Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

One of my favorite movies of all time is Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with John Candy and Steve Martin. If you do much traveling, this movie is hilarious.

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Well, I’ve been living my own version of the movie for the past twenty-four hours. The nightmare began at LaGuardia. I had been in New York for a Board meeting and was on my way home.

I got to the airport about four hours early. So I went to the Admirals Club to power through some e-mail. The trouble started when I checked in. My flight was delayed an hour, and the agent told me he thought there was a good chance it would be cancelled because of incoming weather. He recommended I take an earlier flight to Dallas and then connect from there to Nashville. The only problem was that the only seat left on the flight was a window on the very last row.

No problem, I thought. I have a critically important meeting in Nashville tomorrow. I can’t risk missing my flight. So, I left the Admirals Club and headed for the gate. The flight was boarding when I got there. I got settled in and a few minutes later we pushed away from the gate.

No sooner had we left when the pilot said that air traffic control had stopped all departures and arrivals. Thunderstorms in the area were the culprit. We sat on the tarmac for three hours. Fortunately, I had my Verizon Broadband Access Card, so I cracked open my computer, logged onto the Internet, and got to work. Unfortunately, the plane was an older-vintage 737, with no electrical access. My battery died after about two hours.

Finally, they gave us clearance and we took off. The plane ride to Dallas was also three hours along. With no battery power left, I read through several magazines. We finally landed, but too late to make my connection. I was stuck. Thankfully, my very-capable assistant Vicki had booked me a room at the Grand Hyatt at the airport, knowing that I would likely miss my plane.

I checked into my room and called American Airlines. Vicki, my assistant, had already booked me a flight out the next morning (today) at 6:55 a.m. Perfect! I thought. I will be a little late to my meeting in Nashville, but this will work. The agent confirmed my flight and even gave me a seat assignment. I thought I was all set.

This morning I got an early start. However, when I attempted to get a Boarding pass, the system wouldn’t recognize me. I walked up to the ticket counter and asked for help. The agent worked on it for about fifteen minutes. He said my reservation wasn’t in the system. He also informed me that they had just installed a new system today. Lucky me.

He finally called his supervisor over. She worked on it for another fifteen minutes. By this time, I had pretty much missed my flight. I rushed to the gate anyway, but, alas, I was too late. And, just to top it off, the American agent at the gate offered no sympathy whatsoever. So, what are you going to do?

I ate breakfast at Chile’s and headed to the Admirals Club where I am writing this post of my woes. I feel much better now. thank you very much. (Writing can be so cathartic!)

The truth is, for all this hassle, I really don’t have a lot to complain about. I slept in a clean bed in a cool room. I’m wearing clean clothes. (Thankfully, I had brought an extra set.) My stomach is full, and I’m getting a lot done. When you consider what is happening today in Iraq or Darfur—where people are suffering unspeakable horrors—I am living the good life. For that I am very, very thankful.

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  • Jason

    Nice to hear a reminder to be thankful in all situations. Do you still carry your “Gratitude Rock” (2/15/07 post)?

  • Dave Anthold


    Totally understand your weary travel calendar. About a month or so ago I was traveling to Boston and then Norfolk and then back to LA. Let’s just say that the first leg to Boston was the only good leg. To summarize, 8 hours in Boston, re-routed to Wash D.C. – 5 more hours – finally Norfolk.

    Leaving Norfolk, St. Louis leg delayed rerouted to Dallas – missed connector – was pleasant with gate agents – standby to LA first class. Sometimes there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

    Moral: Always be nice to the gate agents, you never know how that may affect your seat assignment.

  • Michael Hyatt


    I am sorry to report that I have lost my gratitude rock. (Fortunately, I still have my gratitude.) I need to find another!



  • Alfred Thompson

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me a couple of times. It is very frustrating but I have found that getting upset or angry is no help at all. Generally the people who work for the airlines are trying hard to work around things that are out of their control. Sometimes they are more helpful than others but seldom does getting angry at them do any good. I have learned to live with these things as frustrating as they are and to be as nice to the airline staff as I can me. Generally even if they can’t do more I feel better about being calm, understanding, forgiving and even grateful for what they can do. It’s my attitude that matters in the long run. After all I have to live with me long after the airline people do.

  • Rachel Hauck


    I can relate. I had a harrowing trip home from New Hampshire in May. My first after college job required 70%, so I’ve traveled a lot in my life, and never had any experience close to that trip in May.

    I was stuck over night in Atlanta without my luggage. But, God is good and even on days like those, grace abounds.

    Glad you made it home safe and sound.


  • Michael Hyatt


    I totally agree with you about attitude. The airlines were overwhelmed on Monday. People’s patience was growing thin and they were taking it out on the airline personnel. I tried to go out of my way to be kind and grateful. They deserve it!


  • Lindsay Terry


    Thanks for sharing this experience, especially the closing part.

    I am reminded of an experience a number of years ago in Ottumwa, Iowa. I spoke there on Friday evening and was to fly back to Chicago at noon on Saturday. When I got to the small airport I found that my plane schedule had been moved up half an hour. As I ran into the airport the plane was pulling away from the gate. I tried in vain to get the agent to stop the plane and let me get on. I really needed to get back to Chicago. The agent contacted the pilot, who agreed to pull back to the gate and get me, but the agent then told him that he would probably miss a connection, so the plane left without me.

    The agent then said, “The Golden Zephyr is coming through from California to Chicago in about an hour.” I hurried down to the train station an got aboard. What a ride!! From the rear observation car I saw the small towns, the farmland and the plains of the midwest go by at what they said was 120 mph. What a sight!! What a thrill!!

    I arrived in Chicago in about 4 hours. It was a wonderful experience that I would not have had if they had let me have my way.

    Thanks, again, for your story.

    Lindsay Terry

  • JR Montes

    Michael – where do you get your stock images? Do you have a corporate library or do you use a service like Corbis?

  • Barbara Gavin

    I love the way your tags rhyme:
    Attitude and Gratitude.
    I imagine these are related in ways beyond their assonance.

  • Angela Breidenbach

    Hi Michael,

    Isn’t it wonderful how our computers, cell phones, gadgets make it possible to work almost anywhere? I love being productive. (As long as you can find an electrical socket, lol.) Because I travel quite often, you might find me perched in an airport window sill, a restaurant, or in the middle of a crowded line plugged into the nearest spot to write. I couldn’t sit idle if my life depended on it. My laptop goes everywhere. Then if the battery goes dead, I’ve got plenty of other projects with me because I plan ahead. Sometimes, though, I think the Lord wants us to learn that we’re not in control, but He is. During those experiences, I put it all away and pray. After all, He’s gone to a lot of trouble to get my attention:-)


  • Marnie Swedberg

    Hey Michael! Great post. The attitude "tip" is huge! If you or any of your guest "mega travelers" have other specific survival tips for others leaders who are newer at the travel-full-time life, I have some radio interview booking spots open for late summer and fall. I'd love to hear from some more Christian leaders who can save us all some serious travel stress.