A European Experience


A 13-hour flight from Sea-Tac Airport to Paris, France and a two-hour flight from Paris to Nice, France. 

All alone.

At first this seemed like a task that I wasn’t ready for, but how could I pass up a four-day trip to France? My parents were already going to be in France and I was planning to fly and meet them in Nice, a small city in the south of France. They had gone on a cruise along the Rhone Lake and flew into Nice to meet me as I landed.

My flight was later than the 5:30 a.m. flights I’m used to catching. My plane would leave the runway for Paris at 3:40 p.m. As my sister drove me to Sea-Tac airport, I wondered what this experience would be like, especially on the plane. On a 13-hour flight, one of the last things I would want is to get stuck next to an obnoxious stranger. 

I arrived at the airport and checked in as an unaccompanied minor. Getting through TSA was not difficult whatsoever. Since I’m quite familiar with the Sea-Tac Airport, I was pretty comfortable. Next, I headed to my gate but not before stopping for snacks. I grabbed pretzels and Vitamin Water off the shelves. I checked in at gate S10 and was seated with the only other unaccompanied minor on my flight. I waited for my flight to board while observing the bustle of the airport and examining the other people who would be on my Air France flight as pondered the thought ‘how many of these people are leaving their homes and which ones are returning to theirs?’

Myself and the other girl around my age I had been seated with earlier were escorted onto the plane first. We got comfortable in our neighboring seats which would be the only personal space we had for the duration of the flight. The flight attendant who was in charge of us introduced himself. He was the nicest flight attendant I have ever met. He showed off the many languages he could speak and explained to us the airplane safety rules. Through his conversation with my neighbor, I learned she was traveling home to her family. At first she intimidated me. She looked to be a couple years older and was dressed too nice for a long plane ride.

As the flight went on, we laughed at the funny things we caught the other passengers doing and patiently waited for the flight to be over as we grew slightly more uncomfortable every hour. 

We were the last passengers to have the satisfaction of finally stretching our legs after the long duration of our flight. We had to wait for our airport escort to arrive to the gate before we exited the plane. To keep us company, two Air France flight attendants approached us to keep us company as we waited. ‘Ça’va?’ the flight attendant asked. ‘Ça’va’ I replied, communicating that I was doing fine. Since I replied to her question with something I had learned the first day of my french one class, she assumed I was fluent. She began to speak french too quick for me to keep up with. I finally had to explain to her that I was not french and only spoke english. 

I had to do this many times throughout the adventure to find my connecting flight while being guided through the airport. Our airport escort made it a quick adventure. She would lift ropes and let us under before quickly closing them again so nobody else could get through. She first brought me to my connecting flight where she left me to wait for the much shorter plane ride.

Out of all of the kids on my Paris to Nice flight, I was the oldest. The four other children ranged from around eight to about 14 years old. This flight went by in no time. Once I met my parents at the airport, we were free to enjoy our four-day vacation in tropical beach town Nice, France.

Overall, I’m glad I have this experience under my belt. With all of the extra check points you have to hit while flying to a completely different country, I honestly don’t think I could have done this alone without the Air France employee. Even while having them with me, the experience was still overwhelming to go through the airport at such a fast pace while lugging my suitcase around. It was fun to try something new and although it was uncomfortable at times, I would do it all over again. Traveling is something I’m very thankful for and I think it is a very important thing to experience, for young people especially. It’s fun to see the world and have new experiences and it also helps your perspective as you grow up and go through your life.