My airplane horror story

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My airplane horror story

Animesh Sarkar, Lode Writer

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Flying is a hit or miss sometimes, especially if you are traveling internationally. Sometimes you have a smooth flight, great movies or maybe even make a new friend, but everyone at least has one horror flying experience. Turned out this time it was my chance to experience my flying nightmare, not once but twice.

On Dec. 20 I was finally done with finals week and was all set to get away from this bone-freezing winter of Houghton and visit my family in India after almost 18 months. Like many other students, I had decided to book my flight from the StudentUniverse website to save a few bucks. My flight itinerary had two connections and I was flying from Chicago (ORD) to New York (JFK), New York to Manchester and finally Manchester to Bombay with each flight four hours apart, which is quite a safe layover time—at least that’s what I thought.

After driving eight hours through a blizzard overnight I was finally sitting near the boarding gate for my Delta flight to JFK and just 20 minutes before boarding I heard the announcement that the flight had been delayed for an hour due to bad weather. Well, I still had a three hour layover to catch my connection to Manchester so I was calm at that moment. I boarded the plane after an hour and I instantly dozed off. After an hour or so I woke up and find that the plane was still on the runway. For a second I thought the plane had reached New York but regrettably, we never took off, my flight was now delayed for almost three hours, which meant there was no chance I could catch my Virgin Atlantic flight to Manchester.

Disappointed and frustrated, I landed in JFK and realized the ripple effect that it would have on all my further flights. I waited in line at the Delta help center along with others stranded like me. This is where I would like to point out how poor the customer service of Delta is: despite several attempts to call the customer helpline not a single call went through.

Anyways, I finally reached the counter and met a customer rep who looked like he was on Xanax or something since he had no empathy whatsoever. He put me on a flight to Manchester for the next day leaving at 5 p.m., which meant I was going to be stuck in New York for almost 24 hours. This was Dec. 21 and holiday season so naturally, there was no hotel available (at least the ones I could afford).

So here started my longest night in a New York airport and believe me it is not fun to be stranded in an airport. I somehow managed to spend the next 15 hours awake on a cold bench in Terminal 4 of JFK. I’m not even going to mention the anxiety my parents were experiencing back in India.

Around 7 a.m. the next morning, I don’t know what got to me, maybe the sleepless night or the nerve-grating thought of spending another 10 hours in a busy airport, I decided to have a squabble with the Delta guys. Luckily there was one flight flying to Paris within three hours from where I could take a connecting flight to Mumbai, and without a second thought, I took the deal. The rest of the journey was fine until I landed in Mumbai to find that Delta messed up my baggage. My bag had now flown to Manchester instead of Paris because the airline had failed to update my itinerary. After reaching home, for the next two days, I had to wear my dad’s oversized t-shirts until finally my bags were delivered at my residence.

If you think the story is over, then let me tell you there is more of this ill-fated journey left. I was flying the same route back to the U.S. Only this time I was first flying from Mumbai to London, London to New York and finally New York to Chicago. Everything went smoothly till London.

One hour into the Virgin Atlantic flight to New York from Heathrow, I saw the flight taking a sharp turn. I was almost done with my second shot of gin & tonic when I heard the captain speak on the radio, something about engine oil. It was hard to follow the British accent, but the part about heading back to Heathrow was loud & clear. At that moment, I was on the verge of tears as my journey was sabotaged again. I was then rescheduled to a different flight to New York which left after two hours, but the scary part was I only had two hours to catch the final flight to Chicago and in that time I had to also complete immigration and collect my bags.

Initially, I breathed a sigh of relief when the flight landed on time, but then the worst ordeal started. It was 35 minutes post-landing and we still had not deplaned. I literally screamed at the flight attendant out of frustration asking about the reason for the delay. Apparently, there was a fuel truck blocking the parking spot for the plane and the officials were unable to locate the driver. Sure, you can laugh about it now—but at the time it was far from funny.

So that’s how I missed even my final flight of the journey and was again stuck in New York until the next flight to Chicago which was early morning of the next day. My total journey hours at this time had crossed almost 50 hours now. Fortunately, this time Virgin Atlantic gave me a hotel room and food voucher, but that was not enough to compensate for my tumultuous travel experience.

So there, that was my worst flying experience ever. (Plus, I had to take the Greyhound bus from Chicago to Houghton and I am not even gonna try to express how painful that is. I am sure the people from the U.P. know it.)