Worst non-Amtrak transportation experience

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CTANut

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What was your worst non-Amtrak transportation experience? For me, it was getting delayed 6+ hours flying from Colorado to the east coast. I was stuck in DFW airport.
 
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flitcraft

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That's pretty open-ended as a question. 39 hours of labor with no drugs? That was memorable, and not exactly in a good way...

As for a transportation worst experience--a nightmare three day Seattle-Chicago-London trip on United Airlines five years ago--complete with repeated lies by United staff, giving us all bad reboarding passes so that we were flagged as SSSS by TSA and got the 'private room really intense search' treatment, and arriving into Heathrow only to find that United had somehow lost all the luggage for the flight. Yeah, that was fun...and beats any Amtrak snafu I've ever had. (Oh... and in compensation they only offered United miles...which for a lot of the international passengers might as well have been Monopoly money.) There was a guy from the BBC on our flight who recorded a lot of the nonsense, including interviewing passengers about the consequences of it all, with the idea that it might make a nice news item about the degradation of American airline travel, but his bosses said it wasn't newsworthy--everybody knows US international travel has gone to hell in a handbasket!
 

jiml

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Every frequent flier will have stories that will make Amtrak look like a preferred alternative. There are major ones, like 10,000 ft drops due to clear air turbulence or landings aborted at the last second due to "traffic on the runway", that will quickly have you realizing you just survived something that could have been much worse. (Tip: Actually seeing oxygen masks hanging in front of you is never a good thing.) Then there are the inconveniences like being stranded for 48 hours at O'Hare after landing at 3 alternate airports due to weather and equipment problems, or being bumped from your paid FC seat by the air marshal. Add in lost or damaged luggage just for fun and all of a sudden a few freight-related delays or a flex meal or two on Amtrak doesn't sound all that bad. A rental car breaking down on a Vegas freeway is an adventure too.
 

Ziv

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Worst travel experience? I have tons of worsts.
Funniest one was arriving in Montezuma Costa Rica at 9pm off season figuring there would definitely be a room vacant. Wrong. A grocery store owner let me sleep on the porch of his warehouse in my hammock. Turned out I was at the end of the porch nearest the fruit section and woke up with dozens of wasps walking all over my body and two on my face. None stung me but it made for a rather exciting wake up call.
Probably the worst travel experience was getting Giardia while I was on a bus from Vientianne Laos to Kunming China. I got on the bus at 6 am feeling hungover and then realized I was seriously ill half way to Kunming. Did you know that bus stops in rural China didn't have toilets 20 years ago? They just pointed you at a field beside the bus stop and you dodged the previous visitors leavings until you were out of sight from the rest of the travelers. Don't try this after sunset. Take my word for it.
Moral of the story? Never eat the Lao national dish Laab Mu "family style". It means that the pork isn't cooked, it is marinated in chilis and citrus type juices to prepare it instead. Lovely dish, delicious! And nearly fatal. GatorAde with salt makes a decent source of electrolytes if you don't have anything else.
 

Dakota 400

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Two trips that didn't work out as well as anticipated.

A 1980 trans-Atlantic crossing on Queen Elizabeth 2 from Hamburg/Southampton to New York. There were labor issues on the ship that resulted in less than the anticipated "Cunard White Star Service". Some crew were surly; most were not. Most of the crew were inattentive to the guests and what was requested. Entrecote was ordered for lunch one day; liver was served. When I told the Steward this was not what I had ordered, I was rudely informed "that's what Entrecote is". Tea was served with cracked crockware and cups with no tea spoons. (I have a photo of my traveling companion stirring his tea with the blade of his pocket knife.) One wash cloth for the two of us during the entire crossing. (Towels did get changed properly, though.) And, the fare for this wonderful experience, even though we were in Tourist Class, was $100/day more than the per day price we had paid for a cruise on a Royal Viking Line ship. We had friends in First Class and they were as displeased as we were.

