Weather Delays, Lost Luggage And Full Airplanes

How do you miss a cruise to Europe? When weather, connections and lost luggage conspire to keep you grounded. The delay shown here was the first of half a dozen. The flight finally took off - without me - three hours late.

How do you miss a cruise to Europe? When weather, connections and lost luggage conspire to keep you grounded. The delay shown here was the first of half a dozen. The flight finally took off – without me – three hours late.

On Monday, I should have been sipping cocktails in Venice, Italy, on the deck of Silversea’s luxurious Silver Spirit. Instead, I spent quality time – for the second day in a row – at Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall Airport.

On Sunday, I was slated to fly with American Airlines from Baltimore to Philadelphia, where I would switch planes and fly direct to Venice. With a 2:55 p.m. departure and three hours between landing in Philly and my connecting flight to Venice, I wasn’t concerned when the first in a line of intense thunderstorms rolled in just before Noon. After all, I have three hours to spare.

By mid-afternoon, my flight took the first of five subsequent delays. The first was an hour, which would leave me two hours to connect. The second delay whittled that down to one. The third delay, 50 minutes.

At this point, customers seated at Gate C1 started to realize they had already misconnected for their flights. Customers went to the agents for help. The agents – three of whom primarily socialized amongst each other from some comfy chairs in the waiting area – were not inclined to help.

“It’s a 19-minute flight!” the one agent exclaimed before coming over the PA. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are delayed but this is a 19-minute flight. We’re looking at your connections.” This, as streams of paper are spewing into giant rolls on the ground from the dot-matrix printers that print the closing flight manifests.

The final delay was the one that put me over. Our departure time shifted once again, until 6:20 p.m. That would put me into Philadelphia at 7:00 p.m. – half an hour past the departure time of my Venice flight.

I joined a small cluster of worried travellers who, once again, were told we’d inexplicably all make our connecting flights. Finally, she relented and admitted that I, along with half-a-dozen others, would misconnect. Instead of offering to help rebook our flights, we were handed the airline’s 1-800 number on a card.

After explaining I’d miss my international connection, the gate agent instructed me to leave the secure area and speak with one of the ticketing agents for rebooking.

My ticketing agent was the one bright ray of sunshine among American’s helpless, “sure-beats-me” brand of service offered up at BWI. She was courteous, helpful, and most importantly, understanding. She worked with me for over an hour to find alternative routes to Venice, until it became clear that my available options were all sold out.

The earliest American could get me into Venice was Monday night at midnight – over 16 hours after my original scheduled arrival time, and far too late to meet the Silver Spirit.

I looked at my next two ports of call, and found no airports in any of them. But I still worked with the agent, who by that time had given up on American-branded options and had rung up British Airways to at least get me to London, to hopefully find another flight to Venice.

But she couldn’t ticket me on British Airways – I’d have to go over to the BA counters and have them confirm the ticket. At that point, I had a reservation – but no actual seat – on the flight to London. I had no way to get to Venice other than a possible flight out at 8:20p.m. GMT, and no way to join the ship in Venice. And, no hotel or transportation options in Venice.

I walked across the entire airport to discover the British Airways desk wouldn’t open for another 70 minutes. I asked an airport worker for assistance. “Read the sign,” was his response, gesturing to a sign that says BA Ticketing doesn’t open until 6:00 p.m.

So while I’m standing in an empty queue, waiting for BA to open, I realize I don’t have my bag. I can suddenly see how this plays out: BA says “where’s your bag?” I say American has it. They’ll say, “go get it.”

With time to kill, I walked back to the American Airlines counter. It’s now quarter to six. As I walk back, I notice – unbelievably – that my original flight to Philadelphia didn’t leave at 6:20 p.m. at all. In fact, it departed just after 5:30 p.m – still too late for me to make my connecting flight had I been on it, but shockingly moved back up over an hour without a single announcement. Even the ticketing agent helping me had no idea the flight had suddenly moved up to merely three hours late instead of four.

And, incredibly, despite the fact I’d been un-checked in from the flight and had been temporarily placed on another, American flew my bag – without me – to Philadelphia. It took two agents to explain this to me, at a length of about 20 minutes. Yes, it definitely went to Philly. No, we certainly can’t fly it back – you’d have to be on the plane.

With no luggage, no flights, and no concrete way to join the ship, I gave up. I know when to pull the plug on a journey, and this was it: nothing was working, and everything was falling apart faster than I could keep up with it.

I pulled out my laptop, connected to the minuscule Free Wi-Fi selection, and booked the same Holiday Inn airport hotel I’d stayed at prior to my Carnival Pride cruise last week. And then I made plans to fly back to Canada.

Guess what? American Airlines sent my bag all the way to Venice. I’m currently trying to get it back. I can’t say I’m optimistic.

The lesson in all of this? Fly in a day ahead of time – always. It’s something I always preach to readers, and typically follow myself. This time, I rolled the dice – and I came up “snake eyes.”

Don’t let my story be yours.

 

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