Please sign in to post.

My air travel nightmare

I just returned from my trip to Spain/France, and I thought I’d share our air travel nightmare. This trip was my 11th or 12th to Europe, and my sister’s first trip. We flew American (with partner flights on Iberia). It was an adventure, no doubt.

I started the trip on 4/7 with a simple flight to San Diego, where my sister lives. We then flew to Dallas (on American), with the plan to fly to Madrid (on Iberia), then in Seville (on Iberia). In Dallas, our 9pm Iberia flight was delayed by two hours. Finally we boarded around 11pm. The plane was making a terrible noise: a very loud thumping. We sat on the tarmac for about 10 minutes, then returned to the gate. We sat on the very hot plane (airbus, so no air vents!) for about an hour. Then they de-boarded us. By now it’s past midnight. We were told to stay nearby for news. After an hour, no news. So I went over to the American customer service desk to re-book. At first they told me to go to Iberia, since it was an Iberia flight. Of course THAT line was huge. But after explaining that I didn’t BOOK the flight with Iberia (I booked with American), someone was able to help me. It took a supervisor and a phone call and alot of prayers on my side! But the flight would be the following day at 5pm. With a tornado forecasted. And the eclipse happening around noon. Ugh.

So at 2 am we had to get a hotel and Uber. And of course we couldn’t get to sleep until about 5am, we were so worked up. Thankfully we had a later checkout at noon.

The new flight had no problems (except we lost all our great seat assignments and ended up in middle seats for 8.5 hours), and we made it to Seville about 16 hours later than planned. Of course we had to pay for the first night at our hotel in Seville, even though we weren’t there. I had messaged the hotel letting them know of the delay. I had used Booking.com, and they sent me a message saying I was a no-show and my reservation was cancelled. But I called the hotel and they held the room. Phew!

The rest of the trip went well. UNTIL…

Returning home from Paris, we flew to DFW. The flight was delayed. I had 25 minutes from touchdown to boarding! We still had to go through immigration, collect bags, and go through security. At each place, I asked for a “fast track” for people with a tight connection. Nope. I missed my connecting flight by about five minutes.

So I was re-booked for an hour later, about 6pm. My sister went her separate way home to San Diego. I needed to get to Phoenix (with a 2 hour layover) before my final flight home.

We boarded the flight to Phoenix on time, then sat. And sat. I watched the clock ticking as my two hour cushion disappeared. Finally, they de-boarded us around 7:30. Told us we could wait, or walk to the opposite side of the terminal to Customer Service) to get re-booked. Of course the line was long, with 100+ people trying to re-book. About 8:45 someone announces that they are boarding the plane! So we walk alllllllll the way across the terminal and re-board. Flight arrives in Phoenix around 10pm. I’ve missed the last flight home, so I was automatically re-booked for the first flight the next morning. Another night in an airport hotel. Ugh. And of course I arrived after the hotel restaurant closed. Dinner of airplane pretzels and my emergency Snickers bar. Too tired to do anything else!

The morning flight goes smoothly (thank goodness!). Finally arrived home. But my checked bag (with AirTag) is still in Phoenix. With 3 bricks of butter in it, packed in double ziplock bags inside Tupperware. I’m hoping I sealed them really well!

Lessons learned: always have a complete, clean outfit with you. Always have your toothbrush with you. Pack a couple extra days of meds. Have extra snacks. Get trip insurance. Don’t fly through Phoenix with butter in your checked bag.

BUTTER UPDATE: My bag was just delivered, and the butter is soft, but not melted.

Posted by
8653 posts

It sounds like quite the experience. I know it was hard, but I so appreciate your willingness to present a cheerful report about what must not have been very cheerful at the time.

I always have a change of clothes, nightwear, meds and emergency toiletries in my carryon. After reading your report, I think I will be adding "emergency rations."

The butter is just too funny for someone who isn't dealing with it in their suitcase! I hope it all turns out ok!

Posted by
4946 posts

Oh my, I think this is your 5 year share of missed connections! Thanks for the tip about not flying through Phoenix with butter in my checked bag....I will remember your story if I'm ever tempted to try.

It sounds like you might have trip insurance, or if not, maybe your credit card covers some things. Some levels of AAA have a bit of coverage.

Posted by
7465 posts

Oh no! I saw “Spain” and was hoping you weren’t fogged in at your first airport, too, causing all of the reservation & nice seat assignments dominoes to fall off your flight itinerary! And you had it on both ends - ugh! Thankfully you weren’t in the air with a defective plane! I certainly hope your time in Europe was fantastic and gives you lots of happy memories with your sister!