American Airlines flight from Acapulco to Dallas connecting to a flight to Columbus, Ohio where we were going to get my car parked at the airport and drive to my Brother's home near Washington, D. C. for New Year's Eve/Day. Flight arrived in Dallas early. Great: we all ready had amble connecting time for the other flight. Now, had more time. Except. We sat on the tarmac; sat and sat and sat....no gates were available. When we finally got to the gate, we ran to another gate (naturally not nearby) for the connecting flight--are amble connecting time had been squandered. Arriving at the gate, the plane was still at the gate. But. The door was closed. Boarding was over. Next available flight was the next morning. But, AA would book us directly to Washington rather than Columbus. Luggage will still go to Columbus as we wanted, we were told. Hyatt Regency hotel voucher for the night with vouchers for dinner and breakfast. Good. Next morning, flight to Washington went well. No luggage, which was what we wanted. At Midnight on New Year's Eve, my brother phone rings. It's American Airlines at Washington. "We have your luggage and will deliver it shortly". Happy New Year Not! Now, we will return to Ohio in my Father's car packed to the gills with 3 people, luggage on the back seat and floor, and the trunk totally filled. He was not a happy camper!

We had not claimed our luggage in Dallas for the overnight. The gate agent assured us that the original tags to CMH would not be removed and the luggage would be sent to CMH were we could pick it up when we got home. Well, someone "did not get the memo" and the tags were removed with new tags to DCA were applied.

Just another day in the "wide world of travel experiences"!
 

MARC Rider

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Mine aren't that bad, but I have a couple.

A 1986 flight on Continental Airlines BWI-DEN that got cancelled about 20 minutes after we took off. The pilot just said, "nothing to worry about folks, we just can't continue the flight. " Then about 20 minutes of anxiety while the plane circled around, presumably dumping fuel into Chesapeake Bay, and we landed back at BWI with a fleet of fire engines following us as we taxied. That didn't exactly inspire confidence. It was the last flight of the evening, but they were able to book Denver passengers out that evening. Unfortunately, my boss and I were going to Reno, so they couldn't book us until a next day flight on United.

We then went over to United to check our bags, so we wouldn't have to drag them home, and checked in for the flight. The flight was BWI - ORD - DEN with a change of panes to continue on to Reno. When we got to Chicago, somebody came by and said we were sitting in their seats. Apparently, when we checked in the night before, United just check us in the Chicago. Fortunately, the plane wasn't full, and we continued on the Denver, and then made our connection with no problems. On arrival at Reno, we found that our luggage wasn't there. Our business was in a place called Minden, an hour or two drive away. We got to the meeting late and cranky, but I will say that United did bring our bags to the hotel, even if it was about midnight.

In the early 1990s, I had a USAir flight from BWI - SFO that was 4 hours delayed in departure. One frustrating part of the experience was that they changed the gates on us a couple of times, so we were making random hikes around the airport. Also, it was a late afternoon flight, so by the time we got to SFO, even with the time zone difference, it was 1 AM or so. Aside from being tired and cranky, I had to take a cab into the city because the airport shuttles had stopped running, and then I had to explain to my boss why I was expensing a ~$30 cab ride instead of a $10 airport shuttle fare.

During two different flights from BWI - DFW on American, we get cleared for takeoff, move on the the runway, rev up the engines, start moving down the runway ... and then about halfway down the runway, the engines cut back and we then returned to the gate, where a crew of mechanics spent an hour fiddling around with stuff in the vicinity of the engines. Not only was I a little nervous about whether the mechanics really fixed stuff, I was worried about my connections at DFW. Fortunately, they put enough padding into the connections that I made them, but only with the help of an American Airlines golf cart.

Finally, in the early 2000s, we were lining up at the gate to board a Northwest flight at Detroit for a quick run into BWI, when, all of a sudden, the flight got cancelled. Everybody was rushing over to the podium to get rebooked, but I pulled out my flip-phone and called SATO Travel, who handled government booking at the time. They rebooked me on a flight later that evening, but I still had to clear the secured area, claim my bag, and then re-check in for the other flight. I got home that night, but it was one hell of a bumpy flight on an antique DC-9, and my bag didn't make it. (It got delivered to my house the next evening.)
 

jiml

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We had not claimed our luggage in Dallas for the overnight. The gate agent assured us that the original tags to CMH would not be removed and the luggage would be sent to CMH were we could pick it up when we got home. Well, someone "did not get the memo" and the tags were removed with new tags to DCA were applied.
Was that before or after the rule that your baggage had to be on the same flight, realizing that they break this rule whenever it suits the airline?
 

