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Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Delayed Flights… MANY Delayed Flights.

July 16, 2019 / in Guest Posts / by

This week I wanted to try something new. I helped my good friend Ken Bramble write one of his very first blog posts. We’ve talked about the process over the years because we’re in a peer advisory group together and go all the way back to Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers at KSU.

I enjoyed the story he wrote and asked if he would be willing to let me share it with you. So here it is… lessons Ken learned from a bunch of delayed flights. :)

Ken’s Story

Ken Bramble

Guest post by Ken Bramble, Employee Benefits Practice Leader at Truss

On a recent family vacation with my wife and two high school aged sons, we had the misfortune of starting our trip in the airport with summer storm rain delays. 

Little did we know when our first flight got delayed by 20 minutes that our originally planned six hour travel plan would turn into a 29-hour trip which had us traveling through five airports, catching trains between gates, taking an Uber from one New York City airport to another, and arriving 10 minutes late to check in for an international (Canada) flight. 

We “spent the night” in Logan International Airport in Boston after arriving at midnight and being scheduled for a 6:00 AM departure. For those of you over roughly 30 years of age, this should strike a memory of a John Candy and Steve Martin classic movie called “Planes, Trains and Automobiles!”

When it was time at the end of our vacation to return back to Kansas City we thought certainly the return trip will go smoother. Trouble was, it didn’t. It was a 24 journey back to KC. We spent eight hours in the first airport and after running to the connecting gate in Newark, arrived just in time to watch the pilot push back from the gate ten minutes early. 

At this point the only remedy we had was to get a flight to St Louis, arriving at midnight and waiting in line for an hour and 45 minutes to rent a car and drive through the night back to Kansas City… arriving back home at 7:30 AM.

Now, a few things are important to mention here:

  1. Many of us deal with these types of travel woes so I don’t think we are the only ones to live through this type of experience.
  2. I’m certainly NOT looking for pity as there are people all around us with serious life concerns and struggles. I’m not expecting anyone to feel sorry for us that we were inconvenienced considering we had the opportunity to take an international vacation as a family!
  3. As I look back, I have given a lot of thought to what lessons could be learned (and shared) from this experience. I’ve come up with a few that, believe it or not, tie into my professional life.

Lesson #1

Being courteous and kind to others can go a long way no matter how frustrating the situation.  At one point during the outbound trip, my wife encountered a gate agent that was quite frazzled with all of the delays.  For those of you that know my wife, you know that she is one of the most kind-hearted and patient people I know.  She remained calm, and decided to give the agent some time to deal with other passengers. 

Later she re-approached the agent and began to establish a rapport with her.  That exchange resulted in not only getting us on a flight that was overbooked but putting us in business class on a plane configured for international travel. 

My sons were quite happy with the comfort of our assigned seats.

Lesson #2

Remember that you are not the only one dealing with issues/anxiety/challenges.

This goes for airport travel as well as everyday life.  So often we think that because we are faced with challenges, that everyone else has it all figured out and we are the only ones faced with hardships.

In the example of the airport, I couldn’t help but notice that it seemed that everyone around us seemed to have it all figured out.  They seemed to be moving so efficiently, de-planing and moving to the next gate to catch their connection while we sat stranded in the airport.  Then I encountered someone that had been traveling for 36 hours! 

The same applies in life.  When we are dealing with hardship, it seems that the rest of the world has it all figured out, while we let ourselves spiral in grief or anxiety.  The reality is that we all have our own challenges.  Often, the people that look as though they “have it all figured out” are dealing with their own set of stressors and setbacks.

Lesson #3

Vacations are expensive! 

And they can get even more expensive when stranded in airports for hours on end.  Whether it’s feeding a family of four (two of which, my sons, who are focused on carb-intake and “bulking up”), catching an Uber across New York City with room for four and their luggage, OR renting a car from St Louis to KC with the same space demands, there can be a lot of expenses that weren’t planned.  Much like the stories we have all heard of building a house and going over the budget by 50-75%! 

The tip here is when you experience flight delays, keep your receipts!  My wife will be overseeing the accounting of all of the additional expenses we incurred as a result of delays and submitting those expenses to the airlines for reimbursement.  While we will chalk the inconvenience of the delays up to “family memories” to be talked about for years, we can at least seek reimbursement for all of the additional expenses.

Lastly, I have been doing a lot of research lately around the financial state of American families. I’ve been learning more about how we as benefits professionals can help our clients provide better solutions for their employees.  Solutions to help them deal with issues like college debt, establishing emergency funds, and preparing for the sometimes devastating impact of financial emergencies. 

In our case we are able to seek reimbursement for these additional unexpected travel expenses.  In many cases, American families are being faced with unexpected expenses of $500, $2,500, or more and looking to their employers for help.  This is an expectation that employers are starting to recognize.

Every day, in benefits industry newsletters, I see headlines of a heightened need for solutions around mental health awareness and financial wellness.  It is encouraging to see that the market is responding.  We will continue to keep our eyes out for new and innovative ways to support our clients and their employees with these challenges. 

I am hopeful that these tips are helpful for you and in the meantime, I’ll be planning our next family ROAD TRIP.

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