For other readers: To avoid the long line when something like this happens, check the airline app to see if it automatically rebooked your flights and/or if their website gives you a choice of options. In our case, Delta just wanted to rebook us for the same flight to Seattle the next morning instead of putting us on any flight going east, so their Option A wasn’t the best option since fog was expected the next morning, also. Recently my husband was going to have a long delay for a domestic flight (thank you, TripIt app for pinging me hours before Delta notified him) where he would miss the second flight. I was able to view all of the options from his reservation code on Delta’s website and select the best option for him while he finished playing golf.

Booking.com: we arrived a day late, too, for our first hotel in Spain. As soon as we accepted the new substitute flights, I sent a message through Booking to our hotel, telling them our new arrival time & date because of the weather issue. They received the message and responded back to me a day before we were originally due to arrive - no issues with that hotel.

Posted by
2403 posts

I just remember one more almost blip: on our way from Dallas to Madrid, there was an announcement on the tv screen: “If you are a medical professional, your assistance is needed for a fellow passenger”. We were about 4-5 hours into the flight, just over Nova Scotia. I thought for sure they were going to turn us around! But thankfully they did not, and apparently the passenger was ok.

Posted by
2403 posts

Jean, the seat assignment dominoes sure fell. I was stuck in the middle seat in the middle section of the plane for 8.5 hours. Three of us curvy ladies. No fun.

Posted by
4352 posts

Ok, this is NOT funny but you still made me laugh. I love your list of lessons learned. I learned the first couple when my suitcase went to Turkey and I went to Salzburg and we met up again for the flight home. However, I am making notes about the butter. LOL.

Glad you made it and can still laugh. And DFW this time of year is so iffy simply with weather - not to mention defective planes. That’s my hub airport and I try to always think in terms of Plan B (not applicable in your circumstances).

Posted by
11531 posts

But my checked bag (with AirTag) is still in Phoenix. With 3 bricks of butter in it, packed in double ziplock bags inside Tupperware. I’m hoping I sealed them really well!

Of all the things to bring home from a trip to Spain/France, it would have been a really long time before 'butter bricks' would come to mind.

Why you have butter bricks in your bags sounds like it could be an interesting story.. care to share?

Posted by
4482 posts

I'm sorry this happened to you. I always assume that my flight will be cancelled and I'll be stuck without checked luggage. One time I was traveling with 4 other teachers and a weather delay caused us to miss our flight and spend the night on the cots in the airport. I was the only one who had a toothbrush.

Posted by
2924 posts

Travel4fun, that wasn’t fun. Problems both direction is unbelievable. Glad to hear the rest of the trip was good.
Since it’s low 90s in Phoenix, you will have a tub of very soft but hopefully not melted, butter

Posted by
2403 posts

Joe32F, my husband is on a sourdough bread baking kick. I wanted to bring home some butter for him, and I had read fabulous things about French butter. I bought three kinds: unsalted, semi-salted and crystallized salt (which is supposed to be fabulous). Yes, I’m sure he can buy French butter here.

I sealed it and froze it, then packed it in shallow plastic dishes. It would have done fine if our flight had gone as planned. My sister tried it and had no problem. But now it’s a goner, I’m afraid.

Posted by
5688 posts

Have you filed a claim for EU261 compensation with Iberia for the Dallas to Madrid flight? You might be eligible since the flight was operated by an EU carrier.

Posted by
359 posts

I have been on several transatlantic flights where I got no food, service was hours late, or food was inedible. Now I always pack enough meal bars for dinner and breakfast. Even had enough extra to feed a nice family from India one time. Never travel without a backup meal plan!

Posted by
865 posts

Oh my, that’s just not fair you got it on both ends!. Hopefully, Market of Choice has some French butter.

Posted by
23472 posts

What an adventure. Fly long enough and we all will have one. Ours was ten years ago on United and Luftsana. Almost an identical story. Only difference is we started on a Wednesday and could not get re-booked till Sat, lost three nights at a B&B, and an on-going, independent airline ticket. When it starts to go bad, it just continues. No reset button.

Posted by
3250 posts

Yikes, you had the double whammy ,having trouble at either end.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, and of course , please report back on the state of the butter when it finally arrives!

Posted by
9899 posts

Oh Travel4fun, I am so sorry. What a pain !!! And coming AND going !!!

I see that you have been able to keep your sense of humor about it all. I love your last line. Not sure those words have ever been put together in a sentence before.

And your sister, to have this be her FIRST trip to Europe !! At least you can say that the travel was an exception, but for her it’s 100 % of her traveling-to-Europe experience !! At least (I think) she got the flight to San Diego out of Dallas that same night instead of overnighting again.

My sympathies. Hopefully this means by the law of averages, you should have smooth traveling for the next several trips !!

Posted by
7031 posts

Travel4fun, butter can actually stay inrefrigerated for a fairly long period of time, because of all the fat in it. And while it was on the plane, it would’ve stayed fairly cold. I wouldn’t pitch it if it was me, but that’s me.

