Guy Smarts: How to survive holiday travel without murdering someone
The man next to me looked at me and said somberly, “I guess I won’t get to see my kid graduate from college now.”
After a weekend of canceled flights, lost baggage, and airline incompetence, travelers are up in arms
This weekend was a clusterf*@#.
On Friday I was scheduled to fly with Delta from New York City to Illinois, with a brief connection in Atlanta.
I’m no travel newb—this year, I flew more than 250,000 miles—and I had treated this trip as any other: Pack only in a carry-on, check in on my Delta app, and snag a seat toward the front of the plane for quicker de-planing to pad my connection with a few extra minutes.
The first flight was easy. And then we got to Atlanta.
After boarding the plane in Atlanta around 8:30 p.m. and sitting on the tarmac for more than 45 minutes, our pilot came on the speaker and made the decision to keep our wheels on the ground, due to the extremely icy conditions in Illinois.
The man next to me looked at me and said somberly, “I guess I won’t get to see my kid graduate from college now.” We all marched off the plane and awaited instruction from Delta.
We were told that the runway was being cleared at our destination and that we would try to take off again at 11 p.m. Then 6:30 a.m. That meant a night in Atlanta.
I tried to cover my bases and double-booked myself onto a reservation to Bloomington, Indiana for Saturday morning, just in case this flight didn’t work out.
Then I asked if I could receive a voucher for a hotel room. No dice, since the delay was due to weather instead of mechanical error. The floor of Gate C34 in Atlanta had to do for the next 8 hours.
My boarding call never came at 6 a.m.—or 7, 8, or 9:30, for that matter. No one was surprised when the string of delays turned into an outright cancelation.
So I hopped on a new flight to Chicago-Midway at 2 p.m. The Delta representative assured me that she rerouted my bag to Chicago and that it would meet me there.
I called my family to let them know that I was finally getting out of airport purgatory and they promised that they would drive the 3 hours to my new destination to pick me up. After a full 24 hours from my NYC departure, I finally felt like things were starting to go right.
And then I got to Chicago. My bag didn’t.
There is nothing more discouraging then standing at the baggage carousel waiting for your carry-on to plop out onto the belt and watching it turn and turn and turn until there are no bags left.
As of Monday afternoon, Delta still hasn’t been unable to locate my bag. I hope it’s somewhere warm right now. I hope its new owner treats it well.
The sad thing is my weekend from hell wasn’t even remotely unique.
Weather troubles all throughout the U.S. caused more than 19,700 flight delays and 5,500 cancellations between Thursday and Sunday, according to tracking service Flight Aware.
According to the Denver Post, Frontier Airlines canceled 275 flights over the weekend. All over social media, Frontier travelers posted stories of their own odysseys in airports, tales of sitting on the tarmac for 5 hours, and photos of unclaimed and lost luggage piling up in the baggage claim.
This photo from one miserable traveler is borderline NSFW:
Holiday travel is never carefree, but with the extra traffic this time of year, as well as the inclement weather conditions, your travel plans can go from merely stressful to colossally screwed in the blink of an eye.
Flying somewhere this week? Use these pro tips to stay ahead of the airline issues and arrive at your holiday destination in one piece—hopefully with all of your bags and (most of) your sanity intact.
Steer Clear Of These Trouble Spots
The travel site WanderBat gathered 2015 flight data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and discovered the five airports with the most delays: Baltimore Washington International, Chicago Midway International, Dallas Love Field, William P. Hobby International, and Chicago O’Hare.
Prep For Epic Wait Times
By now you know that you can pay $85 for a 5-year TSA Pre-Check membership, which lets you zip through security lines without removing your laptop, shoes, belt, or jacket. But if you’re an infrequent flyer and don’t want to pay, you can at least prepare for long wait times by scouting them out in advance.