Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Nightmares of Travel

I can't decide whether to write my trip report chronologically or just based on various entertaining stories.

Since I can't decide I'll just start spewing forth stuff as it occurs to me in a semi-chronological fashion.

I can't get into the details of Italy until I arrive at Italy.

I've flown overseas a lot. Back in the 2002/2003 era I was a platinum member of American Airlines. I flew back and forth to Frankfurt about twice a month for almost 2 years.

This trip was the worst. This is a boring travel story. You can skip it if you want. There are not too many details of Italy. Just a relentless brow beating as sort of a preface to some of the incidents of the actual stay in Italy.

It started in Dallas. My itinerary involved flying from Dallas to Chicago with an hour lay over in Chicago before flying to Rome. Basically, I leave Dallas at 14:00, arrive in Chicago at 16:00, leave Chicago at 17:00, and arrive in Rome at 09:00. It sounds easy enough.

The Dallas flight was delayed because of weather and then further delayed because of a mechanical failure. As soon as they announced the second delay I talked to 3 different airport attendants trying to make different arrangements. Either let me go back home and try again tomorrow or get me on an alternate path to Rome. I don't want to be stuck in Chicago over night.

I was told the same thing 3 times. Since I had already checked my bags, I was already in the system. I will just have to fly to Chicago and go from there. I think sometimes airlines use government regulations as excuses for their own ineptness. They'd rather us be mad at the government than at them and since they all do it, we live with it.

The flight to Chicago finally departed at 16:00. Before landing they informed us that the flight for Rome had already left and to head to gate X after landing to get rescheduled.

The American Airlines re-booking lady in Chicago was very pretty. I think she may have distracted me because somehow we got booked on a flight to London via British Airways with a connection there to Rome. It was to leave Chicago at 20:00. We would eventually arrive in Rome at 18:00 the next day. She called the baggage area and confirmed that our bags had been located and forwarded on to British Airways. She gave us itinerary receipts and told us to go to the British Airways ticket counter where we would be issued tickets.

So far this is all working out rather well. I'm not having to stay in Chicago after all.

When we arrived at British Airways they confirmed that they had our reservations, but they couldn't find our luggage. They told us to go ahead and get through security and head to the gate and ask the folks at the gate about our luggage. My colleague had lost his bag receipt from American, but I still had mine (which supposedly was a good thing).

We made it to the gate. They had my colleague's bag, but not mine. They told me that when I arrived in Rome, I should talk to the lost & found folks there and fill out the missing baggage report.

We flew to London. In London I asked about my bag again and was told the same thing. It was missing. As soon as I arrive in Rome I should make a report.

We flew to Rome. In Rome I made the report. The woman at the counter in Rome was very pretty as well. She may have distracted me. I thought she said that my bag had been located and I would probably receive it the next morning. By this time it was Monday, 18:30. The original plan was to be at our final destination by now. We were going to take a train from Rome to Lamezia.

Being that we were already greatly delayed we decided to fly. We found an English speaking agent at the airport and acquired two tickets to Lamezia on Air One. It seemed relatively safe. Air One is my new word for "The airline I will never fly on again".

It's about a 5 hour train ride from Rome to Lamezia. Had we taken a train we probably would have arrived at about 01:00 (Tuesday morning).

Italians don't speak much English. Once we went into the realm of "domestic flights" in Italy, we were outcasts. There was a large mob of people at the gate. They were accosting the attendants in a seemingly irritated fashion. I was concerned about this display.

The attendants would suddenly speak loudly into this microphone announcing something in Italian. It was quite loud, but I don't speak Italian.

After they finished the announcement, the angry mob would start raising their fists and yelling (also in Italian). It was during the angry mob yelling that the attendant would very quietly make the same announcement in bad English that was probably impossible to understand in a quiet room.

We got to where we would stand safely outside the radius of the mob and wait for one of the attendants to escape and then we'd accost them. Our gate changed once. The flight was delayed for 4 hours, but in 10 minute intervals so you couldn't really leave or anything.

Once we got on the plane, they made another announcement. The lady next to me took off her seat belt and proceeded to start standing and yelling at one of the flight attendants. I was weighing my options. By this time I had been awake for over 30 hours. My diplomacy skills were not in their finest shape. I decided to sit quietly and hope I didn't get injured in any crossfire.

Based on what happened next, I assume that they combined two flights into one because they came through counting seats and then a bunch more people came on board the flight. There was lots of bickering. Even seated passengers were yelling at boarding passengers. It delayed us about another hour.

Finally, at about 00:00, we departed Rome for the 1 hour plane trip to Lamezia. My opinion of Italy and Italians was not very good, but I had not lost hope.

By the time I got to my hotel room in Catanzaro Lido it was after 02:00. Our schedule was to be ready to go to work at 08:00. I wasn't happy and I didn't have my luggage. I had enough supplies in my backpack to last about 3 days. If you think in Central Standard Time, I left the house at 12:00 April 26 and arrived at my destination 19:00 April 27. I had been traveling for 31 hours.


  1. Well, I'm glad to see there were some "distractions" along the way, otherwise...I'd feel sorry for you.

  2. Good Gawd. That was funny to read, but also unsettling, like all my worst fears of flying happened to you. I would not handle that at all well.