Trogdor

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Was that before or after the rule that your baggage had to be on the same flight, realizing that they break this rule whenever it suits the airline?
That rule does not apply to domestic flights.

Also, the rule is there to avoid a situation as happened in the 1980s where terrorists checked bags with explosives, then didn’t get on the plane (so as not to blow up with the plane). Therefore, the rule only applies to passengers willingly/intentionally separating from their checked luggage. Therefore, airlines cannot, by definition, break that rule, since it doesn’t apply to them.
 
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jiml

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That rule does not apply to domestic flights.

Also, the rule is there to avoid a situation as happened in the 1980s where terrorists checked bags with explosives, then didn’t get on the plane (so as not to blow up with the plane). Therefore, the rule only applies to passengers willingly/intentionally separating from their checked luggage. Therefore, airlines cannot, by definition, break that rule, since it doesn’t apply to them.
I understand what you're saying, but we were told the opposite by Delta after missing a connection in MSP (their fault). They said our bag had been pulled and we'd have to pick it up since "by law" it had to travel on the same plane as us. The next flight with available seats wasn't until the next day, but after waiting 3 hours in baggage claim they managed to send our bag on the next flight that same night. (US domestic btw.)
 

Devil's Advocate

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I only have two stories and they're not even that bad compared to many. I had a nonstop flight to LAS on Delta that went tech and they signed us (but not our luggage) over to a connecting itinerary on America West. The third aircraft of the day also went tech and we got stuck in PHX for an additional six hours. At first I thought it was just bad luck but as I looked around I noticed that several other America West flights were suffering similar problems and hardly anybody was moving. In the end our luggage arrived on time while we arrived after everything had closed and couldn't even pickup our rental car since the travel agent reserved with a company that refused to rent to anyone under 21 at any price. After that I ignored Delta for more than a decade and avoided America West and travel agents forever.

A long delay returning a car with Hertz put me close to the cut-off for check-in with AA at MCO but I moved fast and made it to the counter with over ten minutes to spare. Only the AA clerk insisted I would never make it to the gate and she would "help" me by moving my ticket to the next flight. I chose not to argue about it but little did I know all the flights were seriously overbooked that day and I was being screwed. Sure enough I was able to reach the gate of my original flight before boarding started but there was nothing they could do and it just cascaded downhill from there. Flight after flight a group of standby schmucks formed as we moved from gate to gate like zombies. I ended up having to stay overnight and was really annoyed at the time but since I was away on business I was basically being paid to sit in an airport and do whatever. I've been stranded at other airports like SFO and NRT but always received credits, upgrades, or a better routing in exchange for those delays while MCO shrugged me off like yesterday's news.

Both of these events occurred early in my life and after they happened I was a lot less trusting of front line staff and more discerning of questionable assistance and manufactured excuses. Or at least I think I am. 🧐

There are major ones, like 10,000 ft drops due to clear air turbulence or landings aborted at the last second due to "traffic on the runway", that will quickly have you realizing you just survived something that could have been much worse.
Maybe I should not admit this but I actually kind of enjoy flights with storms and/or turbulence. I don't want to be flung against the ceiling like a rag doll but so long as I'm in my seat bring it on. One memorable flight was on a regional jet heading to LAX that was threading needles like a simulator ride and I honestly loved every minute of it. When the captain came on to inform the staff they could get up I wanted to ask if we could go back for another ride.
 
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SarahZ

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Maybe I should not admit this but I actually kind of enjoy flights with storms and/or turbulence. I don't want to be flung against the ceiling like a rag doll but so long as I'm in my seat bring it on. One memorable flight was on a regional jet heading to LAX that was threading needles like simulator ride and I honestly loved every minute of it. When the captain came on to inform the staff they could get up I wanted to ask if we could go back for another ride.
You know how people post videos of turbulence, and there's always that one person chilling with their book while everyone else loses their mind?

That's me. I'm the person reading my book and trying not to laugh (roller coaster laugh, not laughing at others' anxiety). Turbulence adds variety to an otherwise boring flight.
 

