Travel hell

First, I want to say that travelling is one of the greatest loves of my life.  As a photographer, travelling allows me new and exciting subjects and the opportunity to see places with truly new eyes.

WARNING:  This is a post of whining and venting.

Saturday, May14

It’s been a crazy, crazy couple of weeks.  I’ve been in Maui most of the time on programs with one day home.  In addition to shooting the programs, I’ve been prepping for upcoming jobs in Hawaii and for my job in Tuscon.  Knowing that I was leaving for Tuscon today, made the preparation for other jobs more critical.  No open loops.  Everyone…clients, photographers, support staff needed information and/or supplies.
We have been unable to find a dog sitter for this week that we trust to stay out our house.The thing that had me worried more than anything was the fact that we were going to put our babies (two American cocker spaniels and a boxer) in to a kennel.  Kris has jobs coming up on Kona, Kauai, and Maui and I’m going to be in Tuscon for a week.  Latte and Mocha are eleven years old and have been with us since they were puppies.  The only place they’ve slept has been in our bed.  Haku, the boxer, is a rescue dog with separation anxiety.  He’ll probably be safer at the kennel than hom as he won’t be able to chew dangerous things like lamp switches, remote controls and cordless phones.  I checked out the kennel and it was clean and stark.  Looked like jail to me.  Dropping our babies off there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. 

Honolulu Airport:
Kris and I got to the airport and parted ways at curbside in front of the American Airlines check-in counter.  He was heading to Kona and I was going to Tuscon.  I checked in and was given my boarding pass on American to Los Angeles(LAX).  Although my bags were checked through to Tuscon, I needed to get a boarding pass for the second leg in LAX.  I sat next to a nice rich guy…fifty years old, retired.  He couldn’t get into first class because it was sold out.  I travel to the mainland armed with all kinds of toys for the ride…iPod with noise-cancelling head sets, computer loaded with all kinds of projects, my journal, magazines, and at least three books.  Now that they are selling meals on the plane, I also purchased a sandwich and trucked that around.  I’m carrying all this stuff in addition to my camera equipment that I really need.  The flight was non-eventful which is always a good thing.  The movie was "Winn-Dixie."  Just what I needed…a cute dog movie.

LAX is a chaotic airport under any circumstances.  It’s especially bad if you have to change terminals as they are far apart and they have these lame shuttle buses that take much longer to get to than walking between terminals.  I knew that things were pretty tight and I wasn’t sure which terminal the United Express flight to Tuscon was leaving from.  I asked a security guard (don’t ever do that) and she headed me in the wrong direction.  I realized that the terminal she directed me to was an international and not a domestic terminal.  I went back to the information counter and was directed in the opposite direction four terminals away.  When I finally arrived at the United check-in area, I entered my information into a kiosk. I got a message that I was too late, here’s your confirmation number, and pick up the phone next to the kiosk for an agent.  I was on hold for a long time and this person said I needed to stand in line to check in.  The line was wicked long.  I walked up to the counter.  "Excuse me…excuse me."  I finally got eye contact from an agent and pleaded with her to help me.  She poked around on the computer and said that that was the last flight to Tuscon and that I needed to stand in the line to be rebooked for the following day.  OMG. I was already so tired.

I stood in line. People in line were shouting at the agents at the counter because they had been waiting in line so long and were going to miss their flights.  They were shouting at a customer who was arguing with an agent.  It was not a pretty scene.  I tried calling United to see if I could get faster service.  I was in voice mail hell…press this button if you want this…then say this if you want that…no humans here.  I finally got a human on the phone and she said I needed to be ticketed in line.
I called my client (more about him in another post) to let him know that I was going to be delayed.  He booked me a room at the airport Marriot and gave me a number to call for emergency travel assistance.  Their travel company booked my ticket so I got an agent who was very helpful.  I thought that it would be best if I took care of all of this from the comfort of my hotel room, left the crazy line at United and went downstairs to catch a taxi.
Because I was going to an airport hotel, I knew there would be a shuttle somewhere, but after trucking around from terminal to terminal, standing in the line, and just dealing with the stress of the situation, I decided on a taxi.  The taxi was right there.

I got into the taxi and told him my destination.  He immediately started yelling at me for not taking the shuttle.  He had been standing in the taxi cue for two hours and was very upset that he wasn’t going to be taking me to Seattle or New York…just down the street to an airport hotel.  It was pretty awful.

From my comfortable room I called the emergency travel assistance lady (she was the only one on duty).  She was very nice…I was on hold for approximatley 45 minutes while she went between United and American and agent to supervisor to try to get me a confirmed flight to Tuscon.  No luck.  "I suggest you go to the airport to try to get on a 6:30 AM flight.  It goes through Denver and arrives in Tuscon at 12:30 PM."  Yeah, sounds great.  My two hour flight would take five hours if I did that.  It was already midnight and I’d have to get up at 5 AM to do that. 

To make a long story, a little shorter, I called Southwest and American to see what other options I had.  If I booked my own way to Tuscon, I would lose my entire return trip.  Go figure.  New airline rules.
I decided that my best bet was to go to the airport at 7 AM and try to get to Tuscon on one of their direct flights.  They were all sold out, but the emergency assistance lady said that the 8:30 flight wasn’t bad.  I got on the 8:30 flight.  I was the only stand by passenger that morning. 

The moral of the story is that you cannot prepare yourself for travel hell.  You need to take everything that happens when it’s happening.  You need to trust your instincts.  Did you get that?  Travel can be a crap shoot, but it usually gets you where you want to go.  Like life.

  1. I think I can beat your LAX story. On my flight to Honolulu, my travel companion was late when I went to pick her up at her house so we were late for our flight. They wouldn’t check us in because it was 29 minutes till takeoff (rather than 30 minutes). In order to get to Hawaii in time for the convention I was attending, we had to fly to LAX and stay the night at a airport hotel nearby. This was my ONE FREE NIGHT without convention activities in Hawaii – spent at some nameless LAX hotel. (But I have forgiven her now years later.)

  2. Robin said:

    Shawn…You must come back. Oahu is wonderful…we’ll get you out of Waikiki and into the country. Beautiful beaches, big waves, good food.

  3. eugene said:

    Yep, I got stuck in NY. The ticket agents won’t do jack. All they will tell you is that the next flight is sold out. They won’t even help you with another routing. You can’t call the airlines without going through at least 5 options only to find the last one doesnt have what you want. So you wait for an agent only to tell you the same thing the ticket agent told you.
    What is also worse is that you can’t go to another airline. Most of the terminals are far away.
    The best solution is to bust out your laptop and get connected to Tavelocity or similar and find a flight that way. At least you it will give you different prices, airlines and times.
    Flying is such a bitch—especially when the airlines don”t even want to help you.

  4. Kawika said:

    Hi, Robin—now you know why we don’t want to make the trip back to Hawaii! And re: LAX—we had the worst cab driver of my career there under the same circumstances, in a driving rainstorm and just going down the street to the Hilton. Travel by car here on the mainland a lot more fun!
    Aloha—kou aikane in Omaha

  5. Robin said:

    David…we miss you in Hawaii. Say “hi” to Tammy!

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