I got cocky.
On January 5, 2016, Mrs. Jeffsetter and I had a crappy day of travel from Costa Rica to Peru. We left at 9 AM and arrived at our destination at about 6 AM the next day. Flights in the middle of the night, and long layovers in lounges. My drone got impounded and I left my camera on the airplane and nearly lost it. That day sucked.
I told Mrs. Jeffsetter to look at the silver lining: this would be our worst flying experience of the year, and we got it out of the way in early January. Smooth sailing from here.
The past two days of travel have been worse.
What follows is a depiction of the details of this crappy travel day, as best as I can remember. The travel from Tel Aviv to Minneapolis was supposed to take about 16 hours. It has been 30+ hours since I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, and I am hoping I can make it home.
This story is a comedy of errors, a folly. A reminder that travel is a gift. It is fragile. It is a privilege and we shouldn’t take it for granted.
2:30 AM (GMT +3) – I am wide awake. Stressed, I worried that I had overslept for my flight.
4:34 AM (GMT +3) – check my flight details online. Flight is delayed by 2 hours. Now departs at 1:15 PM. Adjust alarm clock for 7:30 AM and play clash of clans until I fall asleep.
5:30 AM (GMT +3) – Finally get back to sleep
7:30 AM (GMT +3) – wake up call. Holy crap that seemed fast. Time to pack up and head for Tel Aviv. Security is known to take 3+ hours, and everyone in the entire country of Israel advises me to get there early.
8:00 AM (GMT +3) – Ate a “traditional” Israeli breakfast.
9:00 AM (GMT +3) – in a crazy cab headed for Ben Gurion Airport. Fun fact, the airport is named after David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel and leader of the Zionist movement. Seems like he earned his airport naming.
9:50 AM (GMT +3) – Arrive at airport from Jerusalem. Breeze through first 5 checkpoints.
- Car search upon entering airport
- Questioning of me and where I have been before entering airport
- Passport scan by authorities
- Second passport scan (in depth) with questions about where I have been
- One foot island is in the Cook Islands. Yes, you have never seen this stamp before. Yes, it’s an awesome place. Yes, it’s not an official stamp. Fun fact: They filmed a season of Survivor on this island.
- Yes, I went through the United Arab Emirates. Why? To ride on the Etihad Apartments. What is that? Something awesome.
- I was there 3 days and I have no friends there.
- Yes, I went to Turkey in 2014. I went with family. I have no friends there. Shake off the self esteem damage from admitting to having no friends.
- Baggage check. Yes it was with me at all times. No, I did not let anyone put anything in there. No, I do not have any weapons.
- No, no no, no. Oh mama mia mama mia. Oh mama mia let me go! Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me.
- Who is Bealzibub?
- He’s a friend of mine, but he doesn’t live in Turkey or the Emirates.
10:00 AM (GMT +3) – Smooth sailing. I got this thing on lock.
10:05 AM (GMT +3) – I was “selected” to go into a special security line along with several Russian men. No explanation, no idea why I’m here.
10:25 AM (GMT +3) – still sitting here. Nobody has talked to us and nobody going through line. 7 people in line, I’m #7.
11:00 AM (GMT +3) – After a wonderful week in Israel that transcended all expectations and made me want to go back, I sit in this line and wonder why they had to play me like that. ISRAEL I loved you.
11:30 AM (GMT +3) – Israel, I barely even like you anymore.
11:35 AM (GMT +3) – My turn. Entire bag is searched. Photography equipment examined and swabbed. I am used to this, so I think nothing of it.
11:40 AM (GMT +3) – My baggage is placed on the belt. But they don’t put it all the way on. It’s hanging off. So I decide to be helpful and put it on fully.
“Don’t ever do that again” says the seemingly docile and sweet Israeli security person.
You don’t mess with the Zohan, Jeffsetter.
11:50 AM (GMT +3) – Sneak my way into the Dan lounge using my Copa Airlines Platinum status. This place is packed.
12:00 PM (GMT +3) – I’m not hungry from the breakfast, and it’s too early to get drunk. So I just chill with water and diet coke.
