Over the New Year holiday, I went back home to spend time with family. I wouldn’t want to start the year without them. At the end of vacation, reality always sets in though. It’s back to the daily grind. So, bags were packed January 7, hugs and kisses were given, and I made my way to the airport.
Since moving, to Shanghai, I figured I would be raking in the miles, so why not have airline memberships. This holiday my flight was in the care of American Airlines. The flight to Tampa was great. Granted, I slept most of the way and I’m pretty sure my seat neighbor stole my pretzels. That’s beside the point. It was on the way back, where the flight took an unexpected turn.
Departure for Shanghai was excellent and we were at cruising altitude in no time. I always relish an easy take off because I suffer from motion sickness. Once at cruising altitude, the flight should have been smooth sailing until landing; but there was a slight hiccup. Bad weather.
Supposedly, the weather Shanghai wasn’t looking too great. The pilot wanted to land and gas up in preparation for the possibility of having to circle the airport before being able to land. Ok. Cool. It’s not like the plane can pull over. Would rather there be a full tank over the possibility of falling out the sky.
Lo and behold, we stopped for a fill at Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea. And what should have been an easy gassing up somehow turned into our staff has now worked beyond the hours permitted by federal law and we need to stay in Seoul now.
Ok… cool. Now if anyone was exacerbated with the situation it was not evident. An uproar was not raised. No one was throwing pillows. I can confidently say, my fellow passengers took the incident in stride. (Because well who else was going to fly us to our destination?) Of course, there was irritation for ruined plans. In the back of my mind I’m like, “Can’t we fly in Beijing? Or try Shanghai now because it is only about two hours away.” I mean what’s two more hours after being in the plane for nearly thirteen? But, I was also screaming on the inside because I’ve always wanted to go to Seoul, and now I was here.
Downside. Legally we could not enter the country. So, we were stuck on the tarmac for about five hours as the airline made arrangements with customs and hotels. The sun was now down and I wasn’t exploring a foreign city at night alone. It wasn’t even a safety thing. I just knew I would probably—definitely—get lost.
As they ushered us off, I slowly mused my way through the airport. If this was all I was going to get of Seoul, I was going to take in every second. So I absorbed everything from the fast food places in house to the structural design. Even the signs and intercom messages in four languages (Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese). Passing natives, I got goosebumps when I understood little phrases here and there. (Those years of watching KDrama finally paying off!) Until, finally, meeting the exit and fresh crisp air. (And I really indulged in the air, because Shanghai air is definitely not of the best quality.)
On the bus, my eyes tried to view everything of the city nightlife. I pouted every time I saw a restaurant. Shocked at seeing a Costco and 7/11. Taking in the lights and bridges crossed. The Holiday Inn of Incheon, graciously took us in. The room was lovely (really could have stayed another night), and we were given free breakfast and dinner. I commend their staff because they conducted themselves excellently, considering the number of guests they had to check in late at one time. They were especially hospitable the entire time.
I applaud the staff of American Airlines for their smooth follow through. While, the situation seemed uncertain and borderline chaotic, once the overnight stay was determined, their care and professionalism afterwards I do compliment. They put the passengers up in a decent hotel, and made sure we knew where to go, relaying information up until our departure the following morning.
All in all, it was a pleasant detour. From my one-night pit stop, I am more certain now than ever, Seoul will definitely be a future stop. If not for vacation, definitely a travel year.