A Horrible Trip

July 20, 2009

in Baby & Kid Stories

In February I decided to fly from St Louis to Ottawa (Canada), with a stop-over in Chicago on United. I was travelling with my 3 yr old daughter and 8 month old son. I do this trip a lot, but usually do the stopover in Toronto. I opted to fly thru ORD, which was more expensive, b/c my other choice, Toronto, forces one to collect bags and go thru customs & security – and recheck bags for 2nd flight – something I was not sure I could do alone with 2 children.

It was a sunny day in the 60s in STL, but found out Chicago had fog. Got to the STL airport only to find out that no flights to ORD had yet left. My flight was listed as “on time,” but the 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am flights had yet to go out.

We get to the gate only to see a plane bound for YYZ (Toronto) boarding. I begged them to let me on, but they wouldn’t, as I had a paper ticket (they force you to use one for a lap infant). I already knew that going to ORD would be a nightmare and BEGGED to be allowed to YYZ. No way, Jose.

I wore my son in a sling, and pushed my 3yr old daughter in a stroller. We waited at the STL airport, with thousands of other ORD bound people for about 2hrs before we finally boarded.

We waited on the tarmac for 2 hours, by which time I had already missed my flight from ORD – YOW (Ottawa). I asked the Flight Attendant if I could get off the plane, but she told me it was not an easy thing to do, Air Marshalls would get involved and that it was best to get to ORD and get reconnected to YOW. She counseled me to stay on board, and against my better judgment, I stayed.

Finally get to ORD, my flight to YOW (which I missed) was cancelled anyhow. Waited in line at the United “Assistance Desks” with thousands of others to be rebooked on another flight. With 2 kids and alone, and with ORD full to the brim with displaced passengers, it was NOT fun. I was given standby passes for the next flight to YOW by the meanest bitch in the world. I had met another man who told me he was going ORD – Dulles – Ottawa and had confirmed boarding passes, and I told her that my kids and I NEEDED to be on that flight, and she told me “I can only do one thing at a time lady – do you want to get to Ottawa or not? Take these (standby passes) and NEXT passenger please.” My kids are crying and hot and tired, and it’s now 4pm (we left STL at 9am). And I have now run out of baby formula and I had just weaned my baby from breastfeeding and had nothing to offer him…. He’s tired, hot and hungry…

They do not sell baby formula at O’Hare, take note.

I am basically RUNNING thru O’Hare pushing stroller with 35lb toddler onboard, with 25lb hot infant strapped to me – from gate to gate to gate, from terminal to terminal, trying to find a way to Ottawa or Toronto, or Montreal, or Syracuse, or Philadelphia, or Pittsburg, or ANYWHERE!!!!! I’m on and off of buses, up and down staircases, CRYING, sweating and screaming. It was HORRIBLE.

I beg to get on a plane back to STL, I beg to go to anywhere. No one will do anything. I am butting into lines that are hundreds of people long, getting death threats – but seriously people, I have two kids and you have none, so be compassionate, if nothing else.

Finally meet a helpful kind agent at a random check-in counter (she saw I was in distress) who gives me boarding passes for the first flight to Ottawa the next day, and suggests I get a room for the night.

I walk to the O’Hare Hilton, where there are hundreds of stranded passengers queuing for a room. Call my husband asking him to book me a room on Expedia. They are $500 a night. He does it.

Room service will not make me baby food, they won’t puree a carrot or an apple. The Concierge refuses to help me send a cab to a store to buy baby food or formula. The “gift shop” has a sign on it that says “Be Back in 10 minutes” but she never comes.

So I have no formula, no diapers (gone thru them all), no luggage, and 2 cranky tired kids with no pajamas.

We get thru the night, somehow, get on our flight the next AM for Ottawa, arrive safely, but (drum roll please)…… no bags.

Bags…. am told they’re in Ottawa. Go there again, pay to park, try to get to the baggage carousel (but they are behind the locked doors b/c you have to go thru customs to get into that area) to try to find them. Am told bags are in ORD. Am told bags are at LAX. Call the 1-800 number countless times and am told pretty much random fiction from each Indian agent (call center is in India). It’s February in Ottawa Canada (snow) and all of our winter gear is in the 2 suitcases. We have no jackets, no boots, no mitts… have to go and buy it all.