Cal

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Maybe I should not admit this but I actually kind of enjoy flights with storms and/or turbulence. I don't want to be flung against the ceiling like a rag doll but so long as I'm in my seat bring it on. One memorable flight was on a regional jet heading to LAX that was threading needles like simulator ride and I honestly loved every minute of it. When the captain came on to inform the staff they could get up I wanted to ask if we could go back for another ride.
I love flying, and while I don't like major turbulence, I love some bumps! Last February I was travelling to Asia from LA, and shortly after take off we had some bumps. I hadn't flown in two years, so I was loving it.

And honestly, I wouldn't mind experiencing a go-around, as long as nobody get's hurt.
 

jiml

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Maybe I should not admit this but I actually kind of enjoy flights with storms and/or turbulence. I don't want to be flung against the ceiling like a rag doll but so long as I'm in my seat bring it on. One memorable flight was on a regional jet heading to LAX that was threading needles like a simulator ride and I honestly loved every minute of it. When the captain came on to inform the staff they could get up I wanted to ask if we could go back for another ride.
It's all fun until someone gets hurt. You don't want to be on the flight (regional jet) where the sole flight attendant is the first one off the plane. Although she was strapped in she was struck by the phone they use to call the cockpit and the flight was met by paramedics. She seemed okay, but scary nonetheless.

Been in both your other scenarios and America Worst is by far my least favorite airline, but look where they are now. 😒
 

Cal

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It's all fun until someone gets hurt. You don't want to be on the flight (regional jet) where the sole flight attendant is the first one off the plane. Although she was strapped in she was struck by the phone they use to call the cockpit and the flight was met by paramedics. She seemed okay, but scary nonetheless.
Mhm, of course. However I doubt that's a common occurrence. Most turbulence is nothing to be nervous about, and that's when it's fun.
 

Devil's Advocate

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You know how people post videos of turbulence, and there's always that one person chilling with their book while everyone else loses their mind? That's me. I'm the person reading my book and trying not to laugh (roller coaster laugh, not laughing at others' anxiety). Turbulence adds variety to an otherwise boring flight.
The first time I saw anyone freaking out I was flying into DFW through some weird "foggy lightning" storm that I didn't even know was possible before then. It had been bumpy for a while with some sharp corrections and unusual maneuvering. At one point it looked like the lightning actually hit the plane. You couldn't really see the bolt but the windows suddenly got super bright and the interior lights flickered and went dark for a bit. People were crying and praying around me but for whatever reason I was unmoved. That's not to say I never get spooked though. There was one arrival into my own home town when it was raining so hard you could not hear any of the PA messages or see a single definable thing out of the window and yet we were landing anyway. That did feel genuinely dangerous to me.

It's all fun until someone gets hurt. You don't want to be on the flight (regional jet) where the sole flight attendant is the first one off the plane. Although she was strapped in she was struck by the phone they use to call the cockpit and the flight was met by paramedics. She seemed okay, but scary nonetheless. Been in both your other scenarios and America Worst is by far my least favorite airline, but look where they are now. 😒
On this particular flight the captain came on before departure and warned everyone to remain seated with no staff movement or bathroom breaks until further notice. So at least in this one instance it was relatively safe for everyone so long as the aircraft did not exceed the design limits. It was a wild ride but no tears were shed. Contrast this with a captain on a 777 over the Atlantic that merely said "We are uh, expecting some uh, moderate chop, be advised." An old lady and I exchanged eye-rolls but about ten seconds later all hell broke loose and when it was finally over I was now wearing a whiskey & coke. From what I've read clear air turbulence is apparently getting worse thanks to climate change but we're also getting better at predicting where it will form and adding this to modern planning services.
 
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blueman271

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I had a planes, trains, and automobiles incident a few years ago while living in Hampton. My girlfriend, now wife, was still living on Long Island at the time and we tried to visit eacg other at least once a month. It was my turn to travel so I booked a flight from Norfolk to MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma thru BWI on Southwest. My first flight was supposed to depart Norfolk at around three but the inbound flight was delayed due to storms up and down the east coast. I waited at the airport until around three and then decided I would take the train up. I caught train 66 and then the fun started. It took 2 hrs to travel between Williamsburg and RVR. A minute or two after the train left Richmond it came to a stop and reversed back into the station. The tracks between Richmond and DC had washed out due to the storms. It was decision point number two. I decided to rent a car from the Richmond airpot and drive thru the night. The weather was terrible but the traffic non-existent. All told it took me roughly 18 hours from the time I left my house to get to my girlfriends apartment.
 

