Families That Fly Separately to the Same Destination

Surely you know families who insist on taking separate flights to the same destination. They rationalize that by doing so they will avoid the unthinkable: perishing together should tragedy strike.

I happen to know two families who practice this method of travel. My friend from high school flies solo with her two youngest children and has her husband travel with their oldest. For them, the practice has worked out fairly well (if you disregard the incidents of lost luggage and annoying delays).

However, the same cannot be said for the Schnabl family.
The Schnabl’s were taking a planned vacation to Sweden, and per their travel tradition to preserve some part of their family should the unthinkable occur, Christine Badre Schnabl and her 5-year-old son Philipe took one flight, while her husband and other child took a separate flight.

Unfortunately, last week, the unthinkable did happen. On May 31, Christine and Philipe boarded Air France Flight 447, which disappeared and likely broke up in midair in turbulent weather, during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Authorities believe all 228 people aboard the jet (including the Schnabl’s) perished in the waters off Brazil’s northern coast.

Meanwhile, Christine’s husband and other child are safe.

Can you imagine?

I realize that the Schnabl’s willingly chose to fly separately to avoid losing their entire family. Yet, I can’t imagine that the decision to book separate flights is not eating away at Mr. Schnabl right now. This poor man not only has to deal with the fact that he has lost his wife and child, he also has instantaneously become a single father, and he must deal with “survivor’s guilt.”

After all, it could have just as easily been Mr. Schnabl on the doomed Air France flight. What’s more, who decides which kids and which parent flies on each flight?

With all due respect to the Schnabl’s (and other parents who fly separately), is this method of travel really worth the extra time, money and effort? Personally, I consider my family a unit. If we go, we all go together. The idea of preserving a family’s legacy is wonderful, but if it means going through the hassle of booking separate flights, dealing with multiple itineraries, and not being together in a time of tragedy, then I’ll gladly pass.

Some will read about the Schnabl’s and say that they accomplished exactly what they set out to do. Half of their family is still alive. However, consider that their entire clan would be living, breathing, and enjoying each other’s company, had they chosen to fly together on Mr. Schnabl’s flight.

It’s heartbreaking no matter how you look at it, for the Schnabl’s, and all of the families who lost loved ones on the ill-fated Air France flight.

Does your family fly separately? If so, has this tragedy made you re-think your tradition, or has it solidified that you are doing the right thing?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.