When Travel Plans Go Nowhere

Editor’s note: This post might look familiar to some of you, as it was published last Friday. Unfortunately, it disappeared into the maw of the internet when we switched servers in order to optimize the CivMix experience. In the interest of preserving every word of Silvia Lilly’s brilliance, we are re-posting it for your pleasure. Sorry for any confusion and/or inconveniece. – L

The first time I went abroad was 1988. Six friends and I flew to the U.K. to meet up with another friend who was studying over the summer at Oxford. An incredible airfare deal allowed us to fly round trip from JFK to London for $221 and we hopped on it.

It was a fantastic trip. I’ll never forget the excitement of traveling with a group of people who remain my close friends even decades later. We had a great time, and after eight days of fun made our way to Stansted airport prepared to return to New York. Unfortunately, our flight home was not equally ready. In fact, we were informed that there was no flight to JFK for us, at least not from that particular airport.

After a bit of panic, we were informed that we needed to travel to an alternate airport, Gatwick. Off we went. Sadly, upon arrival we were given similar information – no flight for us. Instead, we were directed, believe it or not, to take a bus to a third airport, Heathrow. By the time we arrived at London’s last (at the time) airport option, we were annoyed, tired and a little concerned about our inability to leave the country. We queued up and after some time, were told yet again that there was no flight for us and that we would need to spend an additional night in London. That sounded great, but in reality was a financial nightmare. We literally had no money left between us.

Luckily, the airline representative was French, as was one of our group members. She explained our situation and the next thing we knew we had paid accommodations, meals and transatlantic phone calls all promised. Our bonus night in London included a very nice hotel (by far the best we had stayed in) a hot dinner and the best bathtub I had ever seen – or soaked in. The next day, we flew home on British Air feeling like complete ballers. It was fantastic.

Since that first travel snafu, there have been a few other occasions when my trip did not go exactly as planned. My middle son and I, due to a terrific lunch and pitcher of sangria, once missed a flight from Barcelona to Lisbon. There were no other flights to be had for a price we (or rather I) could absorb, so we travelled by bus. Actually, we took a series of three buses over approximately 18 hours. That was not fun. I believe that was the same trip that our layover in Philly on the way home turned into a horror show due to weather (AKA a rain storm). I’ve since learned to avoid Philly on subsequent trips.

My return from Prague a couple of summers ago got complicated when, upon arrival at the airport, we learned our early flight had been cancelled. Hours later we were able to get home via Paris, instead of our original itinerary which would have taken us through Lisbon. I was disappointed to be denied the opportunity to indulge my love of pastel de nata, but was able to console myself with croissant. Also providing some solace was the $1,100 payout I ultimately received from the airline for the inconvenience. If your flights on a European carrier cause you to be delayed more than 3 hours, remember to contact to Airhelp.com (or some other company) for assistance in getting compensated for the inconvenience. It really works.

Earlier this month my flight from Albany to Florida was delayed repeatedly due to weather and other related issues. My trip south was scheduled to be a quick one – just 3 nights/2 days – and as the hours slipped away, I started feeling less enthusiastic about my weekend plans. Beyond a reservation for a car rental, I had no commitments (since I was staying with friends) and I started thinking that maybe this trip was just not meant to be. I called Payless and learned I was able to cancel my booking without penalty or fee and decided to see how JetBlue might be able to help me if I chose to cancel and reschedule my trip.

The agent at the gate advised me to call the 800 number and within 5 minutes my reservation was cancelled and the points I had used to originally book the ticket were returned to my account to use another time. They even refunded me the tax money and placed it into a JetBlue account to be used on my next booking. Providing me with that level of accommodation earned JetBlue some serious loyalty. I won’t hesitate to book with them again in the future – and I’m not just talking about that rescheduled Florida trip next month.

Flying may not be the luxurious experience of days gone by, but generally, it does get me to where I want to go. Most of time, that is. Tell me your travel gone wrong stories.

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