Traveling is an amazing thing, for so many reasons. But when it takes a wrong turn and unplanned things come up, it can switch on a dime, leaving you the victim of unwanted change. Travel lovers, such as myself, post all the beautiful, dreamy pics, but rarely does one see those of travel gone awry, such as our trip home from Rome to New York this past weekend. It’s funny – I had been planning to do a humorous post on a day gone south in Tuscany, and then this happened – even better!
Let me preface by saying my family and I are back home and all is fine now, and apart from our 36 hour ordeal, I really can’t complain – we just spent over 10 days in Italy; I don’t want to sound like a brat. But our experience in getting home is one of those frustrating stories you hear about from other people, but doesn’t actually happen to you. Except that it happened to us.
It goes like this. My family and my sister-in-law’s family (both with young kids) were supposed to take a 12:50 p.m. flight home from Rome to NYC this past Saturday. Friday night, an Italian friend of ours warned us that the Rome airport was having some troubles due to labor strikes and a recent fire nearby. Indeed, we soon started receiving emails from Delta. The first one said that our flight had been delayed to 2:45. The second email, sent just to my brother-in-law (not to my husband, sister-in-law or me), said the flight had been pushed back to 4:00. Huh? Why would we receive two different times? We then started receiving emails saying that they strongly urged us to check in on-line, and that if we couldn’t, to arrive at least 4 hours early to the airport. Ok. Labor strikes and a fire. That makes sense. But when we tried to check in on-line, Delta wouldn’t let us. We tried numerous times, to no avail. So, we decided to leave for the airport super early in case things were complete chaos when we got there. Were they ever!
People were everywhere – lines were going every which way, no one knew which line to be in, and regardless of the line, they were all long. Forget about trying to go inside the airport, everything was backed up from inside to out. We got in what we thought was the correct line and stood there for about 20 minutes, when we were called over to stand under a tent. At this point we figured everything was delayed due to the fire and strikes, but we really didn’t know much about anything. When we go to the tent, another American saw us and asked us if we were on the 12:50 flight to JFK, and after confirming, she said it had been cancelled and the next available flight out wasn’t until 10:00 p.m. the following day, Sunday. What?? She then proceeded to tell us that buses were coming soon to take us to the Sheraton and Hilton hotels. Still processing…we’re stuck in Rome until 10:00 p.m. the next night? My youngest daughter, who’s a bit emotional, started crying uncontrollably saying she was worried we’d never be able to get on an airplane home. I had to talk her down and sooth her for about 10 minutes before she was rational again. She’s 5. Why would she understand?
About an hour later we boarded a bus to the Sheraton. Mind you it is HOT in Rome. 100 degrees hot, and we were of course all in our jeans for the air-conditioned airplane. By the time we boarded the bus we were sweaty, thirsty and eager for answers. Our game plan was to check into our room and start researching any and all flights from the three closest cities to Rome. What’s to say the next day’s flight would take off? At this point we still thought it must have been the fire or strikes, but little did we realize it was most likely neither. When we got to the hotel, they had itineraries all set and ready to go for us. Lunch at this time, dinner at that time, etc. It all seemed a little pre-planned to us.
We soon found out there were no other available Delta flights from any of the other airports – Milan, Bologna, Naples, even Paris. It’s high season of course. We also found out that the fire had happened days before and the airport was fully operational within 24 hours. So, it left us with two things – the flight was cancelled either due to the strikes or it hadn’t been a full flight. A bunch of people we talked to seemed to think it might be the latter. We’ll never know. The worst thing about it so far at this point was that there was nothing we could do, and people have commitments and a thing called a “job” to get back to, and we couldn’t. And we had the kids.
Finally we came to terms with our situation, and headed to lunch. An institutional buffet style meal, we would not be returning for dinner. That’s when I realized let’s make the most out of this and head into Rome (hotel was in the suburbs) and go out for one last great night in the eternal city. As we were talking about it we decided to head to the pool (yes, the hotel had a pool, thank god). I have to say, if you’re going to be stuck abroad, this is the pool you want to be stuck at. Complete with poolside bar and lounge, it was pretty damn nice for an airport hotel. And they had Frascati wine – our favorite. Would I rather have been on the plane? Of course. But we sat poolside and headed that night into Trastevere in Rome and enjoyed one last really good night.
Things were looking brighter…for the time being! When we finally took off for the airport the next day, it was like we were cattle, there were so many of us from the initial flight, and it took forever to check in…the airport was so crowded and chaotic we could barely buy gum. Our plane, naturally, was packed. When we finally got to JFK at 1:00 a.m.– get this – there was no one to bring the walking bridge (whatever the thing is called) to the plane! We waited half an hour in the plane for the damn thing. We then had to wait and wait for our luggage – switching carasols twice at 2:30 a.m. – only to find out one of the belts was “broken”. Whatever. We finally, after at least an hour and a half, got our luggage. We arrived to JFK at 1:00 a.m. and didn’t get home until almost 4:00 a.m. My poor older daughter had developed a bad cough and cold by this point, probably from pure exhaustion. I guess we had naively assumed that once we boarded that plane the airline would go out of its way to take care of us.
It was a trip home I will never forget, I think mostly because we were abroad with the kids with no control over the situation. But traveling isn’t always so rosy, and as I secretly knew throughout our ordeal, things like this do happen, and with every airline…so when people think of travelers, or in my case travel bloggers, don’t think it’s always a box full of chocolates! A lot can go wrong sometimes. Like when we were stuck in Florida two years ago due to bad weather and the next available flight wasn’t for three days, so we drove from Ft. Myers, FL to New York. But I’ll save that for another post ;).
