A series of unfortunate travel incidents

Today I had an unusually large number of travel errors. Yet, to my surprise, I still reached my destination.

  1. My inbound flight was delayed by about 40 minutes. No big deal for a Sunday evening flight.
  2. After we boarded—about an hour late—the flight attendant announced that we would have to get on a new plane due to a technical problem. A big deal, switching hardware always causes more delays.
  3. We had to wait for the new plane to land, taxi, plane and clean, which took about 45 minutes.
  4. Shortly before we pushed back, the pilot announced that he was going to “time out”. (The FAA limits the number of “duty hours” a pilot can fly in a given day.) The pilot said he requested an early departure so as not to exceed his hours. But no luck. I am sure they will cancel the flight. But to my surprise, the pilot announced that there was a “standby” pilot on duty at the airport, who could take the flight. About 30 minutes later, the new pilot comes on board. Finally, we finally took off about 2.5 hours late. Kudos to United for having enough flexibility in hardware (a new plane) and staffing (a standby pilot) to avoid flight cancellations.
  5. While in the air, I received an e-mail from Avis—they couldn’t hold my reserved car for more than two hours, so the reservation was closed. Now when landing I have to go to the fare desk, instead of going to my reserved spot number. And there is no guarantee that anyone will actually be at the desk after 1 AM. Avis cars can also be sold! Fortunately, a manager was still on duty and I got a car right away. However, Avis should not have canceled the reservation. I included my flight number in the record, and Avis should have tracked that my flight was delayed.
  6. I drive to the hotel, and one last problem for the night. The Marriott reservation system was down. Bonvoid! There were about 5 people in the lobby, milling around. Curiously, four of them were on my flight – one of them my seatmate! Finally, the system comes back online. I reach my room at 2:30

I was shocked, shocked, despite all these problems, I actually reached my destination, there was a car available and I entered my room. So many things had gone wrong, and I was sure I’d spend the night back home in Houston. My advice: never panic, stay calm and don’t feel tripped there is to be accepted.

In any case, two talks tomorrow, wrong today. Stay tuned!