Salvation in a JFK departure lounge - Monocolumn | Monocle


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14 November 2012

I have a confession to make: until last Thursday I was scared of flying. It’s not something you like to admit somewhere like Monocle. We talk aviation a lot. We fly a lot. Indeed, I’ve been lucky enough in the past six months to produce shows from different locations and report on events all over the world. Truly amazing experiences. But there has always been one part that I’ve secretly gotten nervous about.

The getting there. The checking in. The take-off. The turbulence.

As a child and young adult I genuinely found flying exciting. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I loved looking out over the clouds to the crystal-blue sky, piercing sunsets and glimmering cityscapes below.

But for some inexplicable reason, halfway between Berlin and Athens in 2008, I started to panic. The common-sense part of my brain neglected to tell me that two people far more qualified than me were in control. Flying became just a means to an end. Until last Thursday, that is.

Well, it started on Wednesday afternoon. I was due to fly back from New York but a snowstorm hit. There was a dated and almost comic element to our JFK terminal two surroundings: the stained carpets and worn-out seating our new home as we gazed out on a snow-swept runway, men pushing piles of white powder from wings as more landed on the tails. It didn’t feel like we would be going anywhere for a while.

Then the farce began. An American airline that will remain nameless assured us that our flight was still happening. They then proceeded to move us between five different departure gates. As the hours passed our dated surroundings started to grate a little. I felt like I was in a bad 1980s film. By means of compensation I was handed a tray of damp salad, stale bread and fake, tasteless butter.

At 02.30 we found ourselves back at the same gate where we had started. But there was hope, then a ripple of applause as our cabin crew arrived. Finally we were on a plane! At 05.00 we were woken by an announcement from the pilot. But no, we weren’t in the air: we were still at JFK and the flight had been cancelled.

I’ve caught trains in Britain; I know what it’s like to be delayed. But I’ve never heard a story of air travel quite so ridiculous as the one I became embroiled in that night. Thankfully I was able to get another flight a few hours later on that Thursday morning. JFK terminal four: a dream. And never have I been more excited to take off. It felt beautiful to be in the air peering down over a snow-covered New York as the morning sun shone down on the scene below. Suddenly I was in love with flying again.


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