So right now I’m currently sitting in Florida only a few days before we start our AT hike and flying all day yesterday made me realize that I never posted our story of getting back to New Zealand after Breanna’s Wedding. This is truly one of the most improbable airport experience I have ever heard of, not to mention experienced first hand.
Allow me to set the stage here; to have the least expensive flights to get back to NZ we purchased two separate tickets. One set of tickets took us from Regina, SK to Los Angeles, CA via Denver with United and then the second set took us from Los Angeles to Christchurch, NZ with Fiji Airways. The price we paid for budget tickets was that our bags wouldn’t be checked all the way through and if we were late getting to LAX and missed our Fiji Airways flight we wouldn’t be comped by United. We had 3hrs in Denver and 3hrs in LA so what could go wrong? Right?
Well… it ended up being a bit breezy in Denver and our first leg was delayed by an hour, and then two hours, and then “your plane hasn’t even left Denver yet, so we’re not sure when it will be”. Great, no way to get to LA in time for our Fiji flight and we would have to pay $1,000 per person for a flight to NZ the next day if we miss it. Nonetheless, the ticket lady took pity on us and put us up front in the Denver flight which ended up leaving about five hours later than it should have. The last plane from Denver to Los Angeles departed 20 minutes after our scheduled arrival, so the chances were slim but still there!
We hit the ground in Denver and bailed out of the plane as soon as the door cracked at the terminal and sprinted to CUSTOMS . Ugh, stupid customs and immigration. Not only did we have to make a connection across the airport but we had to get checked into the US, get our bags at customs, clear customs with our bags, recheck them on the other side and then go back through security on our way to the gate. Lindsay ran ahead and tried her best to let the airline people know we were coming and LUCKILY another flight had also been delayed and our LAX flight was sitting at the gate waiting for them to make it. Well let me tell you what, sprinting the Denver airport at 6,000ft above sea level isn’t really the “easiest” thing I had done that day, especially considering that the international and domestic terminals were about a mile apart.
Nonetheless we ran up to the counter as they were closing the terminal and they let us on, just to catch our breath for the Los Angeles saga! You see, our flight to New Zealand officially closed for check in at 950pm and we were scheduled to touch down in LA at 900pm. Except that we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off for about a half hour and they already held it fifteen minutes for the people who were late getting to the plane. When we made it to LAX we had to collect our baggage from the United Airlines Domestic Terminal, get it to the International Terminal (about 1/2 mile away), check in, get through security and then board our flight that closed the doors at 1010pm. And they were NOT going to wait for just two people on a trans-Pacific flight.
9:37pm – Doors open on our plane, Lindsay goes sprinting to the check in counter to let them know I’m coming. I go and get the bags.
9:48pm – Lindsay checks both of us in to our flight at the Fiji Airways counter
9:54pm – Clay finally gets both of the bags off the conveyor belt.
9:55pm – Clay is running through three lanes of oncoming traffic with one backpack on his shoulder and the other on his back because weaving through traffic is faster than going down the sidewalk.
9:57pm – Clay is still sprinting with 3 more terminals to go when he sees an old lady get out of a wheel chair. Since Lindsay had ALL of his cash he couldn’t rent a luggage trolley. Clay steals the wheelchair and loads the bags on it and continues to push a wheelchair with backpacks through oncoming traffic.
10:01pm – Lindsay sees a white guy with a red beard and two backpacks running to the international terminal.
10:03pm – Lindsay and Clay get their tickets and check the bags. The nice lady says there is a 0% chance of the bags making it on the flight, but if we can get to the gate in 7 minutes we will make the flight.
10:04 – A really angry TSA lady yells at Clay for cutting the air crews and running through the metal detector while throwing his clothes onto the conveyor belt.
10:05 – Clay and Lindsay see that the Fiji Airways plane is parked at (literally) the furthest gate from security in the International Terminal.
10:08 – Lindsay gives the Heisman trophy pose to a small child on the moving sidewalk who tried to step in front of her.
10:11 – Clay and Lindsay make it to the terminal and step on the plane as they shut the door.
I don’t know how we did it, but we did. We knew the chances of our luggage making it would be slim and none, but we still made our flight and that’s all that mattered. We didn’t have time to change and were still wearing clothes from Canada in Fiji, but none of that could bring us down. We fully planned on buying a few days worth of clothes in New Zealand when we landed and figuring out how to come back and get our bags. And just for the hell of it we decided to see if our bags came off the conveyor belt in New Zealand, and low and behold… our bags made it.
Thank you Fiji Airways and all of the good Karma we used up.