When travel sucks

Written by on August 29, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Thailand, Travel - 34 Comments

Flight One: Chatty Seatmate Suck

“We’ve just had two days from hell,” an older woman says, hovering over my seat in the bulkhead as I fumble (too late) to get my headphones in my ears. “You just wouldn’t believe what happened to us. First, our flight has issues, then we get stuck on the tarmac, then we get out and have to wait in line, then we get to a hotel, then we have to wake up early and get back to the airport and now …”

Damnit. Damnit. Damnit. I clearly pulled the short straw in seat assignments.

I smile feebly and silently curse the woman standing over me.

“So now, we are on this plane and we don’t even get to sit together. I mean, really!”

Don’t look at me lady. I paid good money for this Economy Plus seat.

“My husband? He has had a hell of a time the past month. See, we thought he had a problem with his testes …”

Whoa. Chatty Seatmate crosses over into TMI Seatmate in a matter of seconds. 

“Oh goodness,” I feign interest as I struggle to hear the announcement from the pilot about our plans to take off from Dulles and head to San Francisco. But Annoying Seatmate continues her diarrhea of the mouth, sparing me no detail of her husband’s examinations (“thank goodness it wasn’t anything terrible”), family troubles (“my annoying bitch of cousin”) and travel complaints (“I hate United”).

By the grace of god, her daughter comes and sits in between us, giving me the perfect chance to put my headphones in my ears and turn my head to look out the window, letting me enjoy my last sunrise on American soil (or above American soil).

Thankfully, she continues her bitchfest to her daughter instead and I tune out, watching out the cabin window as the plane picks up speed and eventually is airborne, flying over America.

I take it all in, trying to imagine what we are flying over and reliving my road trip adventure from two weeks earlier that brought me from west to east.

Funny I am going backwards to go forward.

Sleep grabs me, but I wake up in time to see the brown of the desert below. I’ve flown to Las Vegas enough times to recognize what is below, and I know it’s not the Vegas desert I am looking at, but it is Nevada. Then, we’re over the mountains, then we are descending into San Francisco.

“Glad you made it home safe,” I mutter to the woman in my aisle as we exit the aircraft, then I head to my next gate.

A delayed flight from San Francisco to Beijing

Flight Two: Delayed Flight Suck and Plane Suck

I look at the departures board, squinting to see my Air China flight from SFO to Beijing. Delayed. By an hour. I do a quick calculation in my head: that leaves me (maybe) one hour catch my connection to Bangkok in China. If I miss that flight, I can’t get to Bangkok until the next day, which leaves me missing my other flight on Air Asia getting me into Chiang Mai.

Shit.

So, I go into Fix This Mode. I message Air Asia. I get on the phone with Air China. I call my parents and bitch, bitch, bitch.

“This is such a pain in the ass … I am going to have to rebook tickets if I can’t connect.”

“Then, that’s what will happen,” my mom says into the phone.

“Got to love travel,” my dad jokes.

Air Asia tells me if I miss my flight, even with a certificate saying it was Air China’s fault, I still have to pay to book a new flight. And, Air China tells me they can’t do anything to get me to Chiang Mai should I miss my connection.

As a last resort, I approach the gate agent to ask what they can do since my connection will now be cutting it very close.

“Guess you will just have to run,” the woman shrugs.

Thanks.

Almost two hours late, we finally board the plane.

I sink into the seat. Or attempt to sink into the seat. It’s hard as a rock.

At least there is entertainment on long-haul flights.

Then, I look at the seatback in front of me.

Something is missing on this Air China flight!

There is nothing there. A tray to pull down. No cute little television. Nothing.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Instead of getting pissed I forked out more than a grand for the flight — because that isn’t going to solve anything at the moment — I pull out some little blue Tylenol PMs and pop them. Goodbye, AmericaTwelve hours later (and with 45 minutes to catch my connection), we land.

The man next to me sits and waits as people from behind us go.

“Sorry,” I say, tapping him lightly on the shoulder and fighting the racing heart pounding in my ears. “I have to catch a flight.”

Flight Three: Security Suck and the Should-Have-Bought-Two-Seats Suck 

Groggy, but awake, I bolt off the plane and am greeted by a shuttle to take us through immigration.

Oh please. Please. Drive. Drive. Drive.

I glance at my phone nervously. 30 minutes. 30 minutes. 30 minutes.

