Twas The Week Before Christmas And Holiday Travel Was A Hot A** Mess…

3 comments
December 21, 2012 ‐ By
Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

I write this post from the seat of a plane I was supposed to be on last night, yet didn’t manage to get on until 12 hours later. And though I’m grateful to actually be alive and flying on 12/21/12, I’m also tired as hell — of two things: one, not sleeping and two, hellish holiday travel.

See, today marks something like the sixth year in a row that I’ve been on the holiday travel struggle plane and reminds me yet again why every single December I ask myself if traveling this time of year is even worth it.

I remember December 22, 2007 quite vividly. It was the day I learned the difference between a confirmed and unconfirmed seat on an aircraft.  At the time I was new to NYC,  and essentially broke so I was determined to take the cheapest route to LaGuardia airport possible — even if my flight was at 6 am and it would take me two hours to get there going the cheap route. After taking three buses and two trains to get from one spot in Queens to another, you can imagine my sense of relief when I got through security and heard my name being called over the speaker. “They’re waiting for me!” I thought as I celebrated what I thought was a mini victory and quietly said a prayer thanking God that I made it just in the nick of time. That’s when the airline worker I would later come to cuss out held her finger up, stopped me dead in my tracks, and told me stay right where I was because they didn’t have a seat for me.

Foolish, Christmas miracle believer that I was, I waited patiently thinking the woman walking away and on to the airway meant she was finding the seat she currently didn’t have for me. Moments later, I found that was not the case as she walked back to the desk, closed the door to the airway ramp, which at that time looked like the wardrobe to Narnia to me, and nonchalantly told me she could get me on a different flight the next morning. I was new at this across the globe Christmas flight thing since I was used to a three-hour car ride from college back home qualifying as “holiday travel” so you can imagine I didn’t take this news well. As I asked what the problem was since I had checked in and they obviously had my information since they called my name all over the speaker and everything,  that’s when the attendant proceeded to tell me I didn’t have a confirmed seat. Thinking back to my confirmation email from the airline plainly outlining my itinerary and the confirmed decline in my bank about from that $300-plus dollar ticket I purchased, I thought — and probably said, “what do you mean unconfirmed?! I’ve got a whole lot of confirmation over here!” Sooner, rather than later, the play on semantics put me way past 10 on the annoyance scale and I used language I later had to repent for that night as I made my case to the airline. I did manage to get on the very next flight out though so I can’t help but feel my lack of self-control was somewhat worth it. (Apologies to the crew that was working that day.)

If I recall correctly, the following holiday, my flight went OK. But when I arrived at my destination, my bag was nowhere to be found. Now since I was going “home” I wasn’t totally a**ed out, but let’s be real,  I didn’t live with my mom anymore and I was not thrilled about rocking high school t-shirts and I don’t know how many years old “just in case” drawls still laying in my dresser drawers while Delta figured out what they did with my bag. And though for a split second I got excited at the thought of being reimbursed for my lost luggage and going on a shopping spree, I knew the trouble I would have to go through to get that would actually be a lot less fun that it sounded. Luckily, two days of tight t-shirt and panty wearing later, my luggage arrived on my doorstep and I could finally get circulation back in my extremities.

During my third year of holiday travel, I found myself at the airport bar with strangers lamenting the foolishness of the airline scheduling department. This time we were suffering a massive delay,  not because of the weather, but because some flight attendants overworked their allotted shift and apparently there were no free stewardesses in the entire city with nothing to do. I understand the reasoning behind airline’s rules but let’s be real, we can all recite the safety rules and regulations they go over before each takeoff line for line, and I really wouldn’t mind if no one was there to serve me a half a cup of sprite on my 1 hour and 20 minute flight. Honestly, what other purpose do flight attendants serve? Not belittling the profession, just saying we all would’ve taken less service over a five-hour delay they didn’t even bother to give us vouchers for so a sister could get dinner!

I think 2010 brought me a similar delay situation, although I can’t recall off the top of my head — perhaps I blocked it out because things were so bad — but I do know that 2011 was the year I seriously looked into the cost effectiveness of getting a bigger place so my family could start to visit me at the holidays instead of me coming to them. Since I’m writing this, you can probably tell that is not the case and I have yet again succumb to — or either become — the grinch that stole holiday travel cheer.

This time around the weather was the joy stealing culprit. And to be fair, that’s to be expected this time of year, but doesn’t it always seems like it’s your, i.e., my, flight that’s at the most opportune time for environmental destruction? As I sat at the airport this morning wishing there was a seat for me on the first flight out that I’d gotten up two hours early for in the hopes of being on standby, all of the stars seemed to align as the flight took off right on time without a hitch. Fast forward to the next flight out when torrential downpour ensued, our aircraft was diverted to Indiana before we even had a chance to get on it, and 30 mile-per-hour winds set us back yet again. And even that I made peace with as we finally boarded the train, and I saw hope for a toothbrush and clean underwear in site. But seeing my life flash before me as the pilot attempted to land and our plane started doing the rockaway, forcing him to take us back up in the air and I nearly held on to the stranger next to me for dear life, I can’t help but feel like enough is enough. One good thing I can say, besides the fact that I’m here and able to type this and not a crash casualty on a Detroit runway, is that the luggage that arrived at my destination last night was at least safe and sound — and not stolen overnight –when i finally arrived today. As for my holiday cheer and the likelihood of me signing up for this journey next year? I’ll let you know how my return trip fares.

Have you had nightmare holiday travels?

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  • http://twitter.com/Gordon15251525 Gordon15251525

    It’s tough traveling this time of the year. Here’s a great tip. Protect
    your valuables, especially when traveling. My lost laptop found me
    because of the UID tag I had on it from MYSTUFFLOSTANDFOUND. I
    placed Okoban tracker tags on all of my valuables – laptop, keys, phone,
    tablet, credit cards, camera and even passport and luggage. Okoban
    is a free global lost and found service (no annual renewal fees) established in
    2,000 airports, 400 airlines and thousands of “frequent finder” locations
    worldwide.

  • Roadwarriorchick

    As a certified road warrior let me give you some travel tips. First, never, ever under any circumstances “curse out” the airline personnel. They have more power than you know and they can do things including booking you on another airline. I missed a flight simply because I read my boarding pass time wrong and the airline booked me on another flight on another airline at their cost because I admitted my mea culpa instead of blaming them.

    Second, during the holidays never ever take a flight after the morning. Especially if you are flying out of the Northeast. By the end of the evening whatever delays, backups etc are going through all day. In the morning these haven’t had time to work their way through the system. Taking the first flight out is always best. In fact, this is a rule for any flight where you have to be there, cruise, wedding, etc.

    Third, flight attendants do serve a purpose. They are training in safety, CPR, etc. While some may seem surly, take a moment to smile and chat them up. One, they have the ability to move you up to first class and they have great tips on travel as well.

  • copiouslyme

    I don’t remember which airline I traveled with but the last flight I took was really uncomfortable. I’m only 5’6″ (size 12) and the seat seemed quite small and I had no leg room. Thankfully, I’ve never dealt with delays or cancellations. I would lose it if my luggage got lost. That’s unacceptable given these added bag fees.

No thanks