Had a horrendous start to the trip. First, my flight that would have taken me directly to JFK airport was cancelled. So, I rescheduled a flight that would take me to Chicago and then to La Guardia airport. It was the last plane that was headed to NYC. I didn't realize how bad the weather was going to be over there. So, I told one of our American staff about the change, and we thought I could get a taxi or someone can pick me up, etc. after I landed in that airport. So, it was mildly annoying, but seemed doable. I was a little late in arriving to La Guardia. And, as soon as I got my luggage, was told that I couldn't go on the trip and they were already getting on the plane. They proceeded to tell me I'd have first priority for the next trip.
I panicked for a minute, and then broke down in tears. But, I called my mother about the whole thing. I was not going to give up on such an important trip to me. She talked to a guy I was in contact with through Birthright named Jesse. And, Jesse talked to the organization. There was a lot of going back and forth. Finally, Jesse told me Birthright's willing to work something out, I would just have to call Delta to figure out the planes. I called, and they said I couldn't re-book over the phone. Then, I tried searching for the Delta ticket counter. Meanwhile, it's getting really late, and no one's around. I finally noticed it wasn't even in that terminal. So, I caught the last bus, and found the right terminal. (They were about to cancel bus service, because of the weather. It was that bad.)
I went to the ticket counter, and no one was there. Just a couple of janitors, 1 security guard, 1 guy working a cafe, and 2 or 3 people sleeping next to the counter. I was told that they probably wouldn't open it until 6:15AM. So, I stayed the night. (Didn't get much sleep.)
The counter was actually open at 4AM. So, that was a plus for me. I booked the flight, but she said it would leave from JFK. La Guardia's apparently not an international airport. There's only one flight a day that leaves for Israel through Delta. And, that's at 9PM. So, I thought, ok I have to find my way over somehow and I can leisurely wait for it.
They had stopped all taxi service to the terminal, and most of the shuttles. I luckily found a shuttle about an hour after waiting for one. Went to the main terminal, and then grabbed something for breakfast. Luckily, taxi service wasn't shut down at the main terminal, and I hailed one. It apparently was the only way out of there.
When I got to the ticket counter at JFK, they told me I couldn't get my luggage checked and/or get my ticket earlier than 6 hours before my flight. So, I waited. It was a little boring, but at least I was there.
The plane to Israel was actually very nice. Had a huge flat screen TV, big chairs (well, big in comparison with other flights), more leg space, blankets and pillows, complimentary meals, only half the seats were filled up, and larger overhead bins. I guess it has to be nice, since it's about an 11 or 12 hour flight. The food wasn't too bad. I had their kosher meals. There was a nice lady in front of me, who said if I had any questions about Israel, I should ask her. Her friend only knew Hebrew, so whatever I said she would translate to her friend. It was interesting.
Once I landed, I was supposed to find a place called Smiily for my taxi driver that will take me to the hotel where the group was staying. I couldn't find it, so I did what most people would do. Ask the info center. They apparently called them for me, and said my driver will pick me up shortly from the info center. So, I waited for 45 minutes. Finally, I made them call again, and told them the group number again. They said someone will be down soon. 2 people come down, ask who I am, check me off their list, and brought me to my driver about a half hour later. Who was sitting on the other side of the airport, holding up his sign the entire time. I felt so bad, but he understood after I told him. Said it wasn't a big deal.
He tried to improve his English while we were heading over to the hotel. Had a very nice and interesting conversation. He gave me half an orange, because he felt sorry for me. (Which was really tasty!) Then, his wife called, and he put her on speakerphone. She sounded so angry. He later told me, that he was going to be late for Shabbat at home. I felt even worse, because with the time change and everything, I didn't realize it was Shabbat in only a couple of hours.