Mike Butler – Architectural Photographer

Travel Stories Empty Planes

I learned something years ago while on my way to Portugal to catch a ship while on a connecting flight in Germany. Always find your gate and sit there, don’t go roaming around…cuz things change and we being humans lose track of time! So I put that bit of travel savvy information to use while in Atlanta en route to Rochester. We were scheduled for a shoot in a small town the next day. This was not an ordinary architectural shoot there were $15k worth of models showing up for a tight shoot schedule so we HAD to be there ON TIME!

So there we were sitting in the boarding area just feet from the airline’s desk and entry to the airplane. The flight was to board at 10 am and it was 9:45 so no issues there. Well 9:45 turned to 9:50 which then as things go crept up to 10 am. After seeing this and not hearing any call to board the plane I walked up to the desk and asked what was going on. I was told in no uncertain terms the plane had left and our seats had gone to other passengers! There are two options here, get angry and all crazy or realize a solution MUST be found and move on to find that solution. We ran off to the flight changes desk, although it became clear after a few minutes with customer service there were no more available flights that day to Rochester. My mind was racing, could we drive from Atlanta? Quick calculations ruled that out, at 11 am a 20-hour drive would not work. With desperation lingering in the air like a thick haze, my equipment somewhere above 30,000 feet and moving away fast, my mind beginning to crumble. Luckily outside the maelstrom of my own mind, the assistant came up with a genius yet so simple idea. Let’s fly to another airport, any airport even JFK or LGA. Brilliant I said and ran off to call customer service again.

Indeed there was another flight to Buffalo! The bags were well on their way to Rochester to some unknown fate and I don’t recall if I had my cameras with me at this time or they were on the plane but regardless no lights no shoot. So it was all the equipment or none of the equipment. With our new flight changes in hand, we were off to Buffalo. After an hours drive, I will never forget the moment we walked into the Rochester terminal, not clear as to the status of the equipment yet there it was 5 hours after our original flight landed, sitting all by itself in an empty baggage arrival room. Anyone at any point could have walked in there and walked out with all that gear!

To top this off when we arrived at this upscale hotel to check in they told us with some nervousness we were not booked there. I then said oh it must be at the VIP section of the hotel, I had been here several times so I knew the hotel well. They again with shame in their eye said no. They gave me directions and we reloaded the equipment back into the can and drove off. A few minutes later down a very dark road, we came to what amounted to Hotel 0. The “hotel” for the, let’s say the least able to afford the finer things in life. We had a single disgusting room with no wifi. The absolutely crazy thing about this was they had brought all these models in paid me 8k for the shoot and put me in a $25 a night hotel. Kinda crazy like that whole day!

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