Get a Life

By Judith Welles

Blog archive

Get a Life!: Airline misery

I happened to fly to Denver when American Airlines grounded hundreds, then thousands, of flights. I was not flying on American but quickly learned that it didn’t matter: Flying is just no longer fun, with unexpected twists and turns that are numbing.


When I worked for the government, I flew throughout the country to recruit for VISTA Volunteers at college campuses. I flew to western states to write about the Department of Interior’s land management, parks and conservation initiatives. I accompanied various Cabinet secretaries and program leaders at the Health and Human Services Department, providing speechwriting and media assistance at conferences and events. So flying came naturally and was something I enjoyed.


By contrast, my trip to Denver was a lesson in endurance. Six people boarded with seat assignments to row 23. To the amazement of flight attendants and passengers, there was no row 23.


It was even stranger because I had flown to Denver in seat 23F. So it turns out that some of the planes had row 23 and some did not. However, the seats on the return flight were booked to that row regardless. Even worse, in addition to the six displaced passengers, the flight was overbooked by three passengers. So the airline offered hotel and meal vouchers to passengers, along with $400 in plane tickets, as an incentive stay in Denver for two days until they could be booked on another flight. 


I stayed glued to seat 15C, but nine courageous, generous souls accepted the offer and got off the plane. It took five hours of waiting for the airline to finally taxi out. Thankfully, one of the passengers who had told me her story while we were waiting for the situation to be solved, was on the plane as it left.


As an Army employee, she said she had flown to her dying mother in Colorado and when she went to the airport to return to Washington, D.C. after the funeral, with ticket in hand, she was not allowed to board an overbooked flight. She said she needed to get back to the Pentagon, having spent two weeks in Colorado and knowing that her office was understaffed and needed her. It didn’t matter, she said, that she was military or that she had a death in the family. She ended up on my flight the next day. 


To top it all off: The airline I had chosen, because it had a reasonably priced direct flight from Washington, D.C., filed for bankruptcy on the day I returned.


Have you had a bad experience on airline travel on government business? How does your office handle unexpected delays that occur on your business travel? Post a comment on this blog (registration required) or send an e-mail to letters@fcw.com and we will post it for you.

Posted by Judith Welles on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:13 PM


Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.