My Astonishingly Bad Travel Karma Continues Unabated

I get to the airport and discover a) the airline self-serve kiosks are down, and b) my flight is cancelled. The first of these caused me to stand in line for an interminable period of time just to hear I had no flight; the second of these caused me to whip out the cell phone and rebook as soon as humanly possible, because there were only 15 extra seats on the next flight, and waiting until I got to the ticket counter wouldn’t help me get one.

In the end:

1. I rebooked on the later flight;

2. Because my flight was cancelled, in addition to a rebooking I got a free round-trip travel voucher;

3. Now I gotta kill six hours in the airport.

So all told, despite the fact I continue to have the sort of travel karma that makes me suspect I kicked adorable puppies in a past life, it could be a lot worse. Also, since I had today specifically as a travel day, i.e., I had nothing on my schedule but travel, this is not as horribly annoying as it could be; I didn’t have to cancel any commitments. And if nothing else, Dayton airport has free wifi.

Mind you, if the next flight gets cancelled, I’m gonna be really pissed. But let’s not worry about that now.

So, how’s your day going?

59 Comments on “My Astonishingly Bad Travel Karma Continues Unabated”

  1. My day: Wrist still hurts from skating accident. Called in sick. Dropped Mom off at the airport. Stopped at Starbucks. Straightened up the house. Carpenters stopped by to give me an estimate on fixing my rotting french doors. Successfully written 87 words.

    Be sure to walk lots at the airport and flirt with all the clerks. That’s always fun.

  2. My day: I finally get the software I’m working on to finish a build without blowing up. Trying to run it: EPIC FAIL. :(

  3. Sorry about the travel karma, John.

    In my previous life as a “management consultant” I traveled quite a bit. For example, I flew 185,000 air miles in 2007, including two trips to South Africa and one to Germany.

    Some folks like to bash one airline or another because of flight delays, cancellations, etc. Based on my experience, I don’t really differentiate between the big domestic carriers. They are all pretty much the same: they all suck when compared to international carriers. (Note I consider Air Canada to be a domestic carrier in this context.)

    When I flew domestically, I figured that I would experience a significant delay in travel about 25 percent of the time, about one out of each four flight segments. Actual results would vary based on the location and size of the airport. Chicago and Denver and LA were not my problem airports. In addition to the ones you’d expect (La Guardia, JFK, Philadelphia) I found flights originating in Montreal to be consistently “retarded”.

    So I developed some coping strategies, of which number one was to have my main carriers on cell phone speed dial. Having frequent flier status helped out quite a bit for rebooking purposes.

    Dayton was not a bad airport; I always preferred it to Kentucky International. Too bad you can’t fly out of Wright-Pat!

  4. You have a huge braintrust of people who will entertain you here. How about a selection of travel limericks?

    Er… and then, even as I say it, I realise that might not be the best idea.


    Well, my day was fine. I screwed up in a variety of ways and now there’s a Latvian security guard yelling at a Polish cleaner about five feet from my left ear. Other than that it was actually pretty good.

  5. I missed out buying Wil Wheaton’s shirt at


    (i feel your pain, btw OMG – Lunch *AND* dinner at the airport?)

  6. You got a free round trip plane ticket and there’s free wifi? You’re making out like a bandit.

  7. Funny enough, I’m really tired today because I stayed up way too late last night reading this book (Old Man’s War) that I could not put down. So, thanks, Mr. Scalzi. I need another cup of coffee. =)

  8. I’m good today. I’m not in and significant pain for a change, which is always a big plus and I don’t have to travel. It don’t get any better than that, but then I don’t have very high standards either :)

    Thanks for asking.

  9. BeVibe- I am one of the lucky few who managed to snag a Wil Wheaton shirt. This is only because I have to be at work at an ungodly hour in the AM, so today I am happy I am up before the sun!

  10. Nowadays, I avoid flying any place that is less than about twelve hours by car, because I know the flight is going to take up my whole day anyway, even if it is just 20 minutes. (Don’t know where you’re headed today.) You might consider taking the train in the future for shorter trips. Amtrack has power outlets in the coaches and you can use your computer and wireless devices to your heart’s content. A lot more leg room, too. Amtrak has its own woes, naturally. (Don’t expect to get there on time.)

