas with their families. This chap was obviously willing to go to extreme lengths to be with the ones he loved. As well as Christmas I also celebrate Yule which is just a few days before Christmas. I have to admit I do go a bit mad with the decorations, if I could I would turn my house into a grotto and garden into a winter wonderland.


rerere September 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Very, Very professional pilot.


Eloise September 13, 2010 at 2:14 am

You change flights right before Christmas and are shocked that the airline can't confirm your seat?


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