Travel isn't always fun. In fact, if you travel enough, you're sure to run into a few situations where you kind of wished you had just stayed home. Here are the worst situations I've found myself in during my travel tenure.
Someone took my luggage
Imagine landing at JFK Airport and waiting for your luggage to come off the carousel. You notice a bag that looks just like yours and you walk over to it but it's tagged with someone else's name.
So you wait...and keep waiting...and wait some more until they even turn the baggage claim belt off. You walk back over to that bag that looks just like yours to look at it again, nope, still belongs to someone else. My bag is very distinctive, so I was shocked someone else even had it in the same size, model and color.
Then something awful dawns upon you. What if this person picked up your bag by accident and left theirs? To make matters worse, it was an international flight. Suppose this person had an onward connection somewhere?
I had to clear customs without my baggage and with no clear way back.
Not only that, but AA's missing baggage desk was outside of Customs. That's right, I had to clear customs without my baggage and with no clear way back to try to get someone to help me! How does that make sense? They logged a ticket and told me to go home and they'd be in touch. I did get my bag back the next day. I'll never know exactly what happened, but I washed every single thing inside my bag.
Another luggage debacle
This one started as my fault. I was very late to the airport for my Virgin Atlantic flight from New York JFK to London LHR on a Friday evening in mid December 2010. Cut to me running to the check-in desk huffing and puffing about my flight that is leaving in 15 minutes. Miraculously, I did make it to the gate, only for the flight to be delayed by an hour! Crisis averted! Or so I thought, until I landed at LHR the next morning.
I was informed that my baggage didn't make it and was on the next flight. They promised it'd be delivered to me once it arrived. Unfortunately, London LHR airport was closed shortly after we landed due to snow!
No luggage means no clothing and I was scheduled to work in the London office come Monday morning. I ended up borrowing a hodge podge of clothing and shoes for the first 2 days. Looking back on that, 2016 Jamar would have just used it as a chance to buy some new clothes!
A few days later, Virgin Atlantic delivered my luggage. Apparently what happened was that when LHR Airport closed, that flight with my luggage was sent to another London airport and it took a few days to sort everything out.
...but the saga wasn't over yet
You'd think that was enough bad luck for a trip, but the saga wasn't over yet. We arrived at London Heathrow on December 27 to take the return flight back to NYC, only to be told that our flight had been cancelled due to an epic snowstorm in New York! By the time we were able to be rebooked, the next available flight out was on January 1.
An extended trip isn't something I'd complain about, as I had no real need to be back in NYC, but Virgin put us up in a hotel close to Heathrow that was truly awful. It looked like something out of the 1970 or 1980s. Everything was old and dated. There were even stains on the pillows.
The only positive thing about the hotel was that it was full of people who also had cancelled flights so they fed us buffet style. While the food wasn't great, we did end up meeting a nice woman from Fairbanks, Alaska who said the hotel was actually an upgrade in terms of the kinds of amenities she'd have access to back home.
Luckily, we only spent a single night there as we had alternative accomodation with family in the city. I would much rather spend 4 days in the city proper rather than just hanging out by Heathrow. On a positive note, it meant that instead of celebrating New Year in NYC, we ended up taking in the fireworks at the London Eye! On another positive note, we arrived at the airport and discovered we had been upgraded to Premium Economy. It's better than nothing!
The airline (accidentally?) invalidated my ticket
Imagine calling the airport to check on your flight from Singapore to New York (via HKG), only to be told that your ticket wasn't valid and that you wouldn't be allowed to travel. Now imagine that happening as you're at Sydney airport in Australia about to board a 7 hour flight to Singapore that was connecting to that now apparently invalid ticket. That was the situation American Airlines put us in earlier this year.
Not only that, but the agent we spoke to was rude and unhelpful. It was a Sunday and his response was that the only department that could help us was one that was closed until Monday. They claimed they didn't have access to all of the data to investigate the situation and refused to do anything further. What??
I ended up spending the next 7 hours on that flight with no connectivity, really frustrated and unable to believe that American Airlines would really leave us stranded in Asia, with a response like, "Sorry, call back tomorrow."
The second we landed, I called back American Airlines and was greeted by another agent who initially sounded like she was going to look into the situation and then said that she had read the notes of the last call and then just kept repeating what the previous agent said. How about doing some independent analysis of my situation?
I asked if they would be paying for my hotel that night if they're going to put me in this situation and they said no. I kept pushing back over and over again, refusing to take no for an answer and asking them to truly research everything. Eventually something must have clicked on their end, because after like 1.5 hours on the phone with them, they said they reissued our tickets, or so I thought. I still had to call back 2 more times after that before boarding passes were finally issued. Thankfully we had a long-ish connection time!
It matters so much more how they [airlines] treat you when you really need their help...I honestly expected better and it really damaged my perception of them.
It matters how airlines treat you when things are good, but it matters so much more how they treat you when you really need their help. American Airlines has been good in this regard in the past, but this was a big fail, particularly given the gravity of the situation with me being in a foreign country thousands of miles from home. I honestly expected better and it really damaged my perception of them. In 2016, call back tomorrow is just not good enough.I'm stressed just recounting that last experience. Anyway, there you have it. Here's to problem free travel in the future :)