Stories by Guest Contributor

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My name is Jay. I’m a licensed private pilot, and I have Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). While my medical condition is fully controlled, guidelines written decades ago prevent me from pursuing my dream of becoming an airline pilot. These guidelines are outdated and need to be revised. But more on that in a moment. Let me tell you how my condition was the catalyst for my love affair with flying.

When I was six, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with T1D. I had just started kindergarten and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My life as a seemingly normal child was turned upside down. My mom, dad, and I spent three days in the hospital learning everything we could about T1D. At the time, I wouldn’t have told you my diagnoses had a positive impact on my life; however, looking back and connecting the dots, it most certainly did.

While traveling to learn more about my condition, I ended up stuck in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) for nine hours. At the time, I was just nine years old. During that delay, I walked around CVG and took it all in; it was amazing. While I had flown my entire life, starting at 18 months, I somehow managed to avoid being bitten by the “AvGeek” bug. This trip was different, however. After years of flying, a nine-hour delay and the chance to observe airport operations over an extended period did me in; I was hooked on aviation.

“Thanks, United” – it’s not a phrase you hear very often these days, but I want to give some credit where credit is due. Just a few weeks ago, after finding a great fare, my wife and I decided to take a long weekend trip to Cancun at the end of February. We were looking forward to sitting on the beach, soaking up some winter sun, and enjoying drinks at one of Cancun’s many all-inclusive resorts. Well, a lot has happened since then.

First, the Zika virus became big news. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few weeks, Zika has been spreading like wildfire throughout South America and has recently been making inroads into Mexico and the Caribbean. On the surface, Zika doesn’t sound so bad – it typically has mild flu-like symptoms and tends to clear up pretty quickly. However, doctors have recently noticed a scary trend, wherein babies born to women who contracted Zika during pregnancy exhibit alarmingly high rates of birth defects. This led the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to issue an unprecedented travel warning, recommending that pregnant women avoid travel to all affected areas. Concerning, but still not worth canceling a trip over, given that neither of us were pregnant.

Getting ready to fly -- passport ready - Photo: Caribb | FlickrCC

One conversation between a passenger and a colleague of mine went, “How long does it take to fly to Los Angeles?”

“About 12 hours.”

“OK, and how long does it take in economy?”

“About 12 hours; it’s the same airplane.”

“I’ll need to think it over, I’ll call back another time.”

“Yes, sir, economy and business travel take place in the same dimension.”

A couple years ago, I worked at the reservations call center of a major airline. Though every aviation-related profession comes with its share of strange, funny, and horrifying stories, I believe that call center agents get very close to knowing how passengers are thinking and feeling (good and bad). Maybe due to the the personal disconnect of talking on the phone, people often said things they might not be willing to say “in real life.” I wanted to share some of the more memorable (i.e. funny/horrid) stories that happened in my call center. Since these stories are true, the carrier that I worked at will remain anonymous.