The Worst Days of Air Travel

Not to continue to beat a dead horse to all of my family, friends and social media followers who heard and read my million complaints about The Trip from Hell, but GOOD LORD, I JUST HAD BY-FAR, THE MOST TERRIBLE AIR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE I EVER HOPE TO DEAL WITH IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. (I also want to write it out while it’s fresh in my mind because I plan to dedicate half of my Tuesday to explaining, in detail, to American Airlines how and why my trip was SO, SO MISERABLE and that I will not ever, EVER E-V-E-R fly with them again. This will be good to use so I don’t forget anything.)

You see, I had to go to Chicago for work this weekend. I had work meetings Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday night and Saturday morning. I was scheduled to depart Louisville at 3:40 p.m. on Thursday, and when I got to the airport at 1:45 p.m., I found out my flight was delayed until 4:50 p.m. That’s not too bad, so I went to the Chilis in the Louisville airport, grabbed lunch and a margarita to waste time.

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After a bit, I checked my United app to see if anything had changed and I saw it was delayed until 6:30 – damn! A three-hour delay, not cool. (Oh, if only I had known.) I waited another hour and saw it had been pushed back until 7:45 now, making it a four-hour delay!  Using the United app, I could see that the reason why we were delayed was because our plane was delayed in Denver due to missing crew. At around 5 p.m., I saw that it hadn’t even taken off from Denver yet so I knew that flight would keep getting more and more delayed.

So I tweeted at United and asked them if I could be rebooked on an earlier flight out. Pretty painlessly, they rebooked me on the 7:10 p.m. flight. So I wasted time by watching The West Wing using Chili’s free Wi-Fi and waited a few hours to depart.

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It finally became 6:30 p.m. and I headed to the gate and saw that my new flight was delayed until 7:30 p.m. KIDDING ME, RIGHT? I waited, waited and waited some more and we finally boarded. SWEET, I may make it to dinner with my work people.

We land in Chicago and the pilot tells us that there isn’t a gate ready for us so we just have to taxi until one is ready. Thirty minutes later, we make it to the gate. Then, the pilot told us that we can’t deboard because there wasn’t a gate agent to drive the jet bridge down. LET ME OFF THE PLANE, ALREADY. Another 30 minutes later, I was finally off the freaking plane at 9:30 p.m. Chicago time/10:30 p.m. Louisville time, making my total time in the airport on Thursday six hours and my entire journey to Chicago more than nine hours. I could have driven to Chicago and back in nine hours. (For the record, the original flight I was on didn’t depart Louisville until something ridiculous like 9 p.m.)

HELLO, CHICAGO!

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Chicago was good. Cold, but that’s the norm. It’s great to have some of my best friends living in the Chicago area because I got to see some of my favorite gals Friday night after my work meetings. Cards Against Humanity is always a good idea.

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Fast-forward a day and I left my hotel for O’hare at 12:30 p.m. to catch a 3:05 p.m. flight. I went through security without any trouble and saw this mess, laughing to myself “man, why do I even attempt air travel anymore?” LITTLE DID I KNOW HOW BAD IT WOULD GET.

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My flight TO Chicago was United, but my flight back was American. Going in, I had a bad feeling about the day but I was hoping it would be a few delays and I’d eventually make it on my way. AGAIN, LITTLE DID I KNOW.

I had a few hours to kill before my flight so I headed to a bar/restaurant in my terminal to grab lunch. And a beer.

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Here’s where it gets good. I go to my assigned gate and see a plane sitting there. Great, this should be quick and smooth! NOPE. That plane wasn’t ours. It was a plane heading to Charlotte that was waiting to be deiced. The poor people on that plane had been sitting there for 2.5 hours, just waiting for a deicing truck. O’HARE, THIS IS CHICAGO. PLAN THIS OUT BETTER. The pilot let the people off that plane as it was approaching hour three for them so they could stretch their legs.

Now, wouldn’t the logical solution be to change our flight’s gate so we could continue with getting the show on the road? NOPE. First, our 3:05 p.m. flight was delayed until 3:20 p.m. At 3:20 p.m., our flight was delayed until 3:40 p.m. At 3:40 p.m., our flight got delayed until 4:00 p.m. At 4:00 p.m., our flight was delayed until 4:40 p.m. (I’m not making this shit up. I’m looking at my text alerts from AA as I type.) At 4:40 p.m., it was delayed until 4:50 p.m. ALMOST TWO HOURS DELAYED. That also means that the poor travelers on the plane we were waiting on, had to sit and taxi for two hours waiting to deplane. At 4:40 p.m. my flight was delayed until 4:55 p.m.