When the doors open, I race through the halls, rounding corners with astonishing speed for someone weighted down not only with a carry on, but also a completely full Pac Safe tote.

I race through an arch that takes my temperature, head to immigration where I am directed to another immigration. When I am finally allowed to pass, I am the first one to get to security.

20 minutes.

I’ve traveled a lot. I know what can stay in my bag and what needs to be taken out. I start to pull out my laptops.

“You have camera?” The security agent asks.

“Yeah,” I say, getting antsy.

“You take it out.”

OK. Fine.

I remove my camera and put it into a bin, along with my laptops, then wait for everything on the other side of security.

The bags move through the belt and stop. Then move a little. Then stop. Then, they come out. Along with a security agent.

“You have chords in here?”

“Yeah,” I say, heat rising in my face.

“No chords.”

What the hell?

I go to open up my bag to take them out, but the agent reaches for it, too. He opens my bag and dumps out my charger for my laptop and my phone. Then, he opens my carry-on and begins to rummage through that. Then, its back through the X-Ray machine.

Anxiety sweeps over my body.

15 minutes.

The bags come out again.

“You have battery?”

“Yeah.”

Again, the agent goes into my carry-on, this time basically dumping the entirety of its contents into bins. Business cards. Make up bag. Journal.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“Please, please,” I beg. “My flight. I have 10 minutes.”

Four bins go back through the X-Ray machine. I break into a sweat as I watch them examine the screens, looking for who-knows-what. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, four bins come out. My four bins.

“OK,” security tells me as I fight tears, looking at both of my bags, entirely unpacked, sitting in front of me.

I toss everything into them without caring what is where, and run to my gate.

With two minutes to spare, I get onto the plane and sink into my seat. My aisle seat because, even though I had spoken on the phone with Air China and was insured I would have a window, the ticket said otherwise. This time my seatmate takes up nearly my seat and hers.

I pop another Tylenol PM, blow up my neck pillow, arrange myself to fit into a corner of my seat and pray the carts don’t run over my toes, and close my eyes.

The Intermission Suck

I stand, scanning the luggage on the belt once we arrive in Bangkok.

Where’s my bag?

Fortunately, I’m with a few other girls I met in San Francisco who are headed to Elephant Nature Park, too. And, there bags aren’t here.

We survey the carousel a few more times, then look to find a representative from Air China to help us. Of course, there aren’t any. Instead, we are directed to Thai Airlines customer service.

“Try Carousel 7.”

We head there. Nothing.

“Try Carousel 9.”

Again, nothing.

Finally, we are brought into a room where they track our bags.

“Your bag is still in Beijing,” the rep explains to me. “It said it got on an earlier flight, but it did not.”

“How would it get on an earlier flight? Did it get scanned when I landed in San Francisco?”

“Yes.”

“And it was scanned again when I got to China?”

“Yes.”

“Then, how did it get on an earlier flight to Bangkok or how did it say it got on an earlier flight to Bangkok when I arrived with 30 minutes to board my connection?”

“It will be here in a few days.”

“I need it here sooner than that,” I sigh.

I fill out the paperwork and head into the airport to get some food, some wifi and some rest.

As I lay down, at 2 a.m., people begin to crowd around me, talking loudly.

Finally, I decide sleep isn’t going to happen and, when I can, I head over to Air Asia to check in to my final flight.

The final flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flight Four: The No Refund Suck

I stand at the Air Asia counter, trying to explain Air China has misplaced my bag, trying to explain I wanted on refund on the $100 I spent to check a phantom bag.

“Sorry,” the ticketing agent says. “You need to cancel at least four hours before to get a refund.”

“But, you just opened and this only happened five hours ago.”

“Sorry.”

It’s just not worth the fight.

I head to my gate and board the plane.

As we fly over the emerald green mountains of Thailand and begin to descend into Chiang Mai, all of the Suck from the past 30-something hours of traveling dissipates.

I look out onto the land and feel warm. Glowing. Thrilled.

This … this is my new home.

Then, the smile doesn’t leave my face.

When has travel sucked for you?

 

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

34 Comments on " When travel sucks "

  1. Ali August 29, 2012 at 3:59 am · Reply

    Yikes! I would’ve been in tears after all of that. I hope you got your bag back!

