Now that the chaos of Thanksgiving travel has calmed down, we have time to reflect on the holiday flights that almost weren’t. Namely, mine––this year.

I live in New York but my family is in Los Angeles, and for the past few years, when I fly home for Thanksgiving, I fly Thanksgiving morning. I tell people this and they can’t believe it––why would I fly on the “busiest day of the year”? First of all, it’s not. Second, it’s actually Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving that is super busy. Thanksgiving itself is incredibly calm. Think about it: most everyone has already gotten to wherever they’re going already; I’m the last of the stragglers.

This year, it was cheaper to fly American Airlines JFK to Vegas to LAX. So that is the ticket I booked. I hate a layover; I avoid them at all costs, but it was only supposed to be 20 minutes, and the gates were right next to each other.

Flash forward to Thanksgiving morning, I’m at the gate at JFK––my flight boards at 6:25, departs at 6:55. But it’s 6:50, and they haven’t even called first class and platinum and military and moms with small children yet. We’re all just waiting there. They are telling us that it’s taking a while to warm up the plane, that it may be another half hour, that the plane is simply too cold for humans. But I don’t have that time, because my Vegas layover is only 20 minutes long. I probably would have missed my flight even if we boarded right then at 6:50. But I was being optimistic.

I rush up to the counter, to the women with whom I’d spoken when I first got to the gate (I had a cold and wondered whether she might be able to switch me from a middle seat to an aisle or window; she obliged). I explained that my layover in Vegas was very very short and there’s no way I’d make my connecting flight to LA if we didn’t take off right now. She wondered who booked my tickets in the first place; a 20-minute layover is illegal, she says. (Thanks, Mom.) Well, she said, you’re right, there’s no way you’re going to make your connection.  

“Would you like to just fly straight to LA?” she asked.

Of course I did. The flight was boarding right then, just a few gates away.

Thanks, American AIrlines, for saving my holiday.