Then we changed gates. We got to the new gate and were told it was moved to another gate. We got to the other gate and it moved again. So almost three hours later, with five delays and three gate changes, I tweeted at American. This was their response:

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At 4:55 p.m., it got pushed back until 5:05 p.m. JESUS.

We finally board but I know that this ordeal isn’t over because we have to deice. We sit on the plane for an hour, while the incompetents of O’Hare deice us. The pilot comes on to tell us that we’ll be taxiing to the runway shortly. I SEE AN END IN SIGHT. I text Kevin that I’ll see him soon.

We literally, LIT-ER-ALLY, are backing up away from the gate and the plane stops. The pilot comes on and says, “Well folks, I have some bad news.”

WHAT. WHAT THE (INSERT F-WORD) NOW.

“New regulations say that your crew cannot work more than 9 hours. The crew you have here tonight has worked 8 hours and 20 minutes and because our flight is 43 minutes long, this flight has officially been canceled.”

CANCELED

CAN. CELED.

C.A.N.C.E.L.E.D. AS WE WERE NEARLY DRIVING INTO THE AIR.

THREE MINUTES (THREE. MINUTES.!!!!) OF FLYING TIME MORE THAN THEY’RE ALLOWED TO FLY.

Tears.

Laugher out of disbelief.

More tears.

Yelling.

Calling Kevin.

Tweeting at American Airlines with all of my rage.

Bitching with fellow passengers.

Someone says that there is a 6:30 p.m. flight that has been delayed until 7:05 p.m. It’s currently 6:30 – there’s hope! But wait, we have to sit on the stifling-hot plane until the gate agent drives the jet bridge down. JUST LET US OFF.

Twenty minutes later, we’re off the plane. My American Airlines app says the 7:05 p.m. flight is at Gate L4, so me and a few of my fellow passengers rush from G2A to L4 to try to get rebooked and catch that flight. We get to L4 and find out the flight has changed gates to G2A.

WE WERE JUST THERE.

We run all the way back to gate G2A and stand in line to wait to be rebooked. I’m on the phone with American at the same time because their Twitter customer service team blows. The American agent on the phone says the 7:05 p.m. flight is full and they can’t put me on standby for the next flight because they don’t do that over the phone. GEE, THANK YOU FOR THE HELP.

I start sweating as the 7:05 p.m. flight begins to board. Finally, it’s my turn to talk to the gate agent and she tells me she put me on standby. A few people from our flight had already gotten on (HOW?) and then they begin calling standby. One by one, people from my original flight were getting called.

PLEASE CALL MY NAME, PLEASE OH PLEASE.

“I’m sorry, but the last standby name has been called.”

I walk up to the gate agent and ask what he is going to do to make this right. Food vouchers. Drink vouchers. And a hotel voucher, surely. The day had been hell, after all.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but this delay and cancellation was due to weather.”

UM. WHAT.

WAIT, SERIOUSLY.

If my flight had been canceled due to weather, I would have been ticked, but it wouldn’t have been so terrible because I know that’s out of their control.

THIS DELAY, WAS ENTIRELY CAUSED BY AMERICAN AIRLINES AND O’HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT NOT HAVING THEIR SHIT TOGETHER AND COLLECTIVELY BEING THE WORST DUO TO EXIST.

The older couple next to me also missed the standby list. They were traveling from Iowa to Louisville with a connection in O’Hare to be at their grandchild’s first birthday party. The grandma starts bawling when the gate agent tells her that they won’t put them up in a hotel at the airline’s expense. So I start crying. Again.

Another guy who was on the standby list with us but doesn’t make the cut, tells me he had been delayed now for more than 24 hours due to cancelations.

Another man who was also in our same situation, had his luggage on the plane going to Louisville and needed his blood pressure medicine. He also walks with a cane because of chronic back issues and American wouldn’t give him a hotel voucher, so the man with an extremely bad back, got to sleep upright in a chair in the terminal without his blood pressure or back pain medicine. YOU’RE TOO KIND, AMERICAN.

I get rebooked on the next flight out which is 10:55 a.m. the following day. WHAT.EV.ER. DONE.

I grab a taxi and head to my good friend Jenny and Martha’s apartment in Wrigleyville because I just had the worst travel experience of my life and I know spending time with my girls will help. Thankfully, Kristina was still in the city and our friend Bacher was in Chicago too. I arrive, I bitch, I shower because I just sat in an airport for seven hours, I start drinking, continue to bitch and we head out to the bars.

Thank you, Flacos Tacos.

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At this point, I’m having fun. I know everything happens for a reason and while I would have loved to have not spent my entire day in an airpot and be home with my husband and pup, I was thankful that I had such good friends in the city I was stranded in to hang out with.

I wake up at the crack of dawn this morning, hungover obviously, and head back to the airport to catch my 10:55 a.m. flight. At 10:55 a.m., our first delay happened. Now scheduled at 11:10 a.m. IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN. At 11:10 a.m., my flight got delayed to 11:30 a.m. GUESS WHY. THE PLANE AT OUR GATE WAS WAITING TO GET DEICED. Really, AGAIN? At 11:30 a.m., our flight changes gates. HALLELUJAH, MAYBE IT WILL BE DIFFERENT TODAY. But our plane isn’t anywhere in sight. It gets delayed until 11:45 a.m.

I call Kevin in tears out of sheer frustration. I’m in awe and disbelief.

Finally, our plane arrives and they deboard. The end is in sight!

Everyone gets off the plane, the crew goes to prep it. The gate agent comes on and just when I think she’s going to say, “We’ll begin boarding with military, families with small children and platinum members.”

Instead she says, “They just found a mechanical issue with the plane so we will be holding boarding until further notice.”

WHERE ARE THE CAMERAS?

I HAVE TO BE IN A REALITY TV SHOW THAT FEATURES PEOPLE WHO HAVE TERRIBLE AIR TRAVEL EXPERIENCES.

I NEED XANEX NOW. I WILL BUY IT ILLEGALLY OFF SOMEBODY.

More tears.

Delayed until 12:15 p.m. initially.

As we near 12:15 p.m., the gate agent tells us we can begin boarding. You’d think that would be exciting for me, but after yesterday, boarding and taxiing to the runway means nothing to me. I don’t get excited until I’m 30,000-feet in the air.

I sit down. We go over the safety issues. We taxi to the runway and despite what the flight attendant says, I don’t turn my phone on airplane mode because I want to let Kevin know once we start to ascend. We’re off the ground so I shoot him a text, “In the air. Maybe this is really the end.”

The flight attendant comes by and I ask him if they have peanuts or pretzels because I hadn’t eaten anything all day (I was too scared to leave my gate in fear I’d miss an update.) He hands me a big bag of almonds and tells me its on the airlines due to the delay. Everyone around me asks for some. GEE, THANKS FOR THE $3 BAG OF ALMONDS, AMERICAN. THAT MAKES IT ALL BETTER. (I really was thankful for them, though.)

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WE FINALLY LAND. I see the older gentleman who was stranded in the airport with none of his medicine. He’s looking for his bags and they’re lost. I wish him the best and head out to meet Kevin.

I get in the car and give plenty of hugs and kisses to both him and Gracie Girl, who came along for the ride. Thankfully, I have a great husband who has a big fat ice water and a bag of chips waiting for me.

When I got home today, I took a three hour nap to rid my anger, frustration (and hangover). I couldn’t be more thankful that I’m at home on my couch with my little family.

And with that, I will never, ever, ever fly American or fly through O’Hare (unless it’s otherwise utterly unavoidable) ever again.

Three trips to the airport in four days. A total of 11 hours of delays. Twenty hours in the airport. TWENTY HOURS OF WAITING.

Talk to you soon, American Airlines customer service. Prepare yourselves.

Anybody have a terrible travel experience? Can you top mine? I’d love to hear.

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4 thoughts on “The Worst Days of Air Travel

  1. So sorry! I refuse to fly American because of past issues. My parents got stuck in Chicago thanks to American and ohare for over 24 hours on New Year’s Eve flying back from visiting us. Same issues you had. No hotel or food comp either. Hope your next trip goes MUCH better!

    • How terrible for your parents! I wish that nobody responded with a similar experience because I hate knowing that the airlines can keep getting away with this. I hope that your parents weren’t too scarred for life!

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