    • Diana August 29, 2012 at 4:04 am · Reply

      Well, there was nothing I could do about the bag. They assured me it would come. I took some confidence in knowing that at least they could tell me WHERE it was. I just bought a toothbrush and toothpaste and lived in the same outfit for about five days until my luggage arrived.

  2. Lisa Cheah August 29, 2012 at 6:19 am · Reply

    Aww! I had that feeling once. Worst on my first ever solo flight from Oslo to Penang.
    I was an unaccompanied minor which meant that you either board the plane, first or you board the plane last.

    I boarded the plane last.

    I had with me all my worldly possessions from my 3 month trip in Norway as a carry on. But hold and behold. The flight was so packed, there was hardly any space for my luggage left. So, I had to leave it with the Ground Crew for them to “check it in”

    I was to get my bag when I landed in Heathrow, but hold and behold… it never arrived.

    So, my 14 year old self, started frantically asking every ground crew if someone can help me. Anyone? Nope. Na-da.

    Stood at Heathrow, spent my last change calling home sobbing my eyes out at the public telephone.

    Filled a report and what nots, that bag has never been seen, since. That was in 2004. And I have never been seen in Heathrow since either for it was so traumatic! :)

    But, like they all say. Such is life as a traveler. Our fate really does depend on someone else’s capabilities.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:32 am · Reply

      Oh no!! That is terrible. My friend was just telling me a story yesterday about a time the airline lost his bag. He actually went back to the airport the next day and they told him there wasn’t any time for them to look for the bag, so they let him into the baggage area to find it! He found it and walked out — no checking or anything. Then, the airline called him the next day said they had his bag. He had to explain to them that, no, he had his bag and no one ever documented him taking it from the room with about 500 other missing pieces of luggage.

  3. Tom @ Waegook Tom August 29, 2012 at 9:08 am · Reply

    I got antsy just reading this, D! Sounds like it blew big time. I’d have been fuming about that Air China plane, too – a national carrier with no entertainment on intercontinental flights? Come on, China! The guys at security sound like assholes, too – I mean really, chords and batteries?!

    The first woman sounds like she was straight out of a comedy skit though. When the conversation turns to testes, you know you’re in for a treat. Well, or not in your case.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:30 am · Reply

      Oh lord. Don’t even get me started on my Air China rant!!! And the Beijing security. Funny enough — the failed to find my nail scissors. BKK did though. And yeah, that woman was nutso!

  4. Emily in Chile August 29, 2012 at 10:34 am · Reply

    Oh, the joys of travel! I was so stressed for you reading this, even though obviously I know you eventually made it to Chiang Mai. I’m glad to hear that it even ended up being on time, even if your bag couldn’t join you right away!

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:29 am · Reply

      I was stressed!! But, at the same time, I had to accept there was nothing I could do to change it and this was my situation. I wasn’t happy, but I knew I was getting everything back. Eventually.

  5. travelFREAK August 29, 2012 at 11:29 am · Reply

    That sounds HORRIBLE. I’ve had a few flights like that. NOT fun. At all. Glad you’re smiling now, though!

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:29 am · Reply

      Oh, travel tales. :)

  6. Ayngelina August 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm · Reply

    Every time I fly with an American airline there is no television! wtf? It has really made me appreciate Air Canada, I will never complain about them again.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:28 am · Reply

      There are only a few carriers in America I have used that have screens in the seat backs — and those are only for cross-country flights. Delta, Virgin, Jet Blue. I am always shocked when I get on a trans-ocean flight and there are just the tv screens hanging down the aisles. It’s a long flight! Without your own screen, its horrible!

  7. Federico August 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm · Reply

    Oh what a trip…and to think that Air Asia has always kicked ass when I’ve used them…

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:27 am · Reply

      Air Asia wasn’t my big gripe. Yeah, I would have loved the fee for checked luggage returned to me since it wasn’t my fault I was sans bag. Air China is the carrier that was terrible.

  8. Pete August 29, 2012 at 6:45 pm · Reply

    Yuck. I HATE it when customer service just doesn’t care. Glad that you finally got your luggage :) Not the best way to start, but things can only get better.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:26 am · Reply

      I couldn’t even find a rep in BKK! I had to scour and hunt one down. Fortunately, Thai Air took over the bag issue and stayed in contact with me the few days I was luggage-less.

