When Travel Goes Bad

Yes, travel can occasionally be easy. But when it sucks, it really sucks.

We have a whole long list of “You’ve got to be kidding me” stories that make for great dinner conversation. Here are two of our favorites, and the reason we abide by the carry-on-only rule:

Strasbourg

“It’s not open. The airport is literally not open,” I said, as we arrived two plus hours early for our 7:00 a.m. flight to Amsterdam from the beautiful city of Strasbourg. It was David’s call to be this early for an EU-to-EU flight. Me? An hour would have been great.

“I’m sure it is.”

“Then why is it dark, and there are people outside?” I asked.

“They’re smoking.”

“Forty people, all smoking at the same time? Really?” I said. “See, I told you this was way too early. I could have slept an extra hour.”

After a 15-minute silent and sleep-deprived comatose wait outside:

“The doors are opening,” we both said. I pulled out my phone and checked for a signal.

“Wait. I just got an email. Actually, it’s from last night,”  I said as some email starting popping up. “Our flight is cancelled? But it’s weird, I’ve never heard of this airline. Oh, great, now my phone is running out of juice.”

I walked inside, searched high and low and ended up unplugging a vending machine in a corner to charge my phone and see that, indeed, our flight was cancelled. At the same time, he was in line waiting. Then the announcement came:

“The flight #666 to Amsterdam has been cancelled, and there are no other available flights to Amsterdam today or tomorrow. It will be best for all of you on this flight to change your travel plans and maybe try to fly again next week sometime. Thank you.”

Huh?

Yes, wouldn’t that be nice, if we could just go back, call the office and say, “Oh, well, we tried. We’ll try again Wednesday, maybe.” Sometimes the difference between the US and everywhere else literally hits you over the head.

We looked at each other and both said, “Train.”

“Let’s get a cab to the train station right now,” I said.

“Where are we going to take a train to?”

“We’ll figure it out in the car.”

Speeding back into Strasbourg in a cab, to within a few blocks from where we’d started at that ridiculously early hour, I attempted the dance. First, Delta Airlines.

Me, after the pleasantries: “I need to get a flight to Amsterdam from somewhere other than Strasbourg, to make our AMS – MSP afternoon flight.”

Delta: “Why?”

Me: “Our flight from Strasbourg was cancelled and there are no others today out of Strasbourg.”

Delta: “Our computers still show the flight is on time.”

Me: “Oh, wow, great. Problem solved, we’ll just head back to the airport. Ma’am, your computer is wrong. We just left the airport and they cancelled the flight.”

Delta: “Well, it’s still showing the flight.”

Me: “I’m glad, but they’re not flying it, so I need another flight out from somewhere other than Strasbourg.”

Delta: “From where?”

Me: “I need to look at several options in Germany. What are my options for direct flights today into Amsterdam to make our US-bound flight?”

Delta: “Where are you right now?”

Oh, good God.

Me: “Ahhh, Strasbourg, where we were supposed to fly from?” I was now reaching pissed, and he put the “calming” hand on my leg, which obviously made me madder.

Delta: “And where is that?”

Seriously?

Me: “Okay, let’s start over. I’m in Strasbourg, France, and I need a city within train distance, so look to Zurich, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt. Basically, any city in Germany or Switzerland. Let’s skip Air France; it looks like they’re on strike again.”

Delta: “The whole country?”

Oh, boy.

Me: “No, Air France, hence many of your delays.” Boy, I’m glad I got a good one to help us through this mess.

Delta: “Okay, please hold.”

Just as we’re pulling up to the train station, getting out, paying the cab and walking in:

Delta: “I can get you both out of Stuttgart at 2:00 into Amsterdam, and you have about 20 minutes from that flight to catch your flight to MSP.”

Me: “Great, I’ll take it.”

Delta: “How will you get to Stuttgart? My computer shows no flights out of Strasbourg.”

Ding, ding, ding—we have a winner. Finally, she gets it.

I had smart-ass-comment overload, but I bit my tongue. It must have been his calming touch.

Me: “We’ll get there; thanks for your help.”

“Well,” to him, “let’s hope there’s a train to Stuttgart; otherwise, let’s go back and enjoy the hotel breakfast we missed.”

But the true beauty of Europe is not really the food and the laissez-faire attitude—it’s the trains. A few quick swipes of the credit card, and we were on the 9:30 train to Stuttgart.

Morocco

Dear ROYAL Air Maroc,

We just returned from Morocco and wanted to commend you on the most horrific example of service and efficiency in the travel industry, ever.

If your goal is to eliminate all tourism and air travel in and out of Morocco, congratulations on a job well done.

Yours ever so truly,

Us

So what was so bad about Royal Air Maroc?

Well…

  1. Lost reservation.
  2. Reservation found, assigned seats lost.
  3. Passports taken to another area with no real explanation, other than “necessary.”
  4. 45 minutes pass with no sight or communication of passports. Slight panic begins.
  5. Contemplated likely long-term settlement in Morocco due to lack of passports.
  6. Passports finally returned.
  7. Assigned seats found, tickets given with handwritten flight information because now, apparently, the system was down.
  8. Through security, which can best be described as haphazard and random.
  9. Off to “boarding” area that looked like an abandoned bus depot.
  10. No flight posting or communication of the flight at said boarding area. Of course, no staff present.
  11. An hour after departure time, a meek voice walked to a door and said in broken English, “Flight to JFK.”
  12. Fought large group through one small door to awaiting buses.
  13. Drove to plane and waited 30 minutes on buses for all buses to arrive.
  14. Disembarked en masse from buses (because that’s obviously the most efficient way to board).
  15. Got on plane to find “assigned” seats and surrounding area completely populated.
  16. Heard the flight attendant yell, “No assigned seats; sit wherever you can.”
  17. Exodus ensued, with passengers launching their carry-ons way ahead to land on seats in an attempt at dibs.
  18. After takeoff three hours late, the smell began permeating the entire plane. From the sound and smell, the assumption was there were goats or camels seated behind us.
  19. The simultaneous crying began, of 10 of the loudest and most pissed-off children in the history of flight. (Maybe they were tormented by the camels and goats.)
  20. Lunch preparation and serving began, and we were nearly confirmed there were actual goats, and they just became lunch.
  21. After what seemed like 50 hours, we arrived at JFK.
  22. Announced to our flight attendants on our next flight to MSP that Delta was utopia and we would never again complain. About anything. Ever.