Finally my bags arrive after 4 days, one bag is in a plastic bag and looks as if a bomb blew up in it – torn to shreds and wooden & metal frame shattered. Interestingly enough, anything of value (designer jeans, flat iron hair straightener, hair products, Sonicare toothbrushes, books, designer clothing, North Face jackets, etc) is gone. Anything without a designer label somehow is still in my bag.

Fought with United for 6 months to be reimbursed for the hotel, delayed bags, lost bags, lost contents… Finally received about $600 of about $2900 worth of costs.

Horrible trip.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 7:53 pm

no offense lady but you sound like a bitch

just because other people didnt have kids with them doesnt make them mean or anything, they were in line waiting longer than you were, not their fault you ran around the airport like a headless chicken lookin for a flight even though you had a standby ticket from a agent who was tryin to get you to your destination.

If i was one of those people in line i would be pissed with you too, why should you get "special treatment" everyone else has to get to their destination too so just wait civily in line. kinda like at amusement parks if you cut the line you go to the back or are kicked out.

and why would you think you would be allowed to get on a flight to toronto? you didnt book that flight and it would be a security issue if they let you on, cnat let random people on flights, and how would they get your bags to you than, huh? good thinkin

sucks that your stuff was stolen, but how much designer crap did you have? i ll say $200 for needs durin delay, 500 for the hotel, so $2,200 worth in your suitcase that was stolen, u gotta be stupid to have that much in your suitcase

either way sounds like normal weather related delays


GottaLoveIt July 20, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Anonymous is an idiot. These people were completely unhelpful. The poster was in a really desperate situation. (She couldn't even feed her baby, for Christ's sake.)

Those airline staff are there to help customers and they didn't. It's as simple as that.


Amber May 18, 2016 at 3:26 pm

it's not the airlines fault this woman failed to prepare well enough and bring enough formula. That's solely on this woman, also she could have given cows milk for the mean time until she could get more formula.


chris July 20, 2009 at 8:23 pm

maybe anonymous said a few things out of line

but he/she made some points that do make sense

for one, if she got in the line where it sounded like she should have been there from the beginning than she wouldnt have been given the evil look. It is only the right thing to do to go to the back of the line especially when others have been waiting too, no one has more right than others, so the people gave her a look since she was being rude and didnt follow the advice

and how do you know that the airline staff didnt help her? they got her onto a standby flight and they tried to accomodate her, sounds like there were alot of people to help so they tried their best and getting a confirmed flight isnt always going to happen, besides that guy may have had his flight on a different day.

and anonymous was right about there being a security issue if she tried to get on the toronto flight if she had already checked in with her original flight.

i feel sorry about her baby and child not being able to eat


Devil Dog July 21, 2009 at 12:13 am

Sorry but I sort of agree with Anonymous. Just cause she has little kids it does not make her better than anyone else and she can't expect everybody to do everything for her. I hope next time she has a better flight and that this will never happen again because its unfair for both parties involved.


Anonymous July 21, 2009 at 1:18 am

Let me sum this one up in about three sentences:

"I gambled on going through Chicago even though it was more expensive. I neglected to consider that Chicago turns into a nightmare whenever the weather is bad, while Toronto does not. I lost the gamble, big time, and it is entirely United's fault."

Face it, weather happens. Fog, snow, thunderstorms, whatever. During the winter or during thunderstorm season, about one day a week is a giant mess in Chicago. Are you willing to bet on 85% odds that you won't be passing through Chicago on the one day it gets totally screwed up, bearing in mind that it usually takes a whole additional day for the logjam to sort itself out?

Think about that next time you book through Chicago, especially if other one-connection (or direct!) flights are available.


SAW July 21, 2009 at 2:21 am

Point 1 : Only an idiot goes through ORD unless it's unavoidable – doesn't matter WHAT the weather is.