12:30 PM (GMT +3) – As I leave the lounge I go to the bathroom. Bathrooms are coed, and there are pubes EVERYWHERE. Like on the sink, toilet and anywhere else you can imagine. THESE PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS.
12:35 PM (GMT +3) – I learn that the flight is delayed even further, this time taking of at 1:50 PM.
A photo posted by Jeff Sauer (@jeffsauer) on
12:50 PM (GMT +3) – Board the plane into my spot in premium economy.
1:00 PM (GMT +3) – I commence a perfectly normal international flight. I splurged to upgrade to Premium Economy for $165. It felt a lot like domestic first class. Couldn’t justify $1,500 for the business class upgrade (though I did upgrade on my inbound flight).
1:50 PM (GMT +3) – A pretty normal international flight ensues. Other than the 2 hour delay, it’s pretty solid. Especially since I had a 4.5 hour layover anyway.
12:00 AM (GMT +3) – I slept about 2 hours on the flight, watched a ton of TV shows, and was ready to land. Flight attendant reads off flight connections, since many people are worried about their connecting flights. I think nothing of it, because my Minneapolis flight leaves 2.5 hours after landing.
1:00 AM (GMT +3) – I land and go toward my airplane transfer. I pass through Global Entry and am about to clear US Customs. The agent asks if I have checked bags, and I say “yes”. They scan my boarding pass and tell me I have to go back to stop #2, whatever that means.
1:15 AM (GMT +3) – Found stop #2. Turns out everyone has the same problem. Lines are forever, so I whip out my Copa Airlines platinum card (on passbook on my phone). The agent says I have a United number on my reservation. I explain that I am banking miles to United and that they carved off the program and blah blah. They buy it.
1:18 AM (GMT +3) – Learn that my Minneapolis flight is canceled. Not delayed, just straight up canceled.
1:20 AM (GMT +3) – I overhear them booking people to the Four Points at YYZ airport who had their flights canceled. Sweet deal! Maybe I’ll earn some Starpoints for this inconvenience.
1:22 AM (GMT +3) – Learn that I am staying in a Travelodge. A fucking Travelodge. This is actually the point where I started to get pissed off.
1:23 AM (GMT +3) – I also learn that I have been automatically rebooked on the next Air Canada flight, which is a 4:00 PM flight to Minneapolis the next day and will get in at like 6 PM. I have plans that day and this just isn’t sitting with me.
1:25 AM (GMT +3) – Picking my battles, I decide not to try for a better flight yet. Am told to wait for an escort out of US customs and into Canadian Customs.
1:30 AM (GMT +3) – Get a back-alley tour of the E Gates and F Gates at Pearson Airport in Toronto. While some travel bloggers would love this, it’s like walking into an airports butthole, complete with smells. Pass.
1:35 AM (GMT +3) – I find a nice agent who gets my new ticket sorted out. She punches the keys on her computer for 10 minutes and then hands me my ticket for 4:00 PM flight.
1:45 AM (GMT +3) – while she was typing, I was searching. Delta direct flight next day at 6:50 AM. Can she book me on there? I explain that I had plans tomorrow and that it would really be terrible to miss it. She says she will book me.
2:00 AM (GMT +3) – I am on the Delta flight. I have paper and everything!
2:15 AM (GMT +3) – Working on clearing Canadian Customs to go to hotel. I said I was traveling for business on the kiosk, but for personal reasons on the form.
“Which one is it, eh?” says the nice Canadian official. He’s actually in a good mood for having to work Canada day.
“Well, I don’t want to fucking be here, but I am traveling on a business trip from Israel. But I guess now that the flight is canceled, I’m entering for personal reasons? Seriously, I want to be here less than you.”
2:30 AM (GMT +3) – Go to baggage claim, and not surprisingly my bag isn’t there. There is a 2 mile long line of people with the same problem talking to Air Canada about their bags. Seriously, like 93 million miles long. Also, I haven’t slept much so my depth perception is probably off and I’m prone to hyperbole.