  11. While knocking on wood, I’ll comment that my travel karma is just as bad. Those “random” additional searches at airports? I had 22 flights in a row where I was “randomly” searched. Around flight 12 in a row I started asking WTH I was doing to be searched every time I flew (“Oh, it’s a random selection.” “Yeah, and what are the odds a 20-something slim white woman would be ‘randomly’ searched 12…16…21 times in a row?” “Oh, well, … it’s random.”). I was eventually able to fix what I was doing wrong, and minimize my additional searches.

    Another bad part of my travel karma resulted in having to spend the first night of my honeymoon at the in-laws house (think “stage fright” to understand how disappointing that night was) because the first flight landed 5 minutes too late for us to catch our connecting flight and the airlines spent 4 hours telling us it wasn’t their fault and they didn’t have to put us on another flight (meanwhile, the last 3 flights of the day took off).

    Of course, birds pooped on me on my honeymoon, too, so, well, maybe we should have taken the hint.

    So, I’m with you on the bad travel karma. At least you don’t have birds circling you, eying the bullseye on your head.

  12. For Nick @ 4:

    There once was a man stuck in Boise
    Who thought the airport was quite noisy
    He dreamed up this verse
    Thought nothing could be worse
    Except being stuck in New Jersey.

    (For it to work, you have to say it with the right accent.)

  13. Well, I am still getting over dealing with a newborn that almost died at work. (Yes, work is at a hospital.)

    But, my best friend’s wife is in the hospital with a respiratory infection because she is immunodeficient after getting her stem-cell transplant for her leukemia, leaving her two young children at home with the grandma.

    Thus, any urge I have to complain is eliminated.

    My friend’s situation, needless to say gives me the type of perspective I would rather not have.

  14. I once spent the night on the floor at the Detroit airport thanks to a canceled connection. Whee fun.

    Alethea @13: HEY! I resemble that remark! Joisey girl, here. :D

  15. I’m sitting in my office grinding through immense piles of paperwork after taking my lovely wife lunch (purchased, of course, from a local Chick-Fil-A that practically every high school student in the county was trying to purchase lunch from during their 30 minute or so break at the same time).

  16. John discovered, much to his scorn,
    That the airport network was worn.
    “This Wifi’s bad speed
    Does not feed my need
    To web surf through volumes of …. umm….. artistic photographs.”

  17. Well I just went out for a nice long walk on a peaceful dirt road under a sunny blue sky and ate a succulent Granny Smith apple.

    So about the complete opposite of being stuck in an airport for six hours.

  18. “I kicked adorable puppies in a past life,”

    I think not, that would have earned random dog attacks if my karmic math is up to snuff.

    You my friend, were an alcoholic baggage handler or a passive aggressive travel agent!


  19. *sigh*
    Agent passed on my novel with the comment she thinks someone else might like it.
    Today started at work whith phone calls of people yelling at me for things that went wrong. (I did not do, but I did fix.)
    If I hear from Writers Of The Future today I expect another near-miss.
    Still, on the plus side I’m healthy. I have a wonderful marriage, I have a good job and goos pay and good friends.
    So today is so-so but life is good.

  20. I don’t think it’s bad karma…I suspect your experience is pretty average. Air travel in this countries is just crappy in general.

    I find that every time I fly an airline in this country that isn’t SouthWest, I have problems.

  21. You’ve got a misunderstanding of cause and effect, vis a vis Karma and air travel. What you describe indicates you were practically Mother Theresa in a past life. The puppy kickers pay a rebooking fee when their flights are canceled.

  22. John, I’m going to be flying on March 9 and 16. Could you please stay put on those days? Otherwise your karma might spread out, ripple-like, and interfere with my plans.


  23. Ugh. Sorry you’re stuck at the Dayton airport. Not a whole lot to DO there. And I was *just* up there, not five minutes away, meeting a friend at SAKE on Miller Lane. Had I known, you could’ve joined us for bento box for lunch!

    Hope you’re going somewhere more fun than here.

  24. CJ @ 21: I laughed reading that right as my boss was walking past my office. Thankfully he didn’t seem to notice.

    My day has been a constant barrage of “my computer beeped funny at me” and “why am I getting a disk full message?” (Because you download music on your work laptop!) Yes, I work in IT…

  25. spent most of the day messing around with the Google Maps API so that i could post a map on a webpage showing local hotels and their information.

