Culture

Have You Ever Had a Trip from Hell? Here Are a Few of Our Family's...

Once upon a time, travel was really arduous. Some trips took days, months, and, in the case of Odysseus, years. In fact, the word “travel” is generally accepted as having its origin in “travail,” and according to Webster’s, 

the first known use of the word travel was in the 14th century. It also states that the word comes from Middle English travailen, travelen (which means to torment, labor, strive, journey) and earlier from Old French travailler (which means to work strenuously).

Certainly a trip from Europe to the New World could take months whereas now it takes six to nine hours.

Many travelers might feel that travel should once again be called “travail.” Among other travails there are: long lines at ticket counters; delayed flights; long waits for luggage; airline seats that seem closer and closer to the seats in front; and waiting on the phone for a long time to speak to an airline representative (my husband Avi was on hold for fifty minutes to talk to someone at American Airlines). This is a far cry from the luxurious travel that going by air once was. Of course, there are no more complimentary airline meals anymore.

After 9/11, with the formation of the TSA, things became even worse. The lines were so long for TSA checkpoints at Newark on one trip that the door to the airline sleeve closed by the time we got to the plane. I’ve found that TSA agents are generally polite and agreeable in Milwaukee, but LAX is just the opposite.

Avi, who wears a prosthetic leg, now always has an attendant bring a wheelchair to take him through TSA checkpoints and to the plane. An LAX TSA agent, after patting Avi’s yarmulke down flat, then picked it up to see that nothing was under this thin covering. Then the agent took him away for 45 minutes. They not only X-rayed both legs, but also the wheelchair that belonged to the airport!

While waiting I saw two huge TSA female agents checking out what looked like a 90-year-old woman who was about four feet something.

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Let me carry your bag for you…

We nearly didn’t make that plane either.

However the worst trip that Avi ever took was the one coming back home from Los Angeles on Monday, January 5, 2015, on American Airlines. He was to have arrived in Milwaukee at 6:10 pm after a flight from LAX to O’Hare, and then a connecting flight to Milwaukee. I flew on Southwest. We left at exactly the same time, 10:25 am from L.A. I arrived at 4:20, about five minutes late, for which the pilot apologized.

Avi arrived in Milwaukee at around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, seven and a half hours late! He’d been traveling — or travailing — for thirteen and a half hours, long enough to have gone to London from Los Angeles, instead of going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I left a friend at the airport to pick him up. The friend kept checking the arrivals board. The arrival time was changed from 6:10 to seven something, then eight, and then… nothing. I called American and couldn’t get anyone. After leaving my number, someone finally called with no information at all.

When Avi finally got home at almost two in the morning, he told me about his horrendous trip:

When we landed in Chicago from Los Angeles, the stewardess asked people what their connections were. When I told her when my connection was, she said it was criminal to have scheduled me for just a half hour to make a plane which was on the other side of O’Hare. I didn’t even wait for a wheelchair but struggled off the plane; and since the sleeve was exposed to the air, it was extremely slippery and dangerous for me. I was afraid I’d fall. The agent in the terminal said the connecting flight was delayed an hour and I was able to be driven to the connecting flight’s gate.

The rest of the story would have been funny on Seinfeld, but it wasn’t for Avi and the rest of the American Airlines passengers:

We finally boarded the connection at least an hour and a half after the rescheduled time. After everybody was on the packed plane and seated, the pilot stated, “I need three things to take off: I need passengers, I need baggage, and I need fuel. So far I’ve got passengers.” We waited on the plane another hour, which made me now at O’Hare for three hours after landing. After loading the baggage and fuel, the pilot said: “Now the wings have to be de-iced.”

Ten or fifteen minutes later, he announced, “I’ve been down-checked by the FAA and since they couldn’t find another pilot the flight is canceled.”

That was at 9 p.m., three hours after we were supposed to have left!

Everyone got off the plane. We were still at O’Hare. The gate agent told us there were no more flights. Our only recourse was to take the airport bus to Milwaukee, and I wasn’t even sure I could make the last one. The building to get to the bus was far from the terminal I was now in, so I asked for a wheelchair. I waited for almost a half hour together with another lady in a wheelchair. Eventually one attendant came and managed to push both of us at once. We finally caught the very last bus to Milwaukee.

That trip was a horror, too. The bus was first held up by a jackknifed truck on the highway, then slid around in the snow and nearly got stuck in the snow at one of the intermediate stops. The bus, which was supposed to have arrived at 12:30, finally pulled into the Milwaukee stop at almost 1:30.

The first thing I did the next day was to cancel my American Airlines credit card, and neither Avi nor I will ever fly American again.

What were your trips from hell?

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Who wants to book a flight on American Airlines?

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Image illustration via shutterstock /