Posted by
429 posts

Poor butter. But your story makes me happy I changed my flight date next month so I could go nonstop US to Spain on Iberia because I had originally been looking at that American flight through Dallas. Not that nonstop is a guarantee, but still. DFW doesn’t sound very helpful.

And everyone should avoid packing meltable things if you’re going to be in Phx between April and October. The butter sounded like an interesting souvenir, but maybe best checked through northern climates?

Posted by
682 posts

The silver lining is you were in Dallas for the eclipse! The eclipse in Dallas was the focus of our recent two-week road trip, and as in 2017, it was spectacular!

Posted by
2403 posts

mnannie, yes, it was pretty cool. I was in Oregon for the 2017 eclipse. I need one of the “twice in a lifetime” shirts that I saw people in the airport wearing! Seeing the totality is pretty amazing.

Posted by
2403 posts

Thank you for the info on EU261. My sister and I filed claims with Iberia and we will each receive 600€.

Posted by
24 posts

Well, that was quite an adventure! But then you at least had your sister with you through all of that, so it makes for a funny story to tell over Thanksgiving :) My trip to Europe was around the time of yours, and I was visiting multiple countries (about 1 a day) and not a single one of my flights experienced a major delay, thank goodness. And they were all separate tickets, with the exception of the main round trip ticket (Chicago-Copenhagen-Dublin and back on SAS). Also don't forget to (if you haven't already) register your flown miles on a frequent flyer program. I recommend British Airways Executive Club vs. American AAdvantage or Iberia Plus. It's easier to reach elite status with BA, which translates to a more elevated experience when flying American and Alaska domestically in the US. Claim all the flights you've taken on this trip that's with the oneworld group: American, Alaska, Iberia, BA, Finnair and so on. You might actually be halfway to elite status!

Posted by
2403 posts

joe32F, the butter survived. It was not melted, by some miracle. And we’ve been eating it and we’re still alive.

Posted by
3250 posts

All was not lost then as far as dairy products are concerned!

Posted by
69 posts

I had an air travel nightmare yesterday. We had a flight from Barcelona, with a 3 hour layover for our connection in Newark, which I thought would be plenty, but the plane from Barcelona had mechanical issues, and were delayed 4 hours. So we missed our connection, had to re-schedule it, and wound up spending 18 hours in the Newark airport waiting to get on the plane to get home. Yes, I know, we should have called an Uber, gotten a hotel and taken a nap, but we didn't.

Air travel nightmares are too common. For God's sake, it's 2024, and things like this are still happening all the time.

Posted by
2403 posts

I just wanted to return and thank those who told me to file a claim under EC 261. I filed with Iberia for the delay on the way to Spain, and I received 600€. Buy, they make you jump through some hoops to get it! But that part is done.

To date, American Airlines has only sent me auto generated emails in response to my request for compensation for the return trip. “We appreciate your patience as we work to respond to your message…” I’m sure they do.

Posted by
88 posts

I mean…as long as the butter made it…

Posted by
4482 posts

The part about extra clothes, extra meds and your toothbrush-I always assume this kind of stuff will happen. Years ago 4 other teacher colleagues and I got stuck at Midway airport overnight(our plane from Birmingham was delayed by a thunderstorm) and spent the night on cots at the airport. One of the other teachers was frantically roaming stores looking for toothbrushes for everyone(he found them). I didn't point out that, as the experienced traveler I was, I had a toothbrush in my carryon.

Posted by
2403 posts

Just wanted to provide an update regarding American Airlines. After receiving a generic email notice about every eeek, I decided to fill out the EC 261 claim form and send it to American Airlines. I had previously requested the payment via email. But there are rules about how soon airlines must respond once they receive the official form. If I had known, I would have sent it straight away.

Sure enough, with a couple weeks I received an actual email from what appears to be an actual person offering me payment of 600€. I had to fill out another form, and they are sending me a check. Famous last words, but progress at least.

For anyone that might need it, here is a link to the form: https://www.accessibletourism.org/resources/air_passenger_complaints_form_en.pdf

Posted by
645 posts

I second what Laura and Carol now retired said: get your compensation! I was able to get compensation twice. Once when the Lufthansa flight to Paris was delayed, delayed delayed. They put me on an Air France flight which got me into Paris about three hours late. Because Lufthansa is a European airline my husband and I were reimbursed a pretty fair amount each (many years ago can't remember the exact amount but it got my attention). Second time was a United flight from Charles de Gaulle to San Francisco. Delayed 5+ hours. We each got €600 for that delay because it was a flight departing from the European union.
UPDATE: just now read that you got your compensation from both Iberia and American. Congratulations! Hope your next trip is smoother. The money is nice but I'm sure you would rather have had a better experience. I had some nasty issues with American last time I flew with them. I do try to avoid them now or if I need to use them just use them for the return trip. Don't mind as much if it's not eating into my vacation time.