  26. Drew@34: Glad I was able to almost get you in trouble!

    Ah yes, the fascinating life in IT…. You could always have blamed the laughter on a new an ridiculous user problem.

    My favorite user problem to date was the user who insisted that his keyboard did not have an ‘escape’ key. He needed to hit Esc-W to write a database change in Ingres, but he told us “There is no escape key on my computer!” No amount of description or repetition would get him to admit that there was one there. My manager had to drive to his office to prove that it existed.

  27. My son fractured his arm today, so I spent the day at doctor’s offices. The only airport I’ve been to this year that did NOT have free wifi is Cleveland. How backwards is that?

  28. See. You ignore your furry masters’ warnings at your own peril… If he Twittered, I’m sure this would have made for a great one.

  29. Sore throat, abcessed tonsils, neon orange mucus, head full of candy floss – welcome to tonsillitis. At least I got to stay off work and watch Dangermouse, Diagnosis Murder and Murder, She Wrote, although upstairs decided to leak water all through my bathroom ceiling during MSW so I’m not exactly sure what the story was about…

  30. Yowch. I flew round-trip from NYC to LA and back this past week, and am ‘looking forward’ to doing so again later this week (family troubles back home).

    That said, I actually had a breeze flying. No real hassles in security, plenty of books, and the last flight even had an empty seat next to me! Only real problems were the lack of free wifi in JFK and the fact that they’ve started charging for snacks and even one suitcase now, the moneygrubbing fiends!

  31. Do they have a book store? You could do a reading – yours, or someone else’s book… You can skip the opera versions and the interpretive dance, if you like.

    You could even pretend to be one of those authors and autograph the books…

  32. I spent my day reading shareholder reports of a local family that invested in companies in the 1910’s and 1920’s and was educated how companies heading into the Great Depression did business with their principles. Lots of apologetic language, lots of appreciation for the people that stuck with them, and no whining.
    Then I returned the rental car and spent an hour setting up for a presentation at the library. And now I am going home.

  33. In my previous life (10 years + in “the music business”) I clocked up over half a million miles of flying. The point? If it can go wrong it will. I’ve been stuck in airports I couldn’t even pronounce the name of where any form of entertainment beyond “count the rats” was sadly missing. And don’t get me started on the fact that most airports seem to get the food that the plane’s rejected…

  34. Kick back with the wifi and enjoy. We had a lesson in that on last year’s trip to Hawaii — our airline ceased operation the day before we were due to fly home! We ended up spending two extra days trying to get a flight out, and the stress over missing work & school could easily have ruined (retroactively) the whole vacation. Instead, we took to heart most people’s reaction — “Stuck in Hawaii? How bad can that be?” Free time is to be treasured, even in an airport!

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention: you’re a prescriptivist swine! ;-) and so am I.

  35. job hunt

    driveby interweeb comments

    mow the rocks and other such housework

    driveby interweeb comments

    look forward to this evening’s Civilization game when I can kill things. (Civ mod FfH2 has flaming, exploding zombie units)

  36. Lopsided cat knew what was up and tried to warn you. I would also note that you did not in fact kick adorable puppies in a past life. It’s worse than that, you were an airline executive in your last life.

  37. Sigh. It’s registration time, so many, many students are in my office looking for classes.

  38. Nick @ 3

    You are so totally right. In a previous life I did some traveling and found that any domestic airline was a pain almost every time. The worst was the time my luggage ended up in Atlanta when I was flying from San Diego to Omaha by way of Denver. Never did figure out how that happened.
    My favorite international has to be British Airways. I spent a week in the UK in the mid “90’s. When I went to Heathrow for my flight home, I found out that the flight was overbooked. If you volunteered, BA was offering £100 for taking a later flight, £250 if you took the flight the next morning, and they would put you up in a hotel at their expense.
    I volunteered only to find out that since my connecting flight from LA to Seattle wasn’t a partner of theirs, I couldn’t take advantage of the deal. So I asked if I could at least get an aisle seat with leg room. The clerk informed me that since I had volunteered to help them out of their stupidity, her words not mine, BA was bumping me up to Business Class at no extra cost. How cool is that! The best 10 ½ hour flight of my life.

    KLM is a close second.

  39. Jeff S. @ 50

    I used to feel sorry for those who had never flown an international air carrier, until I realized that ignorance might be akin to bliss. If you’ve never experience the hospitality and graciousness of, say, Air Qatar, then maybe flying United or American or whatever may just seem irritating and/or annoying, rather than what I think it is: a conscious decision to treat passengers as cattle.

