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 ;).