  9. Jeff B August 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm · Reply

    That really sucks! Next time you have someone sitting next to you that wants to share to much you should offer to video it and put it on your website. I bet that would shut them up…hopefully.

    It is sad that airlines do not care about customer service anymore.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:25 am · Reply

      Haha!! Brilliant!!

      Yeah, the customer service thing kind of goes out the window when you have a semi-captive audience. Too bad.

  10. Krista August 30, 2012 at 12:02 am · Reply

    Oh my. I feel stressed just reading this, let alone living it. :-( So glad you made it safely – wish it would’ve been a better travel experience. Last frustrating moment I had was purchasing a flight through Delta which allowed two free check in bags, but made to pay for a second because Virgin Australia was running the flight. Grrrr. :-)

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:25 am · Reply

      Gah. That blows. I always seem to have problems with Delta. And United. Which is why I try to stay away from both. I much prefer European and Asian airlines.

  11. Raymond @ Man On The Lam August 30, 2012 at 9:04 am · Reply

    I had a problem with Air Asia once as well — their web portal booked the wrong date for me (seriously, it was them, not me) and when I called in to explain, they charged me the change fee. Lousy buggers!

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:24 am · Reply

      That sucks!!!

  12. Camels & Chocolate August 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm · Reply

    Hmm, I think you may have had my mom as your seatmate! I kid, but that woman will talk to a brick wall. I actually have to put headphones in to get her to stop half of the time =)

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:23 am · Reply

      Ha ha!! Cute!!

  13. Erica August 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm · Reply

    HAHA! I had my first bad seatmate to Alaska. He took up so much room (and was there first) so I couldn’t put down my armrest and he continued to eat two packages of airline priced trail mix. Shaun got to sit next to two chatty older women who loved his. /jealous

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:23 am · Reply

      Ha ha!! That sucks. And, a flight to Alaska isn’t short, either!! Whenever I would fly on Southwest, I would always get on the plane and lean my head against the window and not make eye contact with anyone. If someone sat next to me, I would just pretend to be already listening to music or something so I could skip the conversation.

  14. Rebecca September 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm · Reply

    oh how AWFUL!! That is one hell of a trip – what more could have gone wrong, seriously? But so exciting to be in Thailand. I visited Elephant Nature Park last year and loved it.

    • Diana September 4, 2012 at 1:21 am · Reply

      It was one hell of a trip! ENP is amazing. Hope you can make it back while I am there. :)

  15. Ava Apollo September 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm · Reply

    My jaw literally dropped when the lady mentioned the testes issue. Really, lady? Also, I have had a flight on time into or out of SFO maybe 3 times over the last 4 years, during which I flew there maybe 15 times. Fog. My. Ass.

    • Diana September 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm · Reply

      Ha ha! It was ridiculous! SFO always seems to have delays. Ah, the joys of travel!

  16. Ruth@FacetiousFarang September 13, 2012 at 11:44 pm · Reply

    Oh man. My heart rate increased just reading your post. What a hideous experience! One of my worst travel experiences was when I (foolishly) decided to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on the same day that I was scheduled to fly out of Delhi. My train from Agra to Delhi was delayed by 7 hours, and I was in full scale panic mode. I had booked second-class non AC berths which were way more cramped than I remembered from previous travels, and it was incredibly hot. There was no food offered on the train (an anomaly in India), and it moved incredibly slowly. When we finally pulled into Delhi, I stupidly got in a fight with some taxi drivers about the cost of a ride to the airport. We pulled up with minutes to spare, but the guard wouldn’t let me boyfriend come into the airport, so I said goodbye to him on the spot, and raced to my gate, still wearing my sweat-soaked, wrinkled mess of a salwaar kameez.

    On a separate note, China Eastern lost my husband’s bag for TEN DAYS when we moved to Bangkok. Perhaps China is the black hole of baggage?

    • Diana September 17, 2012 at 7:29 am · Reply

      Oh, wow! Both sound horrible!!

  17. Sloan September 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm · Reply

    Ayyy! This sounds awful!! I’m headed to Thailand in a month and hope my trip over doesn’t end up like this. LOVE the blog! I’m hoping to get to Chang Mai soon, I’ll be in the Kamphaeng Phet Province teaching english!

    • Diana September 17, 2012 at 7:27 am · Reply

      It was awful!! Let me know when you are in CM!

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