Euro Snow Travel Horror stories December 25, 2010 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Euro Snow travel horror stories

I posted a resolved tag too early in this Ask, and 2 days on (day 6) we're in Philly. Although the right continent and still it looks like we will be together for Christmas I wondered if any other Mefites had been caught up in this. The amazing spirit among the stranded, the generosity of strangers was beautiful, but it was sad to see people sleeping for 2 or three nights on airport terminals with small children in particular and horrendous to see old people in wheel chairs that staff had to literally park in a corner with their luggage as they themselves were overwhelmed.
as I'm stuck here in what I presume to be a closed City Philadelphia until the flight at 3.45 I'd love to hear fro other Mefites caught up in this. Where did you get stranded? What happened? Are you there yet?
posted by Wilder to MetaFilter-Related at 3:43 AM (28 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I got off extremely lightly, all things considered.

I was travelling from the US (Dulles) back to the UK for christmas to visit my family. My first booking was for last saturday (18th), which was cancelled early on saturday morning (US time) - although not early enough for me to avoid getting a rental car for the drive to the airport.

So started several days of basically sitting around trying to re-book my flight home - after a full day of refreshing the British Airways website every five minutes, I was finally presented with the option to re-book my flights... for the following Tuesday (21st).

Monday rolls round and, depending on which part of the BA website you want to believe, my flight on tuesday might be cancelled. I held off on booking another rental car and sure enough, on tuesday morning I get cancellation notification for tuesday evening's flight. Cue another day of compulsive website-refreshing and call-center dialling every 20 minutes trying to get a re-booking - BA having helpfully eliminated the option to re-book online.

At 11pm EST on tuesday I finally actually get in the phone queue (all previous attempts having gotten me only an engaged tone or a polite voice telling me to try again later), and at 12:30 I finally get hold of a human (had to switch wireless phone handsets when the battery ran down on the first one). He sucks his breath through his teeth as he looks at the remaining flights out of DC before christmas (BA having cancelled all the mid-evening flights, which is the service I was booked on), and puts me on hold. 15 minutes of hold punctuated by the occasional update and the guys says he can get me on Thursday's (23rd) early evening flight. Back on hold again as he tries to run it through the system (including an upgrade), but when he comes back from hold he can't hear my responses - thankfully he continued and pushed it through the system despite not being able to hear me...

Last night, got to Dulles, parked the car, went inside. The flight was 2 hours late, but thankfully I had a 4-hour layover in Heathrow before my connecting flight to Newcastle. Made it in to Newcastle Airport at lunchtime yesterday - about 30 minutes - plus 5 days - late.

I have no idea who the guy at the BA call center was who helped me, but I'll be sure to mention him (and the actual flight crew on the plane, who were great) as the positive side to the whole experience when I write to BA and complain.

Like I said, affected - I lost nearly a week of my vacation - but it could have been far, far worse...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 4:35 AM on December 25, 2010

After worrying about it in this question I had one of the smoothest journeys to the Highlands for Christmas ever. The train I wanted to catch was cancelled though, and the cancellation has all got a bit political.

Various friends have had good things to say about train staff in Scotland - connections have been held, people have been run across stations to make sure they could get where they were going.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:48 AM on December 25, 2010

I wonder if other people noticed that Twitter was by far the most reliable source of information during all this time. Maybe because I was flying into different airports and different airlines but when their sites crashed and the phone lines were logging 5 hours hold delays, sometimes their would tweet a new page for information. Also things like Dublin Airport tweeting and sending out through the media an alert for all taxis at Dublin airport to come help the stranded get to hotels of back home really helped. That night the queue was only 2 hours.
posted by Wilder at 5:41 AM on December 25, 2010

Yeah my brother and his family including his ten month old infant are trying to get to Paris and I've got to find out if they made it.
posted by angrycat at 6:15 AM on December 25, 2010

I was really, really lucky - I flew out to the US from Heathrow last Thursday (16th) and so missed the bad weather.

The worst I had to contend with was an insane woman sitting next to me who stole my handbag from under the seat while I was sleeping and then refused to tell the flight attendants, the purser and even the air marshall what she'd done with it. She just sat there with her earphones in refusing to speak. As my passport, cash, credit cards, phones and camera were in it, I was panicking that she might have flushed them.