Bob Dylan

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I too have had lots of unexpected and memorable travel expieriences,but the 2 I remember best happened in Mexico.

1) Riding a puddle jumper from Tepic, Nayarit to Puerto Vallarta in the early 60s, the Pilot was drinking tequila while the Co-pilot, his 12 year old son, was fueling up the plane while smoking a cigarette.

We took off ( there were only 4 of us on the plane), and flew down the Beautiful Coast towards PV.

After reaching " Cruising alltitude", the Pilot came back into the Cabin and layed down and went to sleep while the "Co-Pilot" flew the plane.

We did a " greaser" landing on the old Grass strip in PV right on time, and as a Newly Licensed Private Pilot, I had to admire the kids flying!

2)The other was in Puerto Vallarta in the 70s waiting on an Mexicana flight from Mexico City to PV to San Antonio.

There were only about 5 of us in the Departure Lounge, and as the time for the Plane came and went, we relaxed as this was Mexico, we were on Mexico time.

One hour went by, someone asked the Agent what was going on and she told them that "Fog" ( read Polution) had delayed the Flight.

2 Hours later she came over to the Waiting area and announced that the Plane had been cancelled due to " Mechanical Problems".

But not to worry,we would be provided transportation to the Sheraton Hotel ( a Very Nice one in those days), given Meal Money and booked on the next days flight.

No problems! I was thrilled, more time in Paradise!😁A couple of the others were Upset, and said they'd never fly a Mexican Airline again, they'd use Braniff or American!

About this time one of the passengers called home to let their folks know what was going on, and found out our flight had just landed @ the San Antonio Airport!!!

The explanation was that since there were so few of us, and the flight was Late taking off,it was more cost effective to do it the way they did instead of landing the plane to pick us up!

Enjoyed that evening and night @ the Hotel ( Damn good Food and Drink!😉), the Bus picked us up on time, we went to the Airport and were driven right to Plane side( in those days Mexicana boarded passengers through the front and tail doors)), loaded and took off for Texas!

The surprise came when we landed in Dallas @ DFW instead of SAT !

After going into the Terminal, we were given Vouchers for Food and drink, rebooked on other Flights and I got to my car about 1130pm that night in San Antonio!

True story, I have no idea how they squared this with the American Authorities etc. but Mexico is very good about finding alternatives when things dont go as schediled!

¡Viva Mexico!
 

railiner

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Maybe I should not admit this but I actually kind of enjoy flights with storms and/or turbulence. I don't want to be flung against the ceiling like a rag doll but so long as I'm in my seat bring it on. One memorable flight was on a regional jet heading to LAX that was threading needles like a simulator ride and I honestly loved every minute of it. When the captain came on to inform the staff they could get up I wanted to ask if we could go back for another ride.
I don't think you would have loved every minute of the last flight I took in the mid ninety's, on an unpressurized Shorts 360 on American Eagle from New York to Providence....We could only fly at 8,000 feet, and went thru some "mild chop" that had us bouncing up and down on thermals. It was 'fun', until the kid in the next row 'tossed his cookies'. And then the unpleasant aroma caused a couple of other passenger's to do likewise...🤢
 

MARC Rider

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I understand what you're saying, but we were told the opposite by Delta after missing a connection in MSP (their fault). They said our bag had been pulled and we'd have to pick it up since "by law" it had to travel on the same plane as us. The next flight with available seats wasn't until the next day, but after waiting 3 hours in baggage claim they managed to send our bag on the next flight that same night. (US domestic btw.)
In 2015, I arrived a little late at the airport on a very crowded day, and missed my flight due to waiting in the baggage check and security lines. However, my checked bag made the flight and was waiting for me when I arrived later in the day.
 

