Vignettes From Heck

January 16, 2011

in Odds & Ends Stories

None of the following vignettes really raise up to a level of “hell,” but they were certainly inconveniences.

The first: In 1977 I was invited to a conference in Lynchburg, VA for high school students. My father arranged the flight through his employer (AT&T). When I went to the airport to fly home, Piedmont had no record of the reservation. I ended up getting the next flight; AT&T ended up blacklisting Piedmont. Note to airlines: Never lose the reservation made by someone who knows the home phone number of the VP who manages the travel department.

The second: In 1985, I was flying to London for the FA Cup Final (their equivalent of the Super Bowl.) Pan Am’s flight was five hours late, and about an hour from landing a passenger vomited, which went down my trouser leg. The flight attendant just gave me a paper towel to clean off. Since the flight was late, I had no opportunity to change before heading off to Wembley. Of course, being a typical football crowd, I’m not sure anyone else noticed.

The third: 1985. Took a date to New Orleans. She dumped me. She told the airline she was afraid to be on the same plane with me. Guess who is ordered to take a different flight? Bad news — this was the last flight of the day into Newark. Ever try to cheaply and quickly get from LaGuardia to Newark at 11PM? No compensation, since I volunteered to leave the flight. The other option was to be arrested…

The fourth: 1996, flying from San Francisco to Newark for my parent’s 40th anniversary. My scheduled flight was canceled, and I was bumped to a middle seat on a red-eye. Six months of back spasms followed that. (And a doctor’s note requiring me to fly business or first class on flights longer than 3 hours.)

The fifth: 1999, flying from Cairo to Nairobi. Guess where the quickest and cheapest connection is? Amsterdam. No problems on the flight itself, just a very bizarre routing.

The sixth: October, 2001. Visiting my parents in New Jersey, it was a bad time for their hot water heater to fail; you look quite scruffy checking into business class when you haven’t showered for a couple of days. Terrorist scruffy…

The last: October, 2002. Paid business class ticket Newark to San Francisco. They changed the type of aircraft, and I ended up bumped to coach. Difference refunded was between the advanced purchase business class ticket, and the full-fare coach. I’ve not flown United since.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

JonJon January 17, 2011 at 4:06 am



Jody January 17, 2011 at 5:02 am

Hey Jon — get a life, the guy said they were inconveniences, not hell.


Aaron January 17, 2011 at 11:36 am

All of these are inconveniences that I can relate to!


D-Money January 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Why on earth would someone have a hot water heater?

Isn't a regular water heater enough? A special device for heating already hot water just seems wasteful.


JK January 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm


BTW in 1977 wouldn't you have paper tickets? Where were yours? Lost maybe?


Dina January 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm

They still keyed ticket numbers and such into computer systems back then, didn't they?


James January 18, 2011 at 7:03 am

Yes, they did. Paper tickets could still be forged, stolen, etc.


JK January 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

When I started working for an airline in 2001 there were paper tkts and the persons name had to be in the system and the tickets would have to match the itinerary. If they didn't have paper tkts then it would be assumed that it wasn't tkted (aka paid for). It was difficult for people that bought tkts close to the departure date b/c they might not get to them in time thru the mail. E-tkts sure help to make it easier now a days!


JonJon January 18, 2011 at 4:05 am

Exactly Jody, this page is for Flights from Hell. Not boring stories.

I fell a sleep.

Why are you so testy !? LOL


pes January 22, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Okay, for the first time since God knows when, some real stories for FFH.A few may not be hellish (except for the third which is a tough one) but some real stuff for a change. Thanx!


Eloise January 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

Whine much?


Nomad Canuck January 31, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Ouch on the New Orleans story…that would be mighty annoying….

I did laugh at the amsterdam connection story. I used to work in Africa based out of Cape Town and a travel agent actually sent me the following itinerary to go from Cape Town to Nairobi….I have to assume said agent never looked at the routing though to be fair it was a very good price:

CPT (Cape Town) – DXB (Dubai) – LHR (London) – NBO (Nairobi) – LHR – DXB – CPT

Apparently there was a seat sale from Cape Town to London and another one from London to Nairobi…..ugh. 44 hours travel each way! Needless to say, in spite of the allure of instant gold status on Emirates I declined the routing and took SAA.


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