It turned out she'd hidden the bag in an overhead locker at the front of the plane (I was sitting near the back, in row 38), on the other side of the plane but it took me and a flight attendant the best part of the next two hours to locate it, looking in every single overhead bin. She'd actually hidden it behind someone else's bag. Fortunately the flight attendant was diligent and moved everything in each locker until was eventually found it.
posted by essexjan at 6:53 AM on December 25, 2010 [20 favorites]

I have no idea. Also, the flight was packed, even in business, so there was nowhere to re-seat me after all this. And, of course, nobody wanted to swap seats so they could sit next to the crazy woman. So I had to go through the next couple of hours sitting next to her. My bag was in the bin over our seats, with my book in it, and my seat-back screen was broken, so all I had to read were the in-flight magazines. I know every item in the Sky Mall catalogue off by heart.
posted by essexjan at 7:03 AM on December 25, 2010

wow, Jan, that's one of the weirdest things I've heard happen on a plane! Really glad you got out in time as LHR was a disgrace. The fact that they had to send in the army to clear a second runway 5 days later is the subject of an investigation.
I just discovered from fellow travellers on the US 9010 that when the second plane didn't leave yesterday (the 723 one we were on the day before with the dodgy engine) the cabin crew had to lock themselves in the cockpit and the police were called as the passengers went crazy.
I also saw a bit of really ugly behaviour as people stress levels escalated.
posted by Wilder at 8:19 AM on December 25, 2010

Every travel horror story we've heard lately, both in the US and abroad, has made us incredibly grateful that we decided not to travel this holiday season. My thoughts are with those of you who suffered (or are still suffering!) through it.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on December 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Practically all of Sweden were following the journey of an eleven year old boy who was traveling alone from Skövde to Washington and got suck at Heathrow, for four days. His mother tried to get tickets to London, which was a no-go since the airport was closed, and his father was biting his nails on the other side of the atlantic. There were daily updates in the paper, kids a minor celeb now, but they opened up a chapel at heathrow airport where only the unaccompanied children could be, and it seems to have turned into an impromptu pyjama party that kids movie-plots are made of. He's made it over to dad now - lost his luggage on the way - on the evening before Swedish Xmas. Yeay!
posted by dabitch at 8:49 AM on December 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Wow essexjan. If that had happened to me, I'd probably have gotten my picture in the paper, and not in a good way. Glad you made it where you going. Best wishes and good luck to everyone stuck out in that mess.
posted by marxchivist at 9:12 AM on December 25, 2010

Wow my brother's flight to Paris was canceled (Heathrow to Paris) and they were lucky and got another flight, but they still don't have their luggage. That's gotta suck when you have an infant. On the other hand, they are in Paris so I don't know why I'm weeping for them at all, actually.
posted by angrycat at 9:42 AM on December 25, 2010

I was expecting to have my own horror travel story, what with traveling just before Christmas from New York to London with a connection, but things were surprisingly smooth. The only issue that we had was that we were meant to fly from EWR to Montreal to catch a flight to London and, when we got to Newark, our flight was canceled and we'd been re-booked on a flight that had left three hours beforehand. I have no idea why as no one contacted us after we checked in online. Anyway, we got re-booked on a delayed flight to Toronto and made another flight to London with half and our to spare, so it was fine in the end. I suppose we were lucky in as much as we left on the 23rd and not a few days earlier. This is my second lucky travel break this year as I got one of the last transatlantic flights out or Schipol before the volcano back in April, so I've squeaked past travel chaos twice this year. Anyway, my heart goes out to those who were stuck, it must have been awful.
posted by ob at 9:43 AM on December 25, 2010

I spent three extra days in Abu Dhabi because my flight into Amsterdam was canceled. Once I finally got to Amsterdam my flight from there was two hours late leaving which gave me 50 minutes to get to my next flight in Minneapolis. Keep in mind that in those fifty minutes I had to get off the plane, walk to immigration, stand in line to get through immigration, wait for my bag, get through customs, recheck my bag, get through security and walk to my next flight in a different terminal. Anyway, I made it, what a pain but I made it home in time for Christmas with my five year old daughter.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:10 PM on December 25, 2010

essexjan, how did you know the woman stole it from you when you were sleeping? Did another passenger speak up? I'm so glad you got your bag back!
posted by misha at 6:52 PM on December 25, 2010

Yes, misha. A guy sitting a couple of rows back told the air marshall he'd seen the woman walk off carrying something.
posted by essexjan at 7:25 PM on December 25, 2010

We (boyfriend and I) pretty much lucked out with the whole thing. We wound up with an extra two nights (for free, provided by Easyjet) of vacation in Berlin after finding out our flight back home to London was cancelled on Monday night. We were going to Luton, so it wasn't so bad - we got in Wednesday afternoon more or less as scheduled. When I found out our flight was cancelled, I pictured us spending the night in Schönefeld, where there are no chairs at all, with no Euros left and no way to afford another night (or more) in Berlin. But we got rebooked and shuttled to our hotel and fed and so on with minimal incident. And we got a chance to do some stuff we'd missed in Berlin, since we had a full extra day. The only really miserable part was standing in line for an hour and a half waiting for one of the two customer service people who could rebook us.
posted by SoftRain at 5:32 AM on December 26, 2010

So what happened to her, essexjan? Did she get to walk away? (After the plane had landed, I mean.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:09 AM on December 26, 2010

What happened when you woke up and found the bag missing? Did you have some sort of confrontation with her earlier? How utterly bizarre. Tell us more.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:19 AM on December 26, 2010

I travelled by train (London to Blackburn (near Manchester) and all I got was a 7min delay. Let's see how it is on the way home, though...
posted by mippy at 2:34 PM on December 26, 2010

We flew out of Luton on Thursday and feel extremely lucky. For some reason, we were one of two flights to get out that morning. The rest were cancelled or severely delayed. Not only that, we were on time with no delays.