Point 2 : United looses baggage on a regular basis.

Point 3 : Anyone who could afford to book a $500 room could have afforded an extra seat for the infant, and then had been carrying an e-ticket, which would have been AUTOMATICALLY re-booked the moment the flight was canceled. NEVER EVER EVER EVER… for ANY REASON… use a paper ticket. If it means you pay more, then accept that and pay more.

Point 4 : Don't care who you are or what you have slung over your chest – don't try cutting anyone in line at ORD when there's been a lot of cancellations. People are pissed off already, and they really don't give a damn about you or your kids. You're liable to start a fight, so just wait your turn no matter how miserable you are.

Point 5 : NEVER run around in an airport going from gate to gate to try to get on flights. It will NEVER work.


Walk – don't run – to the nearest UNITED RED CARPET CLUB. Pay them the daily visit fee ($60 or so). Have the agents at the club fix things for you. Agents working in the club have a cushy job – they get chairs, and don't have to work terribly hard. That means, they're the ones who have been around a long time and have EARNED their way into the club. They can make things happen that other agents can't or won't. I know this, I've benefited from it on a multitude of occasions.


IamWomanHearMeRoar July 21, 2009 at 4:10 am

Wow. I’m betting all of the responders are men. LOL I know how hard it is to travel to Walmart with kids let alone the airport. So I understood your decision to risk ORD instead of trying to juggle 2 kids and luggage.

As for line jumping, I know a lot of people would have let you ahead had you given them a chance, of course there’s also the chance you would have had to deal with one of the bozos replying here, but I’m guessing since they have so much time to comment here, they don’t have the money to travel.

I hope your next trip goes better.


Amber May 18, 2016 at 3:31 pm

I'm a woman and mother of a toddler. I think the OP is a rude entitled bitch. She was randomly trying to get on other flights, even before leaving St Louis she tried to randomly get on a toronto flight.

Then she gets angry that the airline doesn't have formula for her, she should have packed more then she could possibly need for the flights, same with diapers.

Ten she's cutting lines and being rude to those patiently waiting their turn to get their flights sorted out. She is not more important then everyone else simply by having kids in tow.

Shit happens, when you fly you pack certain extras in the carry on to make sure you can fly comfortably. Especially with kids in tow that require diapers and formula.


Pal July 21, 2009 at 5:45 am

Take them to small claims court. It costs them more to send someone to represent them than you were asking for in reinbursement.


SAW July 21, 2009 at 6:32 am

Hey "roaring woman"… do you actually think that most of the frequent travelers watching this site actually PAY to travel?

What planet are you living on? We don't fly 'cause we want to, we fly 'cause we HAVE to, and it's our companies or our clients that foot the bill.

Now, as ANY frequent traveler would tell you, luggage or not, kids or not, ORD is to be avoided at any and all costs. She would have been better off struggling with the luggage and customs than going through ORD – and her behavior as a whole shows complete inexperience with travel.

Now I don't agree with the first poster (anonymous, go figure) in thinking the storyteller here is a "bitch". I think she's just inexperienced and a bit prone to getting herself all wound up instead of remaining calm and thinking through the situation.

Yeah… what she experienced sucks, and I do feel bad for what she went through – but – situations like this are avoidable in part, and I do hope she's reading this and learning a few tips for next time

And line jumping… NEVER a good idea in that particular situation. Why? Because even if someone nice DID let you in, you're guaranteed to piss someone else off and it always ends badly.

Tip for the future : Get on the end of the line, then use your cell to call the airline and try to make your changes over the phone. Whichever works first, wins.


GottaLoveIt July 21, 2009 at 6:43 am

"Sorry but I sort of agree with Anonymous. Just cause she has little kids it does not make her better than anyone else and she can't expect everybody to do everything for her."

See, here's the thing, though. That's exactly what it should mean. Flying is bullshit. This whole site is a testament to that. It's not fair to expect an infant and a toddler to deal with it. (Hell, it's not fair to expect an ADULT to have to deal with a lot of the shit that happens.) It is a MUCH bigger deal for those kids than it is for the majority of the adults in any of those lines.


