Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Concourse: Part 2 - Unaccompanied Minor



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I spent many hours of my youth classified as an "unaccompanied minor." My father lived, and still lives, in New Mexico. Including connecting flights, I was racking up eight takeoffs and eight landings a year. Those are solid numbers when you’re eight years old.




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If you’re older than five in the U.S., you’re legally allowed to fly by yourself, although many airlines have adopted stricter rules. If you’re older than seven, you can fly by yourself and make connections with the help of the flight staff. Once you’re 15 (it used to be 13), you can make connections by yourself.


My trips started when I was around five and continued through high school. My summer vacations and winter breaks often began at CVG. For me, airports and planes were transformative. It signaled so many changes.

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After four or five months of getting picked on at school and failing to meet the expectations of my teachers, I got a clean slate. I could wake up, ride my bike to the New Mexico State University Library and learn about whatever I wanted to. I think that’s where I first read Howl by Allen Ginsberg and wear taught myself all the terms used in fencing. A nerdy kid who refused to do homework in elementary school? Guilty.


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However, leaving my mom and stepdad was usually not fun. This was the late 1980s and early 1990s, pre-internet, pre-cell phones and most importantly, this was before cheap long distance. I’d get to talk to my mom once every couple weeks. My stepdad would try to cheer me up and distract me while we were waiting for my flights. I thought the moveable jetways that connect the gates to the planes were called “gaushoozes” until I was late into my teens. He’s the type of person who’s so smart, you just trust everything he says.


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I also missed out on a lot. I never had summer sleepovers with friends from school. I was 17 before I saw my first lightning bug. I just wasn’t here. Now travel is hard. Unlike back when I was a kid, my parents expect me to pay for my plane tickets. Obviously, work schedules are hard to manage as well.


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When I visited the Comair terminal, I felt a lot of similar feelings. It’s an exciting experience see the hulking shell of the terminal. Then I remember all the moments I had in airplane terminals. No more kids running out of the jetway into the arms of their parents. No more newlyweds hold hands as they start their honeymoon. And much like the reason I don’t travel as much as I’d like, it all comes down to money.


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I was lucky just to have seen it in its glory days. I can still feel the real metal Delta wings pin that I got on my first flight. My Looney Tunes t-shirt wasn’t quite the same perch as the lapel of a leather pilot jacket, but I still felt cool. I lost the later plastic ones after a few weeks, but I held onto those first ones for years.

Photographs made with a Bronica SQ-A and Rollei 35.


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Part 1: Island in a Stream of Runways
Part 3: The Film

22 comments:

  1. As a former pilot for Comair. Thank you for this story. Brings back lots of great memories of flying with great people

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  2. i was a rampie from 2004-2006. Best time of my life. Nothing better than sitting on a tug watching the planes come in while the sun was coming up. Beautiful story. Too bad for the not happy ending.

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  3. Brings back alot of good memories. We were like a family, had our own issues but still supported each other. Thanks delta.

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  4. Thanks for posting. Very cool photos. I like you see a lot of memories when I look at these pictures. It's interesting to look at what it's like now but so many memories looking back: I pushed wheelchairs in CVG from 93-96. We used to have the run of concourse C during the evenings...so many great times and memories.
    Thanks for posting,
    now and 18 year Delta employee in a far off place....

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    1. I pushed wheelchairs in comair also probably from 95 to 00. What a great time, great friends also. Good ol Huntleigh

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  5. I'm so glad I saw this. I worked on the ramp for Comair in concourse C for 10 years and there really was something special about it; even when you were working in 5 degree weather, soaking wet, and buried under a mountain of ridiculously heavy luggage. (really people, what are you packing in there?) I look at these pictures and just see the ghosts of my myself, my coworkers, my friends, and the thousands of passengers I came across walking the halls.

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  6. Julie Watkins #13833March 26, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Once again what a great story for sharing. Thank you. I will always cherish every day I worked there within my 12 years. I always looked forward bring yo going to work and now a days I don't look forward getting up going to work.

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  7. And we can partly thank the pilots and their b.s. attempted strike for forcing delta ' s hand in dismembering what was once a very successful airline...

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  8. Thanks for this...I can't wait for the video! I have been an employee of CVG (5 separate companies) since my first job at the age of 16. At that time the entire airport was bustling. Even long lost Terminal 1 was operating US Air and other flights day in and day out.

    I worked for Delta from 1997-2006 and Comair from 2008-2010 when I was laid off with the other customer service personnel. In fact, we were no longer considered Comair employees at that point; we had been converted to Regional Elite Airline Service employees about a year earlier with no choice in the matter.

    I still have my flight benefits, thankfully, but every time I fly through CVG it makes me sad and I always wonder what the areas that have been abandoned have turned out to be. Now I know.

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  9. Unaccompanied minors....I carried I don't know how many thousands of them, but one flight stands out. Delta used to be "The Official Airline of U.S. Space Camp," and during the summers we would run 5-6 flights a day to Huntsville, Alabam, where USSC is located. Once, when I was an FO, we came out of HSV carrying 1 business passenger and 39--count 'em, 39--unaccompanied teenagers. The flight attendant figured that if the parents were okay letting the kids travel and make decisions on their own, she wasn't going to stop them. Want a Coke? Have 3! Biscoff cookies? Here's a sleeve of 'em! She gave away every drink and piece of food on the plane on that short flight. Those kids were wired like you wouldn't believe when they got to CVG, and probably had the beginnings of Type II diabetes as well. The flight itself was a lot of fun, and the kids enjoyed seeing the cockpit after we landed.

