Like in life, there are both good and bad experiences in travel.
The savvy traveler needs not only to enjoy the fun but learn valuable lessons from the bad ones.
In our case, as a family with autism one incident can impact the rest of the day. So, we try our best to learn from previous incidents in the hope of preventing future ones.
Here are some of our bad flight experiences and what we learned for our future travels.
Back in 2006, we flew with United Airlines from Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a brief stop in Chicago. Since the airline arranged the flight, connection included, I assumed everything would work out seamlessly. I was wrong. Like many other airlines, United provides minimal connection time. And short connections mean that even the smallest delay will wreck the entire schedule.
Our flight from Los Angeles International Airport was delayed for thirty minutes due to technical reasons. This catalyst was pivotal to our woes. When we deplaned in Chicago, we immediately talked to a company representative, who assured us the next flight (a terminal over) would wait for us. However, after running through Chicago O’Hare escalators to reach the next terminal, we were refused to board. Staff told us that even though the plane had not left, its doors were shut for takeoff. My special needs child had a major meltdown! The incident took us another twelve hours and the second stop in London to reach our destination.
Lesson learned: Always check your connection times carefully. If you want to air on the side of caution, refuse connecting flights with less than two hours between them—especially when flying on international flights.
As we were flying back in 2006 from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport to Los Angeles, the flight crew began to spray in the airplane cabin. When I inquired as to why—many of us had just woken up from a night’s sleep—we were informed the spraying was done to comply with US regulation. Apparently, the flight had originated in the Indian Ocean region where there was an outbreak of a mosquito borne illness.To say I was unhappy is an understatement. My son is asthmatic and suffers from multiple allergies. Unfortunately, it was too late to do anything about it.
Lesson learned: Nowadays, we carry face masks in our carry on luggage in case an event like that should reoccur.
Two summers ago, we were traveling from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia via Chicago, and I did not notice my wallet had dropped onto the airplane floor during our first leg of the journey. I only realized all our drivers’ licenses, and IDs were missing when we arrived in Savannah airport. I was filling the car rental paperwork and could show them my driver’s license.By then, all we could do was notify the airline—in this case, United—and hope for the best.
Needless to mention, we had to alter our plans drastically. Instead of hopping into a rental car and touring Hilton Head for the week, we had to use expensive cabs to go from place to place. To add to our problems, flying home was quite difficult without our ID’s! United, eventually, did come through for us, finding the wallets and returning them to me. But by then we had already returned home.
Lesson learned: Always bring along a second form of government-issued identification (and put them in two separate places in your luggage. So when and if you lose one ID can still use the second one. I also realized a black wallet wasn’t good to carry around and drop on a dark plane floor. Nowadays I have a bright pink wallet that will is much more visible.get colorful containers and wallets to notice quickly on the airplane floor if dropped.
Place ID tags on carry-ons:
While most of us properly place ID labels on our checked baggage, not many put tags on their carry-on. As I found out THAT is a huge mistake. It doesn’t happen often, but on some flights, I have been forced to check my carry-on luggage. The reason is usually lack of overhead bin space. While it usually turns up, I recall at least once on my BMI flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam—where it did not and was lost for good.
Lesson learned: Tag your carry-on with your name and email address (or cell phone number), so the airline can identify you as the owners and return it to you. Also, make sure you photograph your suitcase contents while packing at home to show the insurance what items you lost.
In today’s world packing a bit lighter than the fifty-pound limit (in the US) can help save you on excess baggage charges. As frequent flyers with United, most airport agents have been willing to let a pound or two excess weight in our checked luggage slide. So we never really worried about the issue. That is until we encountered a crew member in Florida who was adamant about the fifty-pound limit.
Even though only one suitcase was over the allowed limit at 52 pounds while the other three were 48 lbs, he refused to compromise. Our options were to either reshuffle the bags (which we begrudgingly did) or pay the extra fee. The moral of the story is always check the allocated weight published and make sure your luggage is not over the limit. Should you chose to ignore the weight, you might spend time rearranging your bags on the airport floor as we did.
Lesson learned: It doesn’t hurt to carry a small travel scale. The scale can help you distribute items more evenly, so you don’t have some suitcases over and some under the limit.
Have you had a bad experience with an airline? How has that changed the way you travel?