Tuesday Travel Trouble: I’m leaving, on a…chartered bus?

A few years ago, when we only had one child, our little family flew from Indianapolis to Boston.  The trip there was uneventful, but the way home got really tricky.  We flew from Boston to Cincinnati on Delta, then from Cincinnati to Indy on a regional jet—not exactly Delta but a Delta affiliate, although we’d bought our tickets from Delta.  That seemed to be the problem.  When we got to Cincinnati, our flight home to Indianapolis was cancelled.  The ticket agent at the regional airline wouldn’t help us because we’d bought our tickets on Delta.  So we went to the Delta desk.  Delta wouldn’t help us because it was the regional airline that had cancelled our flight.  We went back and forth again, getting more and more frustrated with our airport limbo. 

All the while, it’s getting later and later and our toddler is rapidly losing patience with all the airport fun.  We also knew that the longer we went without getting put on another flight, the harder it would be to get on one at all.  We were also much younger and much more inexperienced travelers than we are now and didn’t see a whole lot of options for us at this airport.  We considered renting a car and just getting out of there as soon as things started to get dicey, but we were poor college students and we just kept thinking that the airline would figure out how to get us home.

Finally we went back to the regional airline desk again, and they had a solution.  They had chartered a bus to take everyone from the Cincinnati Airport to the Indianapolis Airport, a two-hour drive.  The bad news: it was already 10pm and we were getting very tired and cranky, our baby especially, and we still had an hour drive home from the airport after we got there.  It was a long, frustrating drive on the bus after a long, frustrating few hours in the Cincinnati airport.

We did learn a few things on this trip.

Here’s what went well: 

The airline (neither one) was really going to leave us stranded in the airport forever, even though it felt like forever; and, all this happened in the States, a few hours from home—this could have been much worse.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can certainly buy convenience,” and after a long trip with a baby, that’s pretty much the same thing.

But here’s what we could have done to make this go more smoothly:

First of all, once we started getting shuffled back and forth between airlines, we should have picked up the phone and called Delta.  This is always sound advice—if you’re stuck somewhere and there are 50 people from your flight crowded around the ticket agent getting more and more heated, call the 800 number.  Those agents on the phone have more power to quickly help you than that poor agent in front of you.  And start with the ticketing airline, they’re the ones who issued the tickets, so they are primarily responsible to get you home.

Remember:  be kind, but also be clear about your expectations.

Secondly, once it was clear that this was not going to get resolved any time soon, we should have rented a car and just dumped the last leg of our flight.  WARNING: this only works on the LAST leg of your flight.  If you skip any of the earlier legs of your itinerary, the airline will automatically cancel your entire itinerary (that’s a different, more unpleasant story).  We would have been out $50-$100 for the car rental, but it would have been worth it for the convenience of just getting home.

As my friend Meg always told me, “money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can certainly buy convenience,” and after a long trip with a baby, that’s pretty much the same thing.

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