John Santos

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In the middle of December about 25 years ago, I was booked on a red-eye from LA to JFK with a connection to Boston. We landed okay (but very early in the predawn darkness and I got to the commuter terminal somehow (don't remember so it was probably on the airport shuttle bus) where I found out my connecting flight had been cancelled. All the planes of the type I was supposed to be on were grounded. I think it was in the aftermath of the October 31, 1994 Roselawn Indiana crash of an ATR 72 due to icing. It was very icy that morning. The gave me two choices: they could put me on a bus to Boston or there was a plane leaving from another terminal at about 11AM. I chose flying, and set off to find breakfast. Since all the commuter flights had been canceled, they closed all the restaurants in the terminal. I had to collect my luggage and shlep it over to the other terminal. Because there were no flights, the airport shuttle buses stopped going to the commuter terminal and there were no taxis, so I had to walk to the other terminal, dragging my bags and crossing several roads. There didn't seem to be any sidewalks connecting the terminals. When I got to the other terminal, there was no where to eat breakfast for some reason, but I did make it back to Boston, just in time to take a cab to the company christmas party in Cambridge, where everyone had just ordered lunch. I was starving, it was at the Cottonwood Cafe, which was an excellent Southwestern restaurant, the company paid, so it all worked out in the end. I stuffed myself and then slept the next two days.

Much worse experience, also involving a cancelled flight, in Toronto 3 years ago. Not flying Air Canada again.
 

Ziv

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Exactly. As long as you have your seat belt on turbulence is just an interesting bit of trivia. I leave my belt on all the time, maybe a bit loosely. I was lucky enough to have all three seats on a flight from Narita to Bangkok and slept "full length" with my legs drawn up, but I had the seat belt secured around me just in case.
Railiner's comment about someone tossing cookies reminds me of several trips from Chumphon to Ko Tao on the Lomprayah 32m Incat Crowther fast ferries. Their length is just a bit less than half the distance from wave top to wave top so they pitch and roll like no ones business. Sure enough if you take a seat inside, as soon as you get a few miles off shore one person will toss chow and it starts a cascade of malodorous events that pop up all around you. And no matter how fine you felt before the outbreak, you will feel a bit queasy with all the smells floating about.
Ride on top! Wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat but don't stay in the cabin.

You know how people post videos of turbulence, and there's always that one person chilling with their book while everyone else loses their mind?

That's me. I'm the person reading my book and trying not to laugh (roller coaster laugh, not laughing at others' anxiety). Turbulence adds variety to an otherwise boring flight.
 

Trollopian

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These experiences, hilarious now though not at the time, remind me of two lessons:

  • Be flexible and of good cheer. First rule for travel.
  • It may be miserable now but you'll get a story out of it. Why is it that bad experiences (bad trips, bad meals, bad plays, bad books, bad romances, you name it) make better fodder? To paraphrase Tolstoy, is it the case that "All happy [experiences] are alike, but every unhappy [experience] is unhappy in its own way?"
 

RovinMoses

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While living in Ketchikan, I flew out to a logging camp on Prince of Wales Island for business and stayed overnight with a friend. On the way out, sitting behind me in the Otter was a guy not very sober! Next day the weather was so bad there were no flights. The following day's weather was not much better, but a Grumman Goose managed to land so we boarded and took off. The "not so sober" guy was being sent back to Ketchikan, probably after drinking himself under. It was one of the most turbulent flights ever experienced. For some reason the seats in this aircraft were set against the cabin wall facing each other. About halfway home, bouncing all over the place, the intoxicated gentleman pulled out a pistol and started waving it around. I begin to think this might be the end of my short life! Never so happy to reach the Ketchikan dock. Alaska Airlines flew the Goose to Annette Island to connect with their 727's. As a private pilot, I was always happy to have the opportunity to ride in the co-pilot's seat. Attaching an old, dirty picture from the "good old days"as grumman goose ktn.jpg
 

jis

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I think I will sit this one out, suffice it to say that there is nothing like a long distance bus ride in a ramshackle bus that seldom made it to its destination without breaking down a couple of times. Maybe over a beer at a Gathering would be a more enjoyable way of sharing such experiences, of which I have many. There is nothing that comes even vaguely close in flying and indeed anything else in the US so far :)

And then there was my trip from Delhi to Kolkata (900 miles - 24 hours) by Kalka-Delhi-Howrah Mail, the only single train running during the famous All India Rail Worker's Strike, making a stop at every other station on the route, way more than normal stops. That involved basically hanging outside the train, holding on for dear life, for a third of the distance, and then managing to get a foot hold inside.
 
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