You want to know my worst travel experience? As I’m a control freak, I think the worst case scenarios are when I am dependent on airlines to work with me. What comes to my mind is my trip to Sabah. I left home after Easter dinner on Sunday. Upon checking in at the Logan Airport for my 3pm flight, I was told there was a ground delay at the JFK Airport in New York. After some waiting, my name was called and I was told they were checking me in on an earlier flight so I could make my 11pm connection in New York. To make this earlier flight, Delta had pulled my checked baggage and told me to go meet it at the gate. At the gate, the baggage screeners pulled my Swiss army knife. I had to wait until they measured it and was told a police report would be filed if the blade was more than three inches long. They seemed apathetic to the fact that I had checked that bag and the airline staff brought it to the gate for me. The third person to measure the knife said “blade” was within three inches, but they still confiscated it; the good part was it was no longer the subject of a police action. With my bulky bag in tow, I waited with the mobs of other people trying to get to New York. Then, as the earlier flights were also grounded at Logan, Delta ultimately put me on my original flight as it was the first to board.
Once onboard the plane, we waited on the airway. We passengers were all seated when I saw from the window that my luggage was still outside the plane. Convinced that was my bag, I pressed the call button. The flight attendant explained they had run out of pink tags but she would have my luggage put in the front of the plane She also opined that if I got to the gate by 10:30 for my connecting flight, all would be fine and gave me directions to my connection at New York. She walked toward the front and I was hoping she was heading to tend to my bag. Forty-five minutes went by. The pilot announced we were waiting to have the plane’s paperwork faxed to Logan as a printer malfunction was preventing the control tower from getting a hard copy. We sat. The flight attendants brought out small bottles of water for us. We waited. The plane did take off and we landed at JFK Airport in NYC. I had moved to the front of the plane so I was ready to run.
Outside the plane door, my bag was not with the other gate-checked luggage that had pink tags. Another passenger trying to make the same connection waited with me saying we were in this together. I pushed my way back inside the plane to check with the same flight attendant who had said she would take care of my bag after I had spotted it sitting on the ground in Boston. The flight attendant went to see what had become of my bag but didn’t have much luck. A ground attendant who I had also enlisted for help found it on the baggage conveyor belt where checked luggage was being loaded off the plane. The tenth bag off the conveyor belt was my bag, and he brought it to me! Now I could run. As luck would have it, the plane parked at Gate 18 and that meant I had to run to Gate 25, exit the building and take the tram three stops to Terminal 7. We ran for at least ten minutes to get to Gate 25 which was not in a straight line from Gate 18. The air tram delivered us to Terminal 7 but the Terminal doors were locked. We found an unlocked side door and went in. The lights had been dimmed, all the counters were closed and the screeners wouldn’t let us pass through the security gate because neither of us had a boarding pass. One said he would look to see if any airline personnel were nearby. While we waited, a Cathay Pacific airline staff person walked by. She was nice enough to call the supervisor for us, but the supervisor said we were too late as the plane had already boarded. So we were told Cathay Pacific would open at 11:45am on Monday, the next day, and that Delta would pay for our lodging.
Off we went to Terminal 2 to reschedule and get a lodging voucher. I spent two hours trying to get a flight that arrived in Sabah on Tuesday. Nothing worked. The best I could do was 4pm on Wednesday. No other airline seemed to have been delayed in getting to the JFK Airport that day. But Delta still wouldn’t pay for my lodging saying the delay was not Delta’s fault. I did get a card saying my flight was delayed because of “military.” What does that mean? Then the Delta staff person called the Ramada’s courtesy shuttle to pick me up. I waited for that shuttle from 12:30 to 1:15, plenty of time to fume that I had been unable to reschedule my flight yet. I called to check on it and the Ramada said the shuttle was on its way. At 1:45 am, I took a taxi. The taxi driver kept falling asleep and swerving off the road. He couldn’t find the Ramada and dropped me off at the Marriott; the front desk quoted a price $200 more per night than the Ramada. I respectfully declined and asked the Marriott to call me another taxi because I was not getting back in the car with the sleepy driver. I got to the Ramada and waited while the one clerk checked in a group of five businessmen who had arrived just before me.
And that was only Day One of my arduous and frustrating three-day odyssey getting to Sabah. I can’t write anymore about it, the irritation is creeping back into my soul. Lesson learned: Avoid having a connection in New York. It takes about an hour to fly from Boston to New York City, but it can take a day to get there.
“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” —Samuel Beckett