SAW July 21, 2009 at 7:19 am

Gotta is very right – things should be done differently, and the level of customer support that people get really blows.

The airlines SHOULD treat people like her better – make some special concessions for people in especially tough situations – but they don't, and whining or complaining to gate agents and re-booking agents never helps, it just makes life more difficult.

Best course of action is to play it smart, and make the best decisions you can in the situation you're put in. This lady, clearly, didn't.


david July 21, 2009 at 7:34 am

iamawomanhearmeroar- just because you and others would let her in doesnt mean that others will, i am sure other people in the line were waiting there for a good amount of time and they dont want to see people just jumping in front of them. Also if everyone did that with kids than the people who were in line would never be able to board their flight

and im not sure if you know this, but in alot of terminals, especially in lounges, they have wifi and i see a bunch of people on this site commenting there so your comment on people not flyin is thrown out the window….and i am leaving ny to singapore in a few days and i brought my ticket, and i am sure there are others that have the money to fly or use points…….i guess i am tryin to say is that the men you grouped probably work all day and dont have all day to search the internet to write on forums, chances are they heard about this while flying

but back to the story, i am sorry you went through this but you made your "flight from hell" harder than you had to, if you followed the instructions that were given to you than it would have gone smoothr


Jodi July 21, 2009 at 7:52 am

OMG! I cannot imagine going through that with two small children. I’ve only flown a few times and those were not pleasant experiences so now I drive if at all possible. Well I’m glad its over and you and the kids are fine. Hopefully there will be some good suggestions here for you should you need to travel like that in the future. (Apparently avoiding ORD is a good idea.)

Also I must say I think Anonymous went WAY overboard with the name calling. That comment should be pulled just for that. There’s no need to be so immature. If you can’t express yourself in an adult manner then perhaps you shouldn’t express yourself at all. Name calling is not expressing yourself in an adult manner.


anon July 21, 2009 at 8:18 am

Here's the thing: a lot of people, when denied food and rest, will see their stress level escalate over things that normally wouldn't bother them. Add two small kids, a lot of weight (kids and luggage), and a feeling of hopelessness (partly because the situation is completely out of your control) and we get desperation and highly irrational behavior. Especially with kids that age and a relatively new mom – patience and the ability to blow things off sometimes come with time and experience. My kids are 5 and 7, and within the past few years I've noticed that I've become a calmer mother. I've had a small taste (very small) of what this poor woman went through. All I had to do was walk a very long way through a terminal to get to baggage claim with two kids (they were 2 and 4 at the time) and I was already exhausted. I know, that's not a big deal, but it sure was hard at the time! :o)

Give the lady a break. I agree that this truly was a flight from hell.


anonymous July 21, 2009 at 8:21 am

sorry about my remarks earlier, had a really long flight and i was very tired…8year old kicking the back of my chair the whole time and when i asked the father if he could ask his son to stop his mother came in and barked my son can do whatever he likes you just have to deal with it, the son decided to throw his food and hit the passenger in front who thought it was me….long day

i know i was out of line and it was uncalled for but i had one long day and needed to vent here


anon July 21, 2009 at 8:22 am

By the way, I am so bummed about what I've read about ORD – we have to change planes there in October on our way to Maui. I sure wish I knew it was a bad airport when I booked the flight.


S.M. July 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

This flight sucked for the writer but I have to agree that having a couple kids in tow does not make you more special then the other people in line waiting to get on a plane. How does the writer or the previous commenter iamawomanhearmeroar know that people in that line weren't trying to get home to see dying family members, go to a funeral, attend a business meeting that their job depended on… unless you ask everyone in that line permission then you have no business just assuming your situation is worse because you have kids…and yes I'm a man with no kids by my own choice, that is forced to travel for work. If the poster asked me nicely and I wasn't in a huge hurry to get where I was going I'd let her pass me, but if she rudely cut I'd call her out in a heartbeat and tell her to get in the back of the line kids or no.


