What leadership lessons can you learn when the airlines lose your luggage, a creepy guy sleeps next to you on the floor and you have to pay over $1,000 in one-way tickets to make your speech on time? Adventures of public speaking…. oh the places you will go! What was the worst travel experience you had and what lesson did you learn from it?
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Great attitude! Although, I’m sorry to hear about your experience coming to Philadelphia. I hope you’ll come back to PA one day!
In June 2006 our family was flying from Philly to KC. Shortly before that day, a job interview popped up that I very much wanted. That morning I drove my wife and daughter to Philly and put them on a plane. I drove back home for the interview. I returned to the airport and got on a plane that routed through Milwaukee.
Everything was delayed because of weather so I ended up hanging out in the Milwaukee airport for hours at a bar that did not serve me food (grrr), missed one plane for stand-by, etc.
The worst part of the day was that I missed my daughter’s first baseball game that evening as they went and saw the Royals without me. 🙁
My worst/best travel experience was the year my sister and I had planned a three-week trip to New Zealand. In January–which is the time of year New Zealanders return from their winter holidays here in the US–flights were booked up solid.
My sister flew from Idaho to San Francisco a day early, while I flew from Portland. to SFO the morning of the flight to New Zealand–which was in the late afternoon. My plane left PDX at 7:30 in the morning and, wouldn’t you know, no planes could take off from PDX or, later, land at SFO due to the fog. After our delay leaving PDX, we circled the SFO airport for an hour or two and then were running out of fuel so we were redirected to another airport. We sat on the runway at the other airport for about three hours and were told that no planes were landing at SFO (still weather-related). My sister called me from the plane in SFO–she had boarded–and I had to tell her to meet me in NZ.
When I arrived in SFO later that evening, I had obviously missed the NZ flight. Plus, when I arrived in baggage claim, I discovered both my bags had been destroyed by the luggage system–so I retrieved underwear, bras, clothing and other personal belongings from the conveyor belt one mortifying item at a time. Wouldn’t you know, there were no more available flights to New Zealand for more than a week–and so my airline unhelpfully offered to send me back to PDX.
I was polite, but refused their offer and said I would wait there until they figured out how to get me to New Zealand. There I sat, waiting with my pile of clothes, while one airline person after another explained to me again about how they would refund my money and send me home. I finally said “would it help you to know that I would happily fly through another country to get to NZ?” That was enough for the airline, so they booked me to Sydney, Australia the next morning. They fixed me up in a hotel and gave me money for dinner and some new bags. I spent the evening shopping in SFO and the next morning boarded the flight to Sydney.
As it happened, there was a lot of bad weather in SFO and in Sydney, so the flight was delayed taking off and landing–and I missed my connecting flight to New Zealand. While the airline felt it was appropriate for me to spend the night in the airport to wait for the next afternoon’s flight–I disagreed and politely said that I had been delayed through no fault of my own–twice now–and would like to be given a room. Please. They gave me a voucher–and I arranged to stay at a place nearer downtown than the airport.
Now, I had never been to Australia–and New Zealand was already the trip of a lifetime–so I took advantage of my 20 hours in Sydney, which included me climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (at night). I had a wonderful time and made my connecting flight to New Zealand. Had I not missed the flight in SFO and remained polite but firm with regard to my ultimate destination, I would probably never have been to Australia. I caught the flight to NZ the next day as planned. No problems. Easy peasy.
My sister picked me up at the airport and we set out on our first day of sightseeing. New Zealand is beautiful.
However, the following morning, while we were touring a sea cave, all of our belongings except what we had on our backs in the cave, were stolen from our rental car (which was in the parking lot). By the time we came out of the cave, the weather had turned terrible–and we spent the next four hours driving through a hurricane to the police station in the next city.
As it happens, that was the year of the massive number of hurricanes and flooding in New Zealand and Australia–and many of the places we had reserved (and paid for ahead of time) were flooded out or inaccessible. So, there we were, without any clothes and, in my sister’s case-without ID or passport.
How was the trip? Wonderful. We had planned to have a vacation that was more Blue Lagoon–and what we ended up with was more akin to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Instead of staying at luxury resorts, we stayed with a Maori family and New Zealanders we met online or on the trip. We did fewer tourist-y activities and experienced more of the real New Zealand.
Happily, because I am paranoid about these kinds of things, I had carried my computer, my purse, and my passport, credit cards, etc into the cave–and so we were able to communicate and find our way–even though our plans had changed. The weather was challenging–and we did things differently than originally planned–but we spent the last three days in the mountainside glass house overlooking the ocean–and the weather was nice enough that we were able to frolic and swim and relax as originally planned.
What did I learn from that trip? Be flexible. Be polite–no matter what. Enjoy yourself regardless of the circumstances. Treasure the moments. I look back on that trip with fondness. I would have preferred to not have been robbed, but on the whole, that trip was quite the adventure.
My worst travel experience was when I was traveling on business once to Iowa from South Carolina. I had a connecting flight in Atlanta that was supposed to leave at 1pm on a Sunday afternoon (side note: every flight I’ve ever had out of Atlanta has always had a problem). The nightmare started with the flight being delayed. After about 5 hours of waiting, the flight was cancelled and I was stuck until the next morning. The airline representative was frustrated because of all the angry travelers and she was not very accomodating or sympathetic to my situation. She passed out a card with the 800 number for the airline. I called the airline and they were able to provide complementary accomodations for the evening with shuttle service to and from the airport. What I learned was that even in times of frustration and inconvenience, always remain persistent, calm and professional and you will get much further.