Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flight to San Jose

My first flight on Saturday was to San Jose. I booked through United but ended up on Sansa air, an airline I had never heard of. When I went to check in, there was no one working the counter and I had to wait for over an hour for someone to show up. Once they did, they checked my luggage and then had me stand on the scale with my carry-ons... This made me slightly suspicious. I asked the woman what kind of plane I was taking and she only responded, "small."

She handed me a laminated card, which turned out to be my ticket. I asked her how many people were on my flight and she told me there would be 8 of us. From there, she walked with me to security and showed them my laminated ticket and they let me through. I waited at my gate and watched large, commercial sized planes load and unload passengers by the 100s. Five minutes before my flight was to depart my gate was empty, except for a handful of travelers. There was no ticket agent or sign of life. I kept gazing out the window to see when our plane would arrive but I saw nothing.

Finally, five minutes after our scheduled takeoff, a woman appeared and called us for our flight, collected our laminated passes and walked us outside. There, on the runway, was the second smallest plane I ever saw. The only one I had been in that was smaller was the one that Nicholas and I jumped out of back in 2009. That one had one seat and room for 4 of us to sit, crossed legged on the floor. This did not inspire confidence in me.
Our plan looked more or less like this, with a few less windows
I was the first to get on the plane and had the pick of seats. I chose the seat closest to the door. My heart started to race and I was feeling a bit uneasy. As the plane quickly loaded with the 7 passengers, 2 "crew" and 2 pilots, the doors were shut and the pilot gave us instructions. "Keep your seatbelts fastened. No smoking. The flight is 35 minutes to San Jose." My carry-ons did not fit below my seat, but no one noticed.

The engine was turned on and the plane started moving down the runway. I was unsure if we would gain enough momentum to get off the ground, but somehow we did. I am not sure the pilot believed we would get liftoff either, since his reaction was a bit too excited when the plane was airborne.

Once we started our ascent, the plane was dropping and violently tilting to the right. It was like a rollercoaster, without all the safety features. I said a quick prayer and decided in place of being scared, I was going to enjoy the adventure. I put a smile on my face and each time the plane had a sudden drop, I laughed. I heard the crew member trying to reassure his friend that it was going to be fine. The other passengers who were eagerly taking photos before the plane took off were all silently watching the pilot and gripping their seats.

Once we got high enough, the flight was more or less smooth. There were still far too many drops than any of us would have liked and when we came in for our descent in San Jose, it was almost more frightening than our ascent. One of the passengers, an American woman, looked back at me with giant, terrified eyes and I flashed my biggest smile. She smiled back and I hoped that my fake confidence in the situation calmed her a bit.

The landing was terrifying and I thought for sure that the plane was just going to collapse, but instead, it rolled...er... bounced to a stop. When I was sure we were safe, I started clapping and the most of the passengers joined in, including the crew member next to me. The pilot held up his right arm in a victorious fist pump and I had a feeling, he was also just as relieved to be on the ground. The crew member told me that was the worst flight he had ever been on. That because of the wind and storm coming in, we had faced intense turbulence.

The woman whom I had shared a glance with on the flight came up to me when we were grabbing our bags and before she could say anything, I told her how that flight was more like a rollercoaster than a quick jaunt. She agreed and said how glad she was to be on solid ground. She grabbed a cab and was heading into the city. I, on the other hand, had to race to try and make my next flight...

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