Tag Archives: air travel

That time we were stranded in Italy

15 Sep

gelato siena.pngIs there anything better (or worse) than coming home from vacation? You get to sleep in your own bed again and return to the daily routine. On the other hand, you have to return to the daily routine — no more sailing along the Danube, driving with the top down through Tuscany or eating gelato for both an appetizer and dessert.

We just returned from an epic holiday to Prague, Budapest and Tuscany (as per our tradition, three places that are not really close and have absolutely nothing to do with each other). It was one of our best trips yet — until we tried to get back to London.

We booked a flight out of Florence on CityJet — an airline that previously canceled our Paris flight and made us take the Eurostar train. But that was weather-related, so surely we’d be fine flying out of Florence. It was a bright and sunny day the day we were scheduled to leave. And yet no planes seemed to be doing that — leaving. As we sat in the terminal, slowly we saw each flight on the monitor go from “delayed” to “diverted” to “canceled.” It was a clear day and yet no planes were taking off or landing in Florence. I was tracking our plane on my phone and noticed its landing time kept getting pushed back by 5 minutes before it finally switched to the dreaded “diverted.” It was diverted to Rimini near San Marino, a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Florence Airport.

High winds was the excuse they gave us, though the weather reports were showing only 20mph gusts. Stephen has his own theory about an air traffic control officer who took a long riposo (Italian siesta). Something didn’t add up.

Since no flights were landing at the airport, every airline bused their passengers to nearby cities like Pisa or Rome. CityJet put us on a bus to Pisa. The employee at the gate ensured us that we would be put up in a hotel and that CityJet would text us about our rescheduled flight, which would likely be flying out of Pisa airport the next morning. Another passenger told me this had happened to her before and they rescheduled her flight for 6am. At least we’ll get back to London early and not waste another entire day, I thought. I envisioned us staying in the center of Pisa as we had just a week before, enjoying one last Italian meal and stroll by the leaning tower at night.

Instead the bus pulled up to a hotel 20 minutes outside of Pisa with absolutely nothing nearby besides a gas station. We were stranded. Our room didn’t even have WiFi. CityJet texted me that they were working on sourcing a crew and aircraft for us to fly out of Pisa and would continue to send updates. The next update was that they were rebooking us on alternate airlines and would email us our new itinerary. As we entered the lobby of the hotel, we were greeted by a chorus of CityJet hold music emitting from fellow passengers’ phones. We overheard one woman who had managed to get through to someone.

“You bused me out to Pisa then booked me on a flight leaving tomorrow night from Florence Airport with a layover in Amsterdam? That is unacceptable!”

We hadn’t received our rebooking yet, but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be on the direct British Airways flight out of Pisa. I was correct.

“Paris,” I told Stephen. “They’ve rebooked us on a flight out of Florence Airport tomorrow with a connection in Paris.”

He immediately got out his phone to call CityJet.

“Are you going to complain?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to get our money back. We’re not taking that flight. We’re not risking it with Florence Airport again. Look up cheap flights from Pisa or Rome.”

And that’s how we ended up spending the next day taking a taxi to Pisa’s train station, riding a 4-hour train to Rome, riding a 30-min train to Fiumicino airport, sitting at the airport for 3 hours, finding out our flight was delayed 30 minutes and wanting to cry, but finally landing at London Gatwick.

We left our Florence hotel at 9:30 am on Tuesday, thinking we’d be back in London at 2:30pm. We got back at 11:30pm on Wednesday. That is two entire days of our lives wasted on traveling. Though I suppose I should look on the bright side — we did manage to get home safely, our transportation costs to Rome should be reimbursed by CityJet, and the refund we’ll receive from our original flight should cover the cost of our EasyJet flight from Rome. But, man, talk about putting a damper on an otherwise amazing trip. We’ll certainly be back to Tuscany, but the next time we’ll think twice about flying in and out of Florence.

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My mildly convenient superpower

7 Jun

I remember reading an AskReddit thread once about mildly convenient superpowers. I never really thought about what mildly convenient superpower I might want, until it occurred to me the other day that I might already have one.

Almost every time I fly or travel on a Megabus, I never have to sit next to a stranger. There’s always an empty seat next to me.

I thought it was just a fluke at first. It used to happen on my frequent Chicago-Cincinnati Megabus trips when the bus was only half full. But then there was a time the bus was completely full save for one empty seat, which just so happened to be next to me. It began feeling like a superpower.

It’s been so long since I’ve had someone sit next to me on a trans-Atlantic flight that I don’t even know where I would put my headphones or water bottle if they couldn’t go on the empty seat next to me. I flew back to London last week and made sure to select an aisle seat next to an empty middle seat. I almost got ambitious and selected a row with two empty seats (maybe I could actually stretch out and sleep?!), but knew that was too much of a risk. Some couple could come along and choose those two seats. I checked the seat map on the Virgin app every hour or so during my 5-hour layover in Boston and figured I was golden — the middle seat next to me remained empty. But then I checked one last time while waiting to board, only to see a little X on the empty seat — as well as on every single seat on the plane. It was a fully booked flight. My superpower had met its match.

