By Jim A. Luff
It is late at night at the airport. The plane arrives. You stand diligently, holding your sign looking for anyone who looks like they are looking for a stranger with a sign. You watch all the people get off the plane and stream by with none of them catching your eye. No one else is coming! Did you miss them? Are you in the wrong place? Were you standing at the exit and they planned to meet you in baggage claim or is it the other way around? What could have happened?
You know these thoughts. The kind of thoughts that give you the feeling of being kicked in the gut or having really greasy chorizo and eggs. It is not good.
Whether you’re at a private FBO, a commercial airport or even the AmTrak station, missing a passenger sets off major panic and alarms. You first want to believe that somehow, some way, the passenger slipped by you and never noticed you. So, you run to baggage claim to look for your passenger and you display your sign bearing their name with as much enthusiasm as a cheerleader waving her pom poms at a Friday night football game.
Sadly, you find the carousel spinning with no bags left on it and the other passengers from the flight are now gone. So you do a mad dash for the curb to see if they might be at the curb looking for you. Still, no passenger. You head to the airline counter, knowing since 9/11 they aren’t going to tell you anything anyway but you still have hope. In some rare cases they might tell you a vague hint such as, we had a passenger ejected for intoxication on this flight or they had a passenger that missed connecting to this flight. Time to notify the office that you have failed in your mission and request assistance.
Now the office has their turn at the sour stomach. Did we screw up? Was it supposed to be an 11:00am pickup instead of an 11:00pm pickup? Surely they would have called during the day if we were not there. Did we get the date wrong? Do we have a cell phone number for the client? Is there a later flight coming from the same city?
The office then goes through their own motions of “running around” by calling the person that booked the order to see if they know where the passenger is. They try calling the airline to get information. They call the destination hotel to see if the passenger has checked in. There seems to be so much to do just to find one missing passenger.
In the case of a private plane that fails to arrive, it is even worse late at night as there is frequently no FBO line crew around and no one at all to communicate with about the arrival of the plane. At some point though you must call it a “no-show” and drive back the yard empty. You will usually spend the entire night wondering, where was my passenger.
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