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Worst Flight EVER!

As some of us get ready to fly to Orlando for the 2010 RWA National Conference, let’s talk about flying to get there. I don’t know about you, but lately, my experiences with flying have been less than enjoyable. Late departures. Late arrivals. Extra charges for baggage.

I have so many truly horrible flights I could detail, but the following one was one of the absolute WORST ever.

In 2006, I flew to Hilton Head for Bob Mayer’s Writers Retreat. Having not flown in quite some time, I had forgotten the joys of air travel, as well as all the “t’s to cross and i’s to dot before traveling.”

The night before I was to leave, I remembered to do the “last minute check all your reservations” that all travelers do. However, in my case, I should have done this about a month ago. As I was reviewing my flight, which was supposed leave Little Rock on Tuesday February 28 and return on Sunday March 5, I noticed that the return was NOT on March 5th but on March 7th…a full two days after the end of the retreat and condo reservations.

Not panicking (yet) and not telling the husband (yet), I placed a phone call to American Airlines Aadvantage desk. Did I mention I am flying on leftover frequent flyer miles? Well, I was. “Tammy” at the Aadvantage desk was ever so nice as she crushed my hopes of getting on a Sunday flight home. First, there is only flight out that day (7:30am), and second, there are no frequent flyer mile seats, plus, wait…there are no seats that can be bought. The plane is sold out…no seats at any price.

I ask about Monday. Gosh, Tammy is so sorry, but while there are flights out of Savannah, none of them have frequent flier seats. If I want to buy a one-way ticket home on Monday, it will cost $582. I think that included tax, but no matter. Can’t do it. I ask her about just redoing the whole trip, putting my miles back in the bank and buying a round-trip ticket. Well, she can do that.

”Let’s see,’ Tammy says as I hear her taping away on her computer, “it will cost you $100 to rebank the miles for later use and, um…$1260 for a roundtrip ticket.”

I gasp. I don’t think my first car cost $1260! So, thank you Tammy, but no thanks.

I go to all the advertised hotel sites and start check hotel rooms for Sunday and Monday nights. I can get a room at a Days Inn for $49 a night…somewhat better than the option Aadvantage Desk Tammy can give me, so I book a room. My plan is to stay over on Sunday and throw myself on the mercy of the American Airline desk on Monday morning to see if someone there will rebook me home. More on that later.

If you flown using miles, you know the airlines give you the worst flights known to man. When I booked mine, the flight out of Little Rock was scheduled to leave at 4:50 pm and arrive in Savannah at 10:10 pm. But, I rattle the husband out of bed at 6 am, tell him to get dressed and drive me to the airport. There are two earlier flights out of Little Rock that will get me to Savannah by 4:30 instead of 10:10 pm. A really nice guy named Nathan put me on stand-by for the 9:38 am flight and on stand-by in Dallas for 1:05 pm flight. It worked! I would get in early. But wait…there’s more.

The 9:38 am flight from Little Rock was late leaving because the plane was late landing. We left only 45 minutes late. That was fine with my schedule. We should get to Dallas in plenty of time for me to get on a 1 pm plane, even stand-by.

First leg – no problem. Nathan even assigned me a first row seat.  (YAY!)  By the way, for those of you who fly out of large airports, you might enjoy this… Nathan checked me in at the reservations desk, then ran up to the departure gate to do the ticket collections. Little Rock is a small airport.

I arrived in Dallas, no worse for the wear and excited to be getting Savannah early. I go to gate B12, as instructed. After sitting there for about 30 minutes, the gate attendant announced that the flight to Savannah has been moved to gate B-9. So a horde of luggage wheeling passengers rise in mass and head down the terminal. Being a good stand-by, I seat myself near the desk so I can hear my name called. Finally, the overhead speaker blares my name and I hustle to the desk. Yes! I have a seat on this early flight…Seat 18…last row. Don’t care. I’m on. But keep reading…there’s more.

The plane was late arriving (sound familiar) so we are late boarding. Don’t care. I have a seat. The plane holds 3 seat across and 18 rows for a total of 54 passengers. There are 53 of us and I have a row to myself. Is this great or what? We were sitting on the tarmac when the Captain comes wandering down the aisle talking to people. I immediately think…this can’t be a good sign. Shouldn’t his fanny in the driver’s seat, so to speak?

I’m right…not good. The Captain was personally telling each person that the warning light on one of the brakes is showing excessive wear and not suitable for landing. We can get in the air just fine. There could be a problem stopping on the landing. Not a good thing, I think. I want the plane to stop.

Maintenance comes and confirms that the brake must be replaced and that will take 90 minutes. So to save time, American Airlines brings in another plane for us. We all disembark and sit in the lounge in the original loading area, B-9.  However, the overhead speaker informs us that all Savannah passengers should move to Gate B-8. So the luggage-wheeling horde again rises in mass and scurries to the next gate. We are told it will be at least 20 minutes, so given my experiences so far, I decide it would be wise to check on my condo reservations and, while I have the phone out, check with ALAMO to see where I pick up my car.