A few minutes after I sat down, uncomfortably holding my giant headphones, toiletry bag and water bottle until I could figure out where to store them, a young man came and motioned to the empty seat.

“I’m seated there, but my girlfriend is in 55E — would you mind switching with her?” he asked. Stephen and I have asked people to do this many times and I was happy to pay it forward. Until I asked them to confirm the seat.

“55E? Is that a middle seat?” I asked. It was. I felt like a horrible person, but I had to turn down their request. Being stuck for 6+ hours with your knees touching one person is bad enough, there was no way I was going to do it crammed between two people.

“It’s no problem, we understand,” the girlfriend said, waved goodbye to her boyfriend, and headed back a few rows. The boyfriend immediately put on headphones and closed his eyes while I tried not to bump his legs digging for my iPad in my bag. It seemed my superpower was no more and I was going to have to suck it up, just like everyone else seated in economy. But then they closed the cabin doors and I felt a presence next to me. It was the girlfriend.

“Hey!” she said to her boyfriend. “There’s no one sitting next to me, come on back!”

And that’s how I knew I truly have a mildly convenient superpower.

super corgi

 

When a (wo)man is tired of London…

19 Apr

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” — Samuel Johnson

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m tired of London, but it’s certainly grinding on me lately. The crowds of tourists have been giving me a mean case of pedestrian road rage (yes, that’s a thing), and it’s taken everything I’ve got not to body slam a group of Spanish high school students blocking the entire pavement in the park whilst I’m running. Things that used to be a happy coincidence — like just happening to catch the Horseguards changing of the guards when trying to get to St. James Park have become a huge nuisance. There’s always something going on near our flat in central London, whether it be Mary Poppins filming or an alt right protest (and anti-alt right protest and a huge police presence just in case the two protests clashed).

So while those crowds of tourists who walk at a snail’s pace and stop sporadically for selfies couldn’t be more chuffed to be in London, I am so looking forward to heading to America tomorrow. I’m looking forward to driving again, to running in my parent’s subdivision with no chance of getting trapped behind tour groups and slow walkers, and, of course, seeing family and friends. I’m starting in Milwaukee, then heading to Chicago, then finally to Cincinnati via my old pal Megabus (please no explosions this time!).

I just checked in online for my flight and was surprised when Delta informed me the second leg of my trip might be overbooked and asked me if I’d be willing to accept a voucher to go on a different flight. (A new process in light of the recent United fiasco, perhaps?) The kicker is they asked me to bid with the voucher amount I’d be willing to accept — $200, $300, $400, or $500. I opted out since I have a non refundable hotel reservation to make, but I wonder what kind of person bids $300? Whoever bids the least will be the first to be bumped. Presumably someone who for one reason or another doesn’t really want to take the flight will bid $200, but anyone who’s smart would go for the max. Who bids $300 or $400? I’d really love to know.

Here’s hoping for smooth traveling (I’m flying Delta, but wearing leggings) and as mild a case of jetlag as possible!

london pug bus

At least I saw a pug bus today!

Thoughts on the airplane class curtain

24 Feb

bridesmaids curtainAs a shameless rule follower, I am always torn about the airplane curtain. The general rule of airplanes is that your cabin’s toilets are behind you, and you should never breach a curtain to go to the bathroom. However, on my recent flight back to London from Shanghai, my Premium Economy seat was 3 rows from the Upper Class (business) loos, and about 20 rows from the economy potty behind me. So virtually everyone in my cabin passed through the curtain to use the closer and superior toilet cubicle (it even had lotion!). On previous flights I’ve seen flight attendants get upset over this, but on this flight no one seemed to care. Stephen, however, cared, because every time he started to fall asleep in his business class pod, someone would tramp by and leave the curtain open, letting the bright light shine through. What are your thoughts on this? Do business class passengers deserve a better experience because they paid 5 times as much, or should the curtain be open because “it’s civil rights and the nineties?”

bridesmaids help me poorSo this is my third version of this blog post. The previous two rambled on and on and I’m not sure anybody really cares about my thoughts on how it’s weird the Virgin Upper Class flight attendant says a very sincere “thank you” when taking away your glass or plate since you didn’t really do anything. I also lamented about the melted ice cream bar I let sit on my arm rest for 6 hours because I was in the dreaded middle seat on the way back and it just appeared when I got back from visiting Stephen in business class and I wasn’t sure if it was mine or not, since neither of the arm rests are really yours when you’re stuck in the middle. Like I said, you didn’t really miss much.

I am happy to report that ::knock on wood:: I am fully acclimated to UK time and no longer waking up at 4 a.m. craving xiaolongbao. I could go for some now, however.