2:35 AM (GMT +3) – Skip the line with my Copa Airlines platinum card. This is the reason why you status match every single goddamn status match you can find.
2:36 AM (GMT +3) – Agent tells me my bag is going to be unloaded in 30-45 minutes on baggage claim 10. I need to pick it up and bring it with me. I heed his advice.
2:40 AM (GMT +3) – Text Mrs. Jeffsetter to say I am not making it to Minneapolis tonight and that when I get to the Travelodge I will call our hotel to get her on the reservation. She tells me that she is having fun with friends in St. Paul and can just stay there if I want to cancel hotel.
2:45 AM (GMT +3) – Try to confirm that I have a flight with Delta, but the airport wifi hates me. The feeling is mutual.
2:50 AM (GMT +3) – Try to make a phone call to the hotel, but the airport wifi has other plans. Text Mrs. Jeffsetter to be patient.
2:55 AM (GMT +3) – Learn that tons of flights were canceled tonight due to a tornado threat.
3:10 AM (GMT +3) – The bag shoots off the claim as planned. Finally something happens as expected.
3:30 AM (GMT +3) – Finally find the hotel shuttle bus section and wait for Travelodge bus. It’s a standard hotel shuttle bus. It is also sunny outside and there is no sign of rain, tornado or anything. The flight was basically canceled by Canadian niceness. Soooo-ree tornado. (said in a Canadian accent).
3:45 AM (GMT +3) – Make it to the Travelodge. Line is about 10 people deep. Apparently everyone else is staying here too.
4:15 AM (GMT +3) – Get checked in and go to my room. Ask about my airline vouchers for meals ($15 dinner, $10 lunch and $7 breakfast) and they say I can use it at the restaurant next door. They don’t advise I order room service because it is Canada Day and the staff is stressed out due to the volume of displaced passengers. I can respect that.
4:30 AM (GMT +3) – Try calling hotel in Minneapolis to cancel. They inform me that I need to call Expedia, since it was prepaid through hotels.com. They were really kind and helpful, but couldn’t help.
4:35 AM (GMT +3) – I go to the restaurant next door. 3 hours ago I would have ordered a salad. At this time I ordered a Nacho Burger with a big old IPA. #healthychoices.
4:50 AM (GMT +3) – Wait for food and have my laptop opened up trying to find my flight confirmation on Air Canada or Delta. Delta has no idea that I exist. Air Canada says I’m booked, but doesn’t give me any details whatsoever. This is surely going to end well.
5:05 AM (GMT +3) – Learn that food vouchers don’t cover alcohol. If I ever start an airline, I’m removing this ban.
5:10 AM (GMT +3) – Back in the hotel room. Calling Expedia. They are going to call the hotel and call me back in 10 minutes. Tell Mrs. Jeffsetter to skip the hotel and will work it out in the morning if needed.
6:00 AM (GMT +3) – Pass out while playing clash of clans and waiting on the call that is 30 minutes late.
9:00 AM (GMT +3) – Wake up, thinking I missed my wakeup call. Turns out I didn’t. It’s 2 AM local time.
9:15 AM (GMT +3) – Googling minimum check-in times for YYZ on Delta. Says 60 minutes is cutoff for Checkin and Checked bags. 5 AM Eastern Bus to airport is valid. Have until 5:50 local time.
10:00 AM (GMT +3) – Fall asleep counting backwards from 100. I only got to like 60 and then I forgot how to count.
11:30 AM (GMT +3) – ALARM GOES OFF. ACTION TIME JEFFSETTER!
12:00 PM (GMT +3) – I am on the shuttle bus to YYZ.
12:10 PM (GMT +3) – Get dropped off at Terminal 3 by the bus. the Delta baggage check line is the ENTIRE AIRPORT.
12:15 PM (GMT +3) – Delta has no record of my ticket. Kiosks don’t work. Nothing works. I don’t exist.
12:20 PM (GMT +3) – I’m in the line for Delta. It is not moving at all. 30 minutes before cutoff.
12:21 PM (GMT +3) – Call Delta on the phone. Wait is 2 hours and they will call me back. That’s after the flight leaves.