    You cite KLM and BA, both good ones. I liked my Air Qatar experience (Heathrow to Doha, round trip, biz class). Not only was the hospitality heartfelt, but I also liked the 17 inch monitors on each seatback (instead of trays) and a choice from a score of movies (several of which were playing in theaters at the time).

    Side note: I don’t think one can fully appreciate the Qatari culture until flying out of there, watching the women get up (one by one, under the watchful eyes of the male chaperone) for trips to the restroom. They got up wearing the national dress (black shayla scarf over the head and black abayah dress over the rest of the body), and came back to their seats dressed in the haut-est couture from Paris, with mega-joules of jewelry prominently displayed.

    For trips to Europe, I always try to book Lufthansa. There’s a wonderful 11-hour LA to Frankfurt flight that is–dare I say?–almost restful. Having once flown first class from LA to Heathrow on United a week after making an even longer trip via Lufthansa biz class, I vowed that from then on I would fly LA to Frankfurt to Heathrow via Lufthansa biz class instead. I’ve never regretted that decision. I always recommend Lufthansa to my friends.

  40. I sympathise with your travel karma. Could have been made much worse if you received this dose of travel karma in a foreign country where every word you say ends up something offensive when translated and they all carry submachine guns.

    I have bad 2009 karma. Does that mean I did something bad to 2008? Or maybe just years ending in odd numbers? Whoever knows the karmic math equation can you run some numbers please?

  41. Sign up for flight status text messaging if the airline offers it. It’s saved me a lot of surprises or keeps me a ahead of the rest of the cattle when things change. You can also use the airline website before leaving home or hotel. American has a nice mobile webpage and so do other airlines.

  42. Not that I think you’re a spoiled idiot, John. But I had just read your post about waiting in the airport (with free wifi, with a round trip voucher) when I got this link in e-mail from a friend. I know you know this stuff and in general are not sympathetic to the entitled. And god knows I hate traveling by air anymore because it is more of a hassle than it used to be, and because I don’t want to go anywhere much, so if I have to fly, I’m already not excited. Just a message to people in general: Try to have a sense of proportions.

  43. I never get free tickets. Your karma is better than mine.

    As to my weekend, I took my daughter to see Celtic Woman.

    Never has so much talent been wasted to perform such crap.

    I’d call it a “pop sellout” but I wouldn’t want to insult any pop sellouts.

    The 11 year old loved it, though.

  44. @Nick: My first deployment to the Middle East, my team of 8 were contracted to Kuwait Airlines. I DON’T like screens on the back of every seat, because not being a drooling TV addict, I prefer not to have it blasted in my face, and when it’s on EVERY CHAIR I can’t even turn my head to avoid the flickering images of the “goddammed noisy box.”

    Of course, coming home this last time, we had hours-long outprocessing and sitting in a metal pole barn, then hours-long inspections through the Naval Customs Bn, then hours-long waiting in another pole barn with a couple of couches and bad microwavable food and trailer toilets, and an hours-long convoy on a bus with no toilet (and I was recovering from amoebic dysentery), with our rucksacks in our laps, every seat filled, stopping for nothing, then an hours-long wait in 100+ degree heat with porta potties until we could be cleared to get on the ramp, then loaded our own cargo on the charter (an old DC10), climbed aboard, every seat filled, for an hours-long flight to Leipzig, where we had a layover on plastic seats next to a store that sold “Souvenirs, Beer and Rammstein” for outrageous prices ($5 chocolate bars, anyone? $40 CDs? Though the beer was cheap, which we could buy but not drink), then an hours-long flight to Baltimore, where we recovered our transported weapons and transferred to hours-long flights to home stations and did hours-long processing before an hours-long wait at the airport and a $20, 3-minute collect call that I was actually arriving early, before an hourlong flight to Indy.

    The alternative was a KC135 that would require hearing protection, be about 55 degrees and have a honey bucket and no meal service, movies or seats–strap on to a folding metal bench or sprawl across the pallets if you’re lucky enough to have room, and take hours longer with no layover–tankers carry enough fuel for 18 hour flights.

    So I actually find United and American to be rather comfortable and a pleasure to fly on, when I get the chance.

    How about you?:-)

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