This sounds awful. You should check with Delta, and find out what really went wrong. LGC
I know. We tried to, but they couldn’t give us an explanation..
I would have to agree that something “fishy” was up and this was a less than full flight possibly. You really feel it though when you have no control of your situation and you are far away from home. Feels much more challenging. I am always happy and relieved when we make it (and our bags!) to our destination and on time. Somehow, I tend to assume otherwise… maybe my travel glass is half empty from previous experiences. Glad you are home safe and sound. Italy is always great until you have to come home!!!
Very true!! And yes, if you travel a lot, you’re bound to come across more bad experiences, so understandable if your glass is half full. I’m just glad we got our luggage..that would have sent us over the edge..
Horrible. You seemed way calmer than me. Thankfully you had a great trip and are home safe and sound!
Yes – a trip like that is always worth it!
Glad you’re all home and safe. Tired I know, but with youth and a little rest it will be okay. What an adventure to talk about and laugh about after you rest for a while. There were many great memories made. The time to enjoy these adventures are when you are young.
Wise words Walter! Yes, we will be able to laugh about it that is for sure. A big trip like that does not come without its mishaps :).
Been there done that! It sucks big time! Just this past week we had the run around with Delta/Virgin due to a flight change – it changed by 14 minutes and suddenly they were saying we’d have a 10 hour layover at LAX… I don’t think so…
Oh no! Sucks! They get away with so much…hope you got to your destination safely!
Corey, I love that your cup is half full. One of the first things I learned about you was your positive attitude. That takes you far in this world and leads to more laughter than tears. You are amazing.
Thanks so much Jean, those are such nice words. I try to be..in this case when it’s out of your control all you can really do is sit back with a drink and laugh.
Oh glad you got home safe and sound in the end. No, you’re absolutely right – travel is never a bed of roses especially when it’s out of your control. We’ve had this before too, and been bumped off a flight. I find airport staff are particularly bad a communication. Glad you managed to make the most of your day in Rome though
Thanks so much. As a travel blogger yourself you know the downside..it’s mostly up..but people often have this idea of travel bloggers living in la la land but not always the case..
Corey- That was the worst! It hardly had the ” fun” aspect that the road trip from Ft. Myers to Larchmont had two years ago. Remember Leighton- ” when can we go on another road trip?” Way to keep your cool. XXX LPC
Yes! I almost forgot about that one-liner – thanks for reminding me ha!
Gosh, that was certainly a very, very, very long flight to get home! Yeah, most people just see our lovely pics and assume that everything was rosy on the trip 🙂 I have had my fair share of things that didn’t go according to plan – missed flights due to heavy fog, airport pick-up that never came (happened to me 3x!) and worse still, when arrival is late at night, etc, etc. Most importantly, we remember to come out from our doldrums and make the best of the situation. Glad that you and your family arrived in US safely 🙂
Thanks so much Kat! Totally agree – better to have a glass half full, esp when it’s completely out of your control :).
That’s so annoying when the gate/air bridge thing happens! I used to work as a pilot and waiting for that stupid gate to connect was excruciating. The only worse thing I can think of is when you arrive late a night and you’re parked a one of those remote spaces far away from the terminal and you have to go in by busses, which never have enough seats for everyone:)
Wow, amazing you were a pilot!! What made you stop? Yes, I hate walking far after a long flight in the middle of the night – zombie prolonged!
I like that you made the best of it & headed to Trastevere… but I know how hard it is on the kids, especially young ones! I remember being stuck in Miami one year – on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t get a flight out until 3 days later (weather) and missed celebrating Xmas with my husband… and ended up spending it with my ex-husband and his family… Good thing we all get along, but still :/
Wow, G, now that is a story! Great you get along with ex-husband and fam – hope your husband was cool with it! There’s nothing worse than a bad and awkward travel experience. Thanks for reading :).
Airline delays with kids are just the worst! Our recent 14 hour journey from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, Aus was delayed over 5 hours just because a connecting flight was running late. What fraction of the plane would have been from that connecting flight I don’t know – but as passengers we talked to on the plane said Melbourne wasn’t even their destination – we realised its the only large Aus airport without curfew so easier to land passengers late at night there then stranded in AD so they held our plane for all those delayed already! I wish airlines would be more honest, we were only told “operational reasons”. We got to the airport 3 hours early as required and to get the bassinet seat (after a fight for that too) so ended up 8 hours+ that night at the airport before 14hours in the air then 3 more hours to our destination. It’s the sucky side of family travel but absolutely we’ll do it again. (A few angry tweets at the airport and we got 40,000 frequent flyer points credited by the time we landed, thanks Etihad). Love your honest reviews it’s not all beautiful photos for bloggers!!
Keri, that’s amazing you got 40,000 frequent flyer points! Taking note. But what a horrible travel story. I agree, I wish airlines would be more honest..that’s the part that annoys people the most – the not knowing – and creates angry passengers..if they only realized how much being up front might actually help the situation. Glad you all got to your destination safely, and yes, we will totally do it again :).
Must have been tough experience – especially with young kids. I’m not particularly fond of waiting and a delayed flight is, probably, the worst part of travel. Sadly, I’ve learned, it’s one of those ‘things’ that will happen on a trip. 🙂 Thanks for the follow. Look forward to reading more of your travel adventures!
Exactly Cheryl – it’s one of those things that will happen from time to time. Is what it is. Thanks for the follow too, looking forward as well :).