The call to the condo is fine. Someone will be there until 9 pm to check me in, and I can make arrangements if I will be late. I tell her no, I should be there about 5, later than scheduled on the “new earlier flight” but still earlier than my original sucky schedule. I finally find a telephone number to call ALAMO. When I give the nice lady my confirmation number, she informs me that my reservation was for Sunday February 26, not Tuesday February 28. I frantically scan my reservation confirmation, and she’s right. I made my car reservation before I made the plane reservation. American Airlines could only fly me on the 28th and I forgot to redo the car. So, I ask her to make me another reservation for today. It will cost me about $15 more, but, what I can I do?

Shortly after I completed the new (and improved) car reservation, we are called to re-board our new and improved aircraft. Since I am on the last row and hauling a laptop and all kinds of stuff for this retreat, I get on early and get to my seat. We FINALLY taxi out for take-off only 90 minutes late. The Captain announces that we are third to take off and we get in line. YAY! We’re off…except…I notice that the plane begins to turn in a direction that will return it to the terminal. No way. We can’t be going back. But, WE ARE.

It seems that when the pilot turned on the #2 engine for take-off, the oil gauge showed only 6 quarts (or liters, I forget) and we had to have 8 for lift-off. So we are returning to the terminal so maintenance can put oil in engine #2.

As we are sitting in a hot airplane watching a service truck pump oil, a couple of the passengers asked for something to drink (i.e. booze). Sorry, American Airlines doesn’t have liquor on planes this size. Another passenger asks for a pillow or blanket. She is headed to marine bootcamp and would like nap. Sorry. American Airlines has taken all the pillows and blankets off the planes. It wasn’t clear if all blankets and pillows had been removed or only on a plane this size. My first flight that day had blankets.

On the original “new and improved early schedule,” I should have landed in Savannah a little after 4 pm. As we pull away from the gate after our oil fill, it is now 5 pm CST, 6 EST. I’ll be late for my car reservation. Hope they have one for me. By the time I land and get a car and make it to my condo, it’s after 10 pm…my original scheduled check-in. I gained no time.

I called my husband while we were on the ground waiting for oil. I tell him I’m going back to driving a motorhome. At least I have my own toilet and bed to take a nap in.

I buddied up with a girl from Alabama who isn’t leaving until Monday and has a car, so we decide to split the cost of the room Sunday night. No problems turning my car in on Sunday or in getting the room. I do wake her up at 5 am on Monday and get her to take me to the airport and throw myself on the mercy of the AA desk to get me home. There is only one guy in line, so I jump behind him. The lady at the terminal is not an AA employee. She’s with another (and unnamed) airline but she knows how to use the system, so she gives me the last seat on the plane! The flight home is blessedly uneventful.

So tell me your worst travel story.

Oh and I’m driving to Orlando! 🙂

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5 Responses

  1. LOL. Sorry had to laugh. I had a rather similar experience a couple of years ago when we flew to Disney World – except I had two kids my mother-in-law in tow. Yep. Claw my eyes out excruitiating. Left at 5 am arrived at Disney at 10pm.

    The biggest problem I had was they overbook every flight so when our initial plane left waaaay late, there was nowhere to put us when we missed our connecting. Spending six hours in the airport with the kids was…well, there are no words. And to make it even worse, we were delayed on the way back.

    I drove to Disney last time. This time, direct flight with Southwest. Fingers are crossed.

    Can’t wait to see you gals there 🙂

  2. I’ve been pretty lucky with the planes and trains, but last year at Christmas my sister and her family rode the Amtrak from Oregon to Montana. Due to extreme cold and snow, the trip lasted EIGHTEEN HOURS longer than scheduled, twelve of them idling in Spokane, but no one knew when they might be ready to leave so they couldn’t get off the train. And due to a breakdown of one of the cars the remainder were overcrowded, so instead of regular seats, they had to sit at a table in the lounge the entire time.

    Did I mention they had two kids?

  3. oh,. boy.

    was with the family and returning for FL. we were routed through Atlanta. there was some weather or something, anyway, we got delayed. so we got these voucher things and get a hotel for the night.

    Next morning, we go through security, present our voucher and original ticket to her. she looks at the voucher, decides we don’t need them. (this is only my husband and I. my parents and the rest of our party were in other lines)

    so yeah, we get to the next security point, everyone gets through but DH and I. we’re shuffled off to a separate area. a security guy is breathing down our faces, demanding to know where our ticket was. I tried explaining the first security woman trashed them, he argued no.

    I just started bawling. Tears and snot is streaming everywhere. my mom is on the other side of security, now seeing this happening, fighting with security to get to us. Husband is trying to put his arm around me (and I think hide his head b/c I’d drawn the attention of several hundred other passengers trying to get through security). Let me tell you, when there’s a middle-aged man standing over a girl who looks like a teenager and is making her cry, it attracts a lot of attention.

    Security man begins to sweat and finally listens to me as I point and scream, “THAT LADY WITH THE SILVER HEAD WADDED THEM UP AND THREW THEM IN THE TRASH!”

    FINALLY, he goes and looks, and OMG, *there* they were, in the trash, exactly where I said.

  4. Wow! I’ve never flown and after reading these entertaining stories! probably never will.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments. I remember the good old days when I actually enjoyed flying…to the point that hubby bought me flying lessons. Now? It’s just a hassle. Have to be there too early. Can’t carry water or drinks through check point. Seats are too skinny, too close, planes too packed, etc.

    I know there are times when I have to fly, but if I can, I’m driving.

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