I recently took a flight that reminded me just how bad air travel has become. I'll share my story below, but first .... It made me wonder if others out there could top it. Let us turn your pain into gain! E-mail us at email@example.com with your best travel horror story, and we'll pick the most horrific one to win a SkyRoll carry-on bag worth $150. Keep your stories to under 400 words, and please leave out the full names or names of companies involved in your story (we don't want to get sued). Read the full rules here. Contest ends 3/21 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
So, back to my hellish flight: I flew from Boston to New Orleans on United/Continental, and the problems began on the first leg of the flight. United/Continental overbooked by a large number. I immediately suspected this when I bought my ticket and was unable to select a seat, so I checked in online as early as the airline permitted and was randomly assigned a seat. Other people weren't so lucky and were bumped from the flight.
To make matters worse, there were more than 100 passengers vying for about 50 spaces in the overhead bin, so United/Continental asked for volunteers to gate-check bags for free. If not enough people volunteer, the airline would force some passengers to do so. This is really frustrating. If I'm only bringing a carry-on, I want to avoid the hassle of waiting for my bag at my destination, not to mention the potential for my luggage to go missing. If you can't accommodate everyone bringing on a carry-on, don't charge passengers to check a bag!
After a four-hour layover in Dulles, I was ready for my second flight (also overbooked, and also with the same lack of overhead bin space) to New Orleans. When everyone was loaded onto the plane, the pilot announced an early departure. Finally, a stroke of good luck! Unfortunately, we sat at the gate, packed in our tiny economy seats, for close to an hour after a warning light came on.
Maintenance was unable to fix the plane, but luckily United/Continental had another jet we could use. Transferring planes was chaos: People without checked bags were sent to the other side of the airport (which at Dulles involves long walks, stairs, and trains) to board the new plane. There, we waited for ages with no staff member to help us out in a completely deserted terminal. Finally, after seeing our new plane pull away from our gate (without us on it), everyone sprinted back to the original gate, where the new plane had taxied over.
After about a three hour delay, we finally reached New Orleans (at about 3:00 a.m.). The pilots and flight attendants were great—keeping everyone informed and doing whatever they could to help us out—and United/Continental was very good about getting us a new plane that would fit everyone. However, when I flew JetBlue and was delayed for the same amount of time, I automatically received an apology e-mail and credits toward a future flight for my inconvenience. I still haven't heard one word from United/Continental about this incident.
With airlines cutting corners everywhere they can, flights like this one are becoming more and more common, and more and more crowded. In the scheme of things, a three-hour delay is not so bad, and I know our SmarterTravel readers can definitely top this story. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story!