SAW July 21, 2009 at 9:35 am

And some of us hard-working frequent travelers DO have time to read and respond to these forums – we don't all work the same hours, and we often spent our down time sitting in hotels with our thumbs up our…. you know

Unfortunately, if you fly United, you're inevitably going to get forced through ORD – no way around it. Just make sure you're ready for grief and pack appropriately in your carry-on.

ORD, by the way, won hands-down the "worst airport in America" from Zaggat.


DSD July 21, 2009 at 10:09 am

Why people continue to book flights through Chicago is beyond me. The airline industry could drastically improve its on time arrival (and departure for that matter) just by no longer using Chicago as their main hubs. Not only does weather foul things up like clock-work, the shear volume of traffic into and out of Chicago regularly screws things up on its own. Personally I would try and avoid flying into Chicago even if it was my final destination.

IMO the writers biggest mistake was trying to fly through Chicago with two small children and not allowing extra time because of the kids. As a parent who fly's with and without my son, I can tell you from experience that traveling with children will slow you down. Her second mistake was not being prepared for the smelly stuff to hit the fan. She probably wouldn't have been nearly as frazzled if she had taken twice formula that she expected to need, an extra change of cloths for everybody, and planned a several hour lay over in Chicago for just this reason. This lead her to her nervous breakdown. She didn't have the supplies she needed for her kids and that lead her to panic and that just snowballed. If she had been Boy Scout prepared and just accepted that her travel plans were screwed, it wouldn't have been as bad as it turned out. Also the minute it looked like her plans were hosed she should have booked a room in Chicago so it was there, if needed, at a reasonable price.

Walk – don't run – to the nearest UNITED RED CARPET CLUB. Pay them the daily visit fee ($60 or so). Have the agents at the club fix things for you. Agents working in the club have a cushy job – they get chairs, and don't have to work terribly hard. That means, they're the ones who have been around a long time and have EARNED their way into the club. They can make things happen that other agents can't or won't. I know this, I've benefited from it on a multitude of occasions.

Going to file that little Gem away for future use. I'm betting it works with all of the major airlines.


GottaLoveIt July 21, 2009 at 11:26 am

"The airlines SHOULD treat people like her better – make some special concessions for people in especially tough situations – but they don't, and whining or complaining to gate agents and re-booking agents never helps, it just makes life more difficult.

Best course of action is to play it smart, and make the best decisions you can in the situation you're put in. This lady, clearly, didn't."

So essentially you agree that the service she received and the situation she went through were both terrible and way worse than what should be acceptable, but that's just the way it is so it's her fault anyway?

That's not the way responsibility works. The airline is clearly in the wrong here.


SAW July 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

@ DSD… Yeah – it absolutely does work for the other airlines. The clubs used to be only available through expensive yearly memberships – but now they ALL sell day passes, and in an extreme delay or cancellation situation, worth every dime.

@GOTA… Yeah, I agree the service sucked for her, and it was unfortunate what she had to go through. HOWEVER better planning on her part would have made things a lot better. The situation WAS not her fault. How it ended up is a result of her not being properly prepared, and making poor choices.


PTH August 2, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Like no one else ever had serious travel problems lady? Like hundreds of people who have lives, jobs and loved ones were also not subject to the same delays and inconvenience you were? Like somehow YOU deserve special treatment because you were foolish enough to travel unprepared for WINTER delays?

If you do have small kids, you learn to be prepared. If you live in Ottawa and don't know it's winter–get a clue from the snow around you. If you don't know delays occur, try reading the internet or watching the news once in a while. If you don't come prepared for everything that happens with small children, put them up for adoption and go live under a rock.

Sounds like she didn't want to sleep in the bed she made. Too bad. Just because you have kids does not put you ahead of everyone else when it comes to an airline. Unless you have elite status with their frequent flyer program, you are low on the priority list. Suck it up, like the hundreds of other people who probably had personal situations that were far worse that day.


Katie August 4, 2009 at 5:18 am

I am a mom of 3. You should not have special treatment because you have kids with you. Why did you not have enough formula and diapers? Were you not aware of possible delays? I have been stranded for days when traveling. You have to be prepared.


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