    Speaking of minors, another story comes to mind. Comair used to do a certain number of charitable seat donations, especially to the Cincinnati Burn Center. I brought a young girl and her mother out of Columbia, SC one day. The girl was covered in bandages from burns suffered in a car accident (the FA spent some time with them enroute). The girl, who was 10, was downcast, as she had been going back and forth for months, and just wanted to be pain-free and done with the treatments, the bandages, and the travel. Her mother--in her early 30's--looked older than she should have, and was trying hard to be strong. The impression they made on the captain and I was such that we hardly spoke on the flight back.

    That night, we were working our last leg, which happened to be for the overnight in Columbia. When we were walking through Concourse C to our flight, we saw them again, and this time was different. The girl was running around, jumping, playing, and happy. Her bandages were all gone, her scars were visible, but her sense of self was back. Her mother was smiling and wiping the occasional tear. When we got back to Columbia, we stopped what we were doing and watched her run across the ramp to the terminal. In the window, you could see her father, somber at first, and then lit up with joy at the sight of his little girl. She ran up the escalator and jumped in his arms. I still get goose bumps from that trip.

    Yes, Comair is gone, but for some people, we did make a difference. For some it was small. For others, it was life-changing. I'm proud to have played even a small part.

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    1. Chip, thanks for sharing your experiences and stories the past couple of days. I only flew out of "C" once and don't remember much about it, so it's been really nice hearing a first hand account of what it was like to be there.

      If you're ever interested in sharing any photos or stories on our site from your time there in a new article, feel free to drop me a line: queencitydisco@gmail.com

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  10. what a sad story and what a waste of money.

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  11. what is up with all the old luggage? does it have stuff in it? was it lost or abandoned? why is it lined up like it is?
    thank you

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    1. Believe the terminal is being used for training dogs to sniff out weapons and drugs

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  12. Cut Delta out of their leasing agreement early and use it to lure in jetBlue or give it Allegiant since they're operating out of CVG now.

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    1. I doubt this would happen. CVG collects money even though Delta doesn't use it. The airport has also downsized quite a bit. Allegiant seems to be fitting in nicely over at the main terminal (formerly terminal 3). Even so, if they needed more space - they could always use Terminals 1 or 2 before they'd have to consider bussing people back out to Concourse C.

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  13. Great story. As a CMH Delta traveler, it's been sad to see CVG dwindle down to what it is today. CVG was always a nice alternative to ATL, and I'd much rather change there than DTW at this point.

    I was at CVG in Concourse C the day they changed the wallpaper on one of those Recharge stations. When I sat down to wait for my flight, it had a red wallpaper which read "Delta Connection". By the time my flight boarded, a big adhesive Fathead-style decal had been placed which said RECHARGE.

    The Comair "30 Years Because of YOU" banners are sad in an ironic way...

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    1. I think those banners are actually referencing CVG, not Comair. I could be wrong though?

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  14. Josh is right. The banners were for Comair, not the airport.

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  15. Boy! Talk about your blast from the past! I worked for Comair from October 1998 until October 2000. What a place to work! I'm such an aviation geek anyway, but I used to wake up and think, "I can't believe that someone is paying me to work at the airport!" I have so many memories & I must mention a few of them.

    I started out at the ticket counter in Terminal 3, so my first work in Concourse C was in future ticketing. Irregular ops were a pain, but I always figured that they were a worse pain for our passengers, so I did the best that I could. One thing that I sold that no one ever mentions was the Weekend Traveler coupon booklets. Four coupons, which we filled out to make printed tickets, for $299. That's $74.75 per flight, booked in K class. What a deal!

    In the Spring of 1999, I became a Gate Agent in Concourse C to stay. My experience in ticketing sure helped me at the gates, especially during irregular ops when we had to reroute & rebook pax. You name it, we dealt with it; unaccompanied minors, pink tags, non-revs, jumpseaters, the FAA, sending 51 down on a plane that seats 50 then having to go aboard to ask for a volunteer to come off & fly later, weight & balance restrictions, standbys, groups where half of them were booked in one PNR & the other half booked individually, snowstorms, thunderstorms, windstorms, mens' and womens' college and professional teams in all kinds of sports, pax from Europe who spoke little English, but with my fractured French, Spanish & German I usually managed to get through. I even had to break out my American Sign Language a couple of times! And, there were celebrities; actress Diahann Carroll, Wally "Famous" Amos, and Gospel singers John Starnes and Kirk Talley, to name a few. They were all wonderful. BUT, my co-workers, leads & managers were THE BEST ! ! ! My passengers were, too . . . for the most part!

    It was possible to hear boarding announcements from other gates inside Concourse C. Since I had been a radio announcer (more recently, TV, too!), I was not above having a wee bit of fun with boarding announcements. One evening, I made a boarding announcement at my assigned gate in the Green area. When I finished, a group of travelers seated some fifty feet away stood and cheered! A standing ovation & they weren't even on my flight!

    I always treated the rampies well, but I never wanted to do their job. Burning up all summer, freezing all winter, and getting wet about a third of the time was just not for me. One time I was talking with a rampie who said, "I could never do what you do. Those bags don't ever swear at you!" I answered, "That's true. But, those bags don't ever flirt with you, either!"

    By late 2000, my back had broken down on me and, with the pilots' strike looming, I read the writing on the wall & headed elsewhere. But, not a day goes by that I don't fondly remember my days at Comair in Concourse C. And, I look at the success of Ultimate Air Shuttle, which recently expanded from Lunken to CVG, and I think that, just maybe, there is a fresh wind blowing across the aviation horizon into Cincinnati. I hope so, and I'd LOVE to be a part of it!

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