Travel Troubles

It wasn’t that hard a trip. Frontier Airlines from Phoenix to Denver, United Airlines from Denver to DC. I’m running a training program tomorrow and the books are in the carry-on, along with notes. I arrive in Denver and switch carriers and concourses.

That creates some trouble, as I don’t have a boarding pass for the second part of the trip, although I have an itinerary from Orbitz. The gate attendant tells me there are no more seats, so I have to stay in the middle.

We board the plane, and the gate agent decides that my purse, my laptop and my carry-on is one item too many. The man ahead of me got through, and so did several others, but I was in trouble. I tried the carbon-exchange program, brightly pointing out that there are several people who only have one bag, and mine could make up for that. No dice.

suitcase with wingsI plead that all my class materials are in this suitcase, but the heart of the gate agent is hard. I have to give up the suitcase. I double check that it will be on the same plane. Sure. I give up the suitcase.

My suitcase is still traveling, although I arrived in DC seven hours ago. There are no clear answers, although I do know it went to Chicago when I did not. I’ve talked to automated voices, a heavily-accented woman who told me I should never send materials in a suitcase, I should have them with me, and another person who said that “they were doing their best” –obviously not quite enough, as I have nothing to wear except what I have on. The idea of teaching in slacks, a T-shirt and sneakers is not at the top of my favorites list.

But that’s where I stand. At the mercy of those who have a tiny bit of power and can use it all up on one suitcase.


–Quinn McDonald is a trainer and certified creativity coach. See her work at

4 thoughts on “Travel Troubles

  1. As soon as the suitcase was removed from the “normal” sequence of air travel, it was doomed to trouble.
    We hope all worked out, at least in time for your class!

    —From the minute I booked the trip that included changing carriers, I knew I might be in trouble. I wore an outfit I could teach in if I had to, and took the video equipment with me in my purse. The suitcase has returned home, and to my astonishment, everything was still in it! (I’d forgotten to lock it as it was going on board with me.) -Q

  2. Air travel has transformed into a Kafka-esque nightmare. I’ve learned the hard way to have a carry-on that can hold both laptop and the dire necessities, which along with medications includes skivvies and something I could, if need be, wear the next day.

    The airlines are creating this mess by charging for checked luggage, while not having enough space on-board for everyone to stow a decent-sized carryon. Well, that and hiring sadistic baggage handlers and gate agents. I’ve taken to tipping the skycaps very handsomely, too (like, $10–ridiculous), which seems to help.

    I wonder if it would make sense to FedEx/UPS the materials next time? I’ve read conflicting things about whether that’s cost-effective.

    Hope your suitcase has caught up to you.

    —The suitcase did show up, if not right on time for the class. I actually had the handouts in the computer bag, but some books in the suitcase. Fed-Ex ahead is an excellent idea. I unfortunately did not have the materials made up that far in advance. My bad. You are exactly right about the baggage fees, though. On the way back I’m using a carry on that holds both the purse contents, video equipment (it’s small) and laptop in the case. Same amount of stuff, different packaging. I get to take it all. It really is all about packaging. -Q

  3. Was there not one passenger who pro forma could have, said that the suitcase belonged to him or her, just to help you out?

    Very often when I return home after my visit to Amsterdam, I have one or two kilos to many but I have only a handbag, while others give a suitcase and carry another to the plane plus other handluggage.
    I am charged 12 Euros per lousy kilo and they get away with an extra suitcase. Now I am not too lazy to carry my own stuff but I have a hip problem and osteo artritis in both knees.

    Flying is very stressful most of the time and losing a suitcase is a plain nightmare. I cross my fingers for you and hope that you will have your belongings back in time!

    —Your suggestions are quite reasonable, and one would think they would work. I tried two things when they made the announcement for the suitcases–one was to ask the person behind me, who was carrying one bag, if she would carry my laptop on board. She began to yell for the authorities that I was trying to get her to carry something on board that was not hers. Strictly speaking, she was right, as that is something they announce in the airport over and over–don’t carry on anything else for anyone who asks. I got her calmed down, but it cost me some time. The man in front of me, quite handsome and a bit flirty with the female gate agent, got to carry on this three items, so I had hope. When she told me to give up an item, I suggested a sort of “carbon-credit” idea like you mentioned. She was neither amused nor agreeable. From your experience you know flying is tough. And because I, too, have arthritis in both knees, I decided giving up the suitcase was my best bet. Lucky for me, it came back eventually.-Q

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