12:22 PM (GMT +3) – Can’t reach Air Canada by phone at all. I think it’s the airport wifi again.
12:23 PM (GMT +3) – Throw a Hail-Mary pass to @deltaassist
@DeltaAssist got moved onto a delta flight and they never gave me a confirmation number. Have paper but can’t find a record of it online
— Jeffsetter ✈✈✈ (@jeffsettravel) July 2, 2016
12:40 PM (GMT +3) – I try to see if there is a Sky priority line. I’m no longer Delta Platinum Medallion, but the tag is still on my bag. The guy sees tag and lets me talk with him.
12:42 PM (GMT +3) – Turns out Delta doesn’t know who I am. The guy says I need to go to Terminal 1 and talk with Air Canada to get a ticket. I ask if he will miss my flight and he says “I don’t know”
12:44 PM (GMT +3) – I say to him “YOU KNOW” and storm off. I really did say this, because screw this guy. One thing I don’t tolerate is power trips, unless I’m the one who be trippin’
12:50 PM (GMT +3) – While trying to find how to get to Terminal 1, I read the “big board” and see the MSP flight is delayed by 4 hours. Leaves at 10:30 AM local time now. There is still hope!
12:55 PM (GMT +3) – On the train for Terminal 1 at YYZ.
1:15 PM (GMT +3) – After many missteps trying to find help, I whip out my Copa Airlines Platinum card and go to the front of the ticketing line.
1:20 PM (GMT +3) – Nice ticketing agent says that it’s weird Delta doesn’t recognize me. Writes down a record locator and ticket number in red felt-tipped marker. She also prints my full ticket and says “I’m not supposed to do this”
I’m not supposed to be in Canada right now.
1:25 PM (GMT +3) – I open up my computer to see if Delta recognizes these numbers. Nothing, nada, zilch. Decision time: work with the nice Air Canada people or wait in line at Delta? I decide it’s best to go for Delta, since I have time and new weapons in my arsenal (hand written ticket numbers and all).
1:26 PM (GMT +3) – Screenshot the Air Canada website saying I’m booked on Delta Flight.
1:30 PM (GMT +3) – Delta Tweets me back asking for details. I promptly send everything to them.
1:45 PM (GMT +3) – Train arrives and I go back to the rat race.
2:00 PM (GMT +3) – Delta line is still long as hell and I’m dying of thirst, so I decide to go to Wendy’s instead. I order 2 breakfast burritos, water and coffee. Or as I say it, breakfast of chumps. #thisiswhyimfat #stresseating.
2:30 PM (GMT +3) – I’ve been waiting in line since I finished up at Wendy’s and I’m no longer Hangry. Almost euphoric at this point.
2:35 PM (GMT +3) – Agent takes my case. I say “I don’t exist according to Delta” and she says she can help! Gasp!
2:45 PM (GMT +3) – It seems like things are working. The agent next to her needs to tell all screen commands, but they are making this work. I am getting PNL’d with a ton of other acronyms and I feel like a million Shekels. She says I’m lucky the flight is delayed.
Turns out that today is my lucky day!
3:00 PM (GMT +3) – I have now checked my bag and I’m through security. Turns out I can’t get to Delta gates until 45 minutes before flight. Sit down to write this blog post.
4:30 PM (GMT +3) – Set this blog post to publish, go and check out what’s up with my flight. Still no word from Delta Assist.
4:35 PM (GMT +3) – Get some more water. Boy am I parched.
To Be continued? I have no idea. I hope this is the end of it. But I wanted to write it while fresh in my mind.
- Be resourceful
- Be patient
- Be opportunistic
- Pick your battles
- Status match as much as you can with all major alliances
And while we are at it, I will let you in on a little secret. This is my first blog post of 2016. Yes, the namesake of Jeffsetter hasn’t written on his blog all year. And he regrets nothing. I have been building a business and it’s really going well. It is my entire focus.
This is officially my worst travel day of the year, and now it’s well into the second day. I figured that this was a worthy place to come out of retirement with. Hope you enjoyed it!