Pete Buttigieg’s airport marriage proposal — a great connection

Airport connections can really be important

airport marriage proposalFew people at first expected Pete Buttigieg to be nominated to be Secretary of Transportation. Fewer still expected his first speech as Joe Biden’s nominee would extol the romance of O’Hare Airport. And include his airport marriage proposal.

Apparently, his husband, Chasten, had first seen Pete’s profile on a dating app while waiting for a United flight at the airport. When Pete proposed, he did so at the same gate — B5 — where Chasten was sitting when he first “saw” his future husband’s picture. It was a perfect airport connection.

Gate B5 at O’Hare is not very “romantic,” even at Christmas

For those unfamiliar with O’Hare, Pete didn’t say where they were heading. Gates B1-5 often have United Express flights to/from smaller airports. Normally they’re known for being at the end of the terminal. Potentially, they’re a long way from connections or the main airport restaurants.

Although at gate B10 there is a branch of Rick Bayless’s “Tortas Frontera,” one of my favorite airport places to grab a really good potential inflight meal. (They have a bar and some sitdown space, too, but it’s temporarily closed.)

airport marraige proposal

O’Hare’s Tunnel of Doom

Plus, the distance from the main entrance to the terminal, and from C gates, can lead to considerably less romantic stories. Over a decade ago, my flight from San Francisco to Chicago had arrived on time but waited for a gate. So, it took a mad rush from a C gate. I raced through O’Hare’s rainbow tunnel of doom. And, got to my Cincinnati connection at B4 exactly 9 minutes before departure — the agent had closed the door and refused to open it.

Four other passengers showed up from the same SF flight with the same connection. The agent still refused to open it, and when the plane finally left, about 10 minutes late, he booked us all on the next flight, almost three hours later.  The end result was simply a late dinner in Ohio with the friend I was visiting, a small travel voucher from United, and an entertaining hour spent ranting about airlines with one of my fellow stranded passengers in the bar.

Airport connections historically have romantic possibilities

You are being secretly taxed at airportsOften, romance buds out of mundane airport meetings and delays. “Up in the Air” famously chronicled a romance between frequent fliers stuck overnight together. It is a scenario some version of which has probably played out more than once in real life. Although, like many women, I have joked that George Clooney is unlikely to be the man on a barstool next to you in that situation.

But in real life, one of my favorite clients met her husband at Honolulu Airport when, while waiting for a flight herself, she saw him looking frustrated and lost upon arrival, with no clue how to get between terminals. (And to be honest, at Honolulu it is a pain at best to go between the main and inter-island terminals.) She offered to walk him over, and the rest is history.

Personally, I did meet a great client who came up to me after I’d been talking to a friend during a three-hour delay at San Francisco and simply handed me his card, saying, “You sound like you know what you’re doing. I fly a lot, and I think I need someone like you.” I’m still booking his travel and now consider him a friend.

I’ve heard stories from friends and clients of many airport encounters that turned either romantic or into business relationships/friendships, at least.

Airport connections can bring good airport memories

airport marriage proposal

Wandering through the colors of O’Hare Airport.

Even friendly connections that last just an hour or two can be a fun airport memory. (No, I’m not talking about THAT kind of “quickie” — minds out of gutters, please.)  On one solo trip to London I met two newlywed men heading for their honeymoon in a boarding line. They had requested upgrade months in advance which didn’t happen, so they were grumpily still in coach. I told the flight attendant and managed to get them two free drinks.

Then, as it turned out, I was a few rows behind them and ended up in one of those hour-plus-long Heathrow immigration lines with them. We made the best of a bad situation talking about their honeymoon plans and sharing travel stories. And idly wondering if any future marriages or divorces would come out of this time in line with the hundreds of people packed in together.

Now, of course, no one stands close enough together to talk in line or anywhere else at airports. Even the United club lounges have every other seat blocked off.

And while you can hear someone from a distance, it’s hard to carry on much of masked conservation in general. Leaving aside the fact that at most airports a majority of restaurants and bars are closed.

Although I suppose if you are in a bubble with someone, have a reason to travel, and want to propose, in the short run there’s probably plenty of space to do it.

O’Hare Crowd Photo by Evan R on Unsplash
Tunnel of Doom Photo by Silvia Fang on Unsplash
Rainbow passage at O’Hare Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash