I’m feeling pretty lucky these days. After all, none of my trips involved me hanging half-naked upside down off a ski lift, then having my bare bottom blasted all over cyberspace. And not one of them ended with exiting a sinking plane and standing on the wing, ankle-deep in frigid water and debating alternate forms of travel in the future, should I ever venture off my couch again. But let’s face it – travel can involve a lot of hassle, from cancelled flights to icky road food to itchy rashes in uncomfortable places. Maybe they aren’t exactly travel disasters, but they can get that perfect trip off track.
Here are a just a few stories some readers sent in. Jackie shared a conversation she had when she called an airlines to change a flight so she could fly back with her husband and asked them to waive a change fee.
Airline rep: You know you aren’t supposed to fly with your husband anyway right?
Jackie: Excuse me?
Rep: Most married people don’t fly together.
Jackie: Excuse me?
Rep: In case of a crash. If you have small children back home, usually one parent flies separate so there is someone left after the tragedy to take care of the kids.
Jackie: Are you SERIOUSLY having this conversation with me right now? …..(last three words are in a “trying not to cry” voice)
Rep: Let me check with my supervisor and see if I can get the fee waived for you.
Now Jackie hates flying and does have two young children at home, so while she was on hold she started crying and contemplated whether this was a sign from a higher power that she not change her flight. Then refusing to believe the higher power would communicate to her through such an ignorant, annoying medium, she just got mad and demanded to talk with the supervisor. She recommended to the supervisor that the previous conversation be used as what not to say to customers. “I’m pretty sure the airline doesn’t prefer to have agents talk to their customers about falling to their death in one of their airplanes,” she said.
Hannah shared this story of a harrowing bus ride in Belize, which involved riding on aged, decrepit buses with windows in a permanent locked-down position.
“We are in Belize during the off-tourist season riding on a night bus for four hours, after being told never to do that by the locals, when our drunk bus driver starts driving about 50 mph through the city streets of Belmopan and crashes straight through a wooden road block. After most travelers have stepped off the bus to see what had happened, the bus driver starts to drive again with the few of us he had left in the vehicle. We ride about three minutes until a police officer pulls us over. The bus driver was then physically removed from the bus and one of the passenger steps up to the driver’s seat and continues on our journey to Corozal. Lets just say I was very happy to get off that bus!
And finally, this story from Bill, who had his fill and successfully sued an airline.
“In July, because of thunderstorms in New York, the airline delayed a redeye from Portland, OR, to NYC for five hours and then cancelled the flight. (So, I arrived at the airport at 10:30 PM, waited until 5:00 am and then they cancelled.) There was one (eventually two) ticket agents to deal with the 150 passengers at the Portland airport and who gave us all a choice: Take a refund on the Portland – JFK flight and you’re on your own, or book the next available flight.”
When he asked them to book him on the next flight, the agent said that would be in three days. No hotel and no food. So Bill, not wanting to live at the airport for three days, took the refund and got himself the only available flight, which was a first-class flight.
“I arrived home 14 hours late and $1,000 poorer,” he said. Getting no satisfaction from customer service, Bill took them to small claims court. He won and they have to pay up.
I suppose the lesson is that like life, travel doesn’t always go like we planned. But if we’re lucky we always make it home again. Somehow.