The Flight From Hell Part 1: A Monday Mosaic

As I mentioned last week, we recently returned from a trip to Australia. Whenever we mention to people that we will be travelling to Aus, the very first question is usually “How LONG is that FLIGHT? How will you manage with two kids?”. My response is usually “REALLY long (about 24 hours including layovers)” and “oh, we’ve done this many times. We have it down to a science.

And, it’s true, we have spent the past 4-5 years perfecting our travel procedure to make it the most comfortable for our kids and, more importantly, for us. Surprise toys (bribes) to pull out at key moments; just the right amount of candy to motivate but not send them into a sugar spiral; strategic naps for parents to ensure at least one of us is on the ball at all times.

It’s true that we have done everything in OUR power to ensure the least stressful travel situation possible. However we found out on this trip that some things are not in our power and that at the end of the day we are really at the mercy of the airlines, and that if they choose to screw up your experience then there are really not enough toys to make it bearable.

This is part 1 of my 2 part ode to United Airlines – an airline that I DID NOT CHOOSE to fly with, but who still managed to make ours a flight from hell. If you are not interested in listening to my tale of woe then, by all means, please skip directly to the photos. If you want to hear more, then I will start at the very beginning.

In fairness, the first mixup was my fault. I found myself needing to drop something off at work the morning of the day of our flight so, with two kids in tow, I drove 30 minutes for a little adventure at Mummy’s work. While I was there I thought I would do the responsible thing and take photocopies of all six of our passports just in case…

Then we went home, packed everything up, had a friend drive us to the airport and went to check in our baggage. It was at that moment that I realised I had left two of the passports on the copier at work. It was 2pm, our connecting San Francisco flight was due to leave at 4:30pm and my work was a 1 hour round trip. I quickly went into recovery mode and called a friend at work asking her to have the passports urgently couriered over to the airport while we waited impatiently. In the meantime we were able to check in two of our bags under Thomas’ passport, but had to hold on to the third (this will be important later).

After a tense hour or so, the courier finally arrived, in plenty of time to make our connecting flight, only when we went back to the counter and tried the self check-in we found that it had been delayed. Of course we were asked to go and stand in another line where we could see if another flight was available. There were only two people in line in front of us and the one woman behind the counter was moving at a snail’s pace (actually there were many people behind the counter but only one seemed to be helping anyone. The rest were too caught up in their own conversations to notice the tense looking family who were afraid of missing their connecting flight).

Finally we reached the front of the line and the customer service person proceeded to call another airline to see if there were any seats. Overhearing one side of the conversation it seemed as though we had just missed out (would a quicker line have helped?). We were then informed that our plane was, in fact, delayed but they had managed to transfer us to the United Airlines flight out of San Francisco to Australia. My heart sank. I had purposefully paid a little more to fly with Air New Zealand because a previous flight to Australia with United had been so uncomfortable so I was disappointed that we were no longer able to make our original flight. Well, at least we’ll get there, I told myself.

So, after telling us that she would have to re-tag our bags by hand and handing over three boarding passes, it seemed that we might soon be on our way. I asked why we didn’t receive a boarding pass for Samuel and was told that, as an infant, it was not their policy to provide a boarding pass for him. This, too, will be important later.

After going through security we found that our flight was delayed further until 9:30pm (a problem with the plane, not the weather), but, thankfully we were able to get on another flight and finally took to the air at 7:30pm – 5.5 hours after we arrived at Portland Airport.

As you are probably guessing due to the fact that this is only Part 1, things were about to get worse. Much worse. I’ll come back to share more of my tale of woe tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from our time in the airport while I quietly give thanks for Star Wars toys, portable DVD players and plane spotting.


  1. Oh my…I can see where this is heading! We have been travelling with our kids for the last 6 years, mostly to the US and one year to Europe. We flew via Air New Zealand last year to Hawaii and LA and I will never fly with another airline. I can completely understand why you were so disappointed to be flying with United.

    I will be interested to see what happened next!

    Best wishes,

  2. I want the good old days back when flying was fun. Now days I’d just as soon get in my car and drive there, but that would be a bit difficult to Australia. LOL

    The Blue Ridge Gal

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