When we arrived in Lisbon, neither immigration or luggage were very crowded but when we passed through the final doors, we saw hundreds of people in the terminal either waiting for someone or trying to get out. So we felt very very lucky.
posted by vacapinta at 3:20 AM on December 27, 2010

The flight attendant told me that when I was asleep the loon had called her to our seats and told the attendant that she did not want my bag under the seat (it was under the seat in front of me, not her - her bag was under the seat in front of her). The flight attendant told her that my bag was fine where it was. It wasn't a huge case or anything, just a small tote, smaller than her bag. When I found the bag missing I asked her if she had moved it, and she refused to answer, which is when I called the flight attendant - the same one she had spoken to earlier.

I don't know what happened to her, I just wanted off that plane. She was Australian or Kiwi, so I'm hoping she was put on some no-fly list, or refused entry or something. I didn't see her in Immigration.

It was by far the most bizarre thing that's ever happened to me on a plane. I think on the flight home I'll keep my passport in my jeans pocket the whole way.

Right now I'm in Columbus, my flight to New York has been cancelled and I'm listening to muzak on the American Airlines 800- number waiting to be connected to a representative to rebook.

Sorry, amro, I won't make it for dinner tonight, or breakfast tomorrow, Eideteker.
posted by essexjan at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Should we extend this to USA NorthEast travel horror stories now?
posted by Karmakaze at 7:58 AM on December 27, 2010

Well, my story is that I can't get to New York any time before Dec 31, so I'm flying back to London tonight via Chicago. I am gutted.
posted by essexjan at 8:20 AM on December 27, 2010

Damn, Jan. That really really sucks.
posted by goshling at 2:36 AM on December 28, 2010

I got to Chicago from Columbus and was taken out for Chicago deep-dish pizza by MeFite youngergirl44 and her boyfriend - don't ask me if it's better than NY pizza, it's apples & oranges, I can't decide. All I'll say is that the Chicago pizza has the most amazing buttery crust and really is a pie. Anyway, the tradition of MeFites extending the hand of friendship to random internet strangers is alive and well in the Windy City, for which I am immensely grateful.

The flight from Chicago to London took off on time, but after 2 hours we had to turn back due to a sick passenger. The pilot explained that ordinarily they'd divert but there was nowhere on the east coast to land, so we had to go back to O'Hare - another 2 hours, then an hour while the mechanics checked everything. So, five hours on a plane and we were back where we started.

But, possibly to make up for the nutjob woman on my outward journey, this time karma dictated that I was seated next to a hot-hot-hot blond hunky Californian ski instructor, who was not only the most handsome man I've seen in ages but was also as nice as pie.
posted by essexjan at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have a horror turning good story, if you will.

I was in London, having been away for 6 weeks so far. My friend was going to fly into london on the 22nd from Sydney via Frankfurt so we could catch the Eurostar to Paris for Christmas. My friend's flight got diverted to Munich when they closed Frankfurt, she stood in a line for a day to get on another flight but she did land in London 24 hours behind schedule. Unfortunately, her bag didn't make it (and still hasn't been found by Lufthansa).

Our parents were most worried that we'd be stranded in different cities at Christmas (first christmas not at home) so once we were together, and Eurostar couldn't guarantee we'd get in the train we had tickets for, we changed our tickets to the 26th and put in a call to my friend's cousin who was living in London. I had such an enjoyable day, I can't imagine having been anywhere else at Christmas.

All I have to say is Thank God for travel insurance/delayed baggage cover- Lufthansa offered £60 pounds in expenses and won't give any more until they declare the bag lost after 95 days if they don't find it!

Having never experienced snow before, my winter wonderland illusion has been well and truly shattered!
posted by cholly at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2010

Oh, and I might add that the flight my friend finally got on to london was half full, despite the 30 people on standby!
posted by cholly at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2010

Cholly we noticed that being now veterans of these delayed flights. 4 of them when they eventually left did so without a full complement of passengers. The attendant explained it as a ticketing thing. Many people seeing they were delayed, rebooked on other flights but left their tickets stand. By the time we'd boarded there was no time to ticket those on standby as every pilot had to be willing to take any availible slot to get out before the airport closed again.
posted by Wilder at 5:46 AM on January 3, 2011

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