When I was a child, my dad used to have terrible luck when it came to flying. His luggage was always lost or his flights were delayed. I guess it became a kind of family curse, because when I started traveling a lot I had the same problems as him. However frustrating they were at the time, my bad flight experiences did result in some funny stories that I’d like to share.
1. When I had a gun pointed at me
ElAl Airlines – Warsaw to Tel Aviv
Back in 2009, I was flying to Tel Aviv by myself and I have to say that my experience with ElAl airlines was slightly scary. From the check-in desk I ended up being escorted by three armed men into a tiny room where they interviewed me while X-raying my belongings. I had to spend over an hour in there and the entire time, nobody told me what was going on. I even had to be escorted to the toilet. To this day I have no idea why I was investigated by airline security, but I know that I’d rather not fly with ElAl again.
2. Houston, we have a problem!
Continental Airlines – Houston to Toronto
This is probably my most frightening story. After an hour of flying in a very shaky plane, the pilot announced that he had no idea what was going on, but we needed to get back to Houston immediately. The plane performed an emergency landing and kept us, the passengers, inside the plane for the next hour while the crew did an inspection and realized that the doors were not properly closed. Continental also lost my luggage on my way back to Mexico City from Hawaii.
3. We’re overbooked, but we don’t want to admit it
Delta – San Diego to London via Minneapolis and Amsterdam
When I tried to check-in at San Diego international, Delta staff told me that I was too late. My flight was domestic and according to the rules I had to be there 30 min before departure. The flight was clearly overbooked and the person dealing with rebooking was only able to offer me another flight… 3 days later! Unfortunately, my suitcases weren’t so lucky to get to London with me, because Delta staff never heard of London City Airport and they sent my suitcases to Heathrow a day later, misreading my delivery address.
Swiss Airlines – London to Warsaw via Zurich
People are often surprised that a flight with a layover in a place which is not necessarily on the way to your destination is often cheaper. Because my flight from London was delayed and I wasn’t able to make my flight from Zurich to Warsaw, Swiss Airlines decided to send me to Munich, then to Copenhagen, and finally to Warsaw.
United Airlines – Chicago to Toronto
The flight attendant announced that because they had miscounted the number of passengers, they were unable to give everyone a meal.
KLM – London to Cape Town
I booked my return ticket from London to Cape Town in the summer of 2012. I got my confirmation, the money on my credit card got blocked, all as usual. A few days before my journey, I was trying to choose my seats and to my surprise, my reservation didn’t exist. I tried to call KLM customer service, but their automated answering service sent me to their facebook page where I was meant to put my questions… It turned out that KLM simply canceled my booking without even telling me about it. If I hadn’t tried to choose my seat, I wouldn’t have found out until I went to the airport. So strange!
South African Airlink – Bulawayo to Johannesburg + Cape Town to Johannesburg
South African Airlink (not to be confused with SS Airways with whom I love to fly) is responsible for two stories in my flight odyssey. In 2010 when I was trying to fly to South Africa from Zimbabwe, the ashes from the Icelandic volcano eruption suddenly paralyzed air traffic around the world. The airline claimed that my connecting flight from Johannesburg to London was flying the same day and that although I needed to take this flight, it was too late and I had to purchase another ticket. I arrived in Johannesburg only to find out that my flight to London was never meant to fly that day and I had to spend a night in a hotel and fight (literally!) with all the frustrated passengers to get a seat on the first ‘special’ flight. At least a month later I got a full refund for my ticket thanks to South African Airways.
Another story involving Airlink happened in 2012 when I had to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg and there was no way that I could miss my flight due to some obligations that I had made. Orbitz, my favorite booking site, sent me an email a day before my flight stating that it will be canceled and that I need to call the airline. Until 3 hours before departure, the airline claimed that Orbitz had made a mistake and that my flight is departing on schedule. As you can probably guess, it was in fact canceled and if not for Orbitz telling me, I wouldn’t have come to the airport earlier and got on another available flight.
Ryanair – Warsaw Modlin to London Stanstead
After waiting for 2 hours without any announcements at Warsaw Modlin Airport, Ryanair finally informed the passengers that the pilot got confused and landed at another airport, so they organized buses to get us there. We drove 2 hours to Lodz Airport where we found out that we cannot fly to London Stanstead anymore, but instead they will take us to Luton Airport. After all, it’s Ryanair.
Air France – London to Rio de Janerio via Paris + return
Air France decided to overbook to delay their flight from London to Paris so 6 passengers lost their seats on the flight to Rio de Janeiro. After arguing with the airline and getting nowhere, I decided to fly to Rio via Sao Paulo with TAM Airlines instead.
10. When you can’t fly without luggage, but luggage can fly alone
Avianca & Taca – Mexico City to Cuzco via Lima
When I arrived in Lima, I asked if my suitcase was going to be sent directly to Cuzco. Both Avianca (with whom I was flying to Lima) and Taca (with whom I was flying from Lima) said that I didn’t need to pick up my bag. Right before I was supposed to check in, Taca informed me that I did in fact need to pick up my bag in order to continue my trip. However, they said that at that moment it was impossible to get itso I had no choice but to miss my flight. While I was waiting to get my bag, the crew discovered that it was actually missing. They told me that there was no choice but to call customer service in order to change my flight. I was on the phone for 3 hours with customer service and in the end they discovered that to change my flight I had to drive to the Avianca office in downtown Lima and do it in person. At the office, I found out that Taca has hidden taxes that have to be paid if your luggage isn’t flying with you. The price became too high and the only option was sending me back to Mexico City the next day. Believe it or not, they found my bag; it actually flew to Cuzco without me.
As we can see from the photo above Avianca is not only leading in horrible situations, but also excellent when it comes to translations.