The Volokh Conspiracy

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A Series of Unfortunate Travel Events

Yet I still made it to my destination.


Today I had an unusually large number of travel glitches. Yet, much to my astonishment, I still made it to my destination.

  1. My inbound flight was delayed about 40 minutes. No big deal for a Sunday evening flight.
  2. After we boarded–approximately one hour late–the flight attendant announced that we need to switch to a new plane due to technical problems. A bigger deal, as switching hardware always creates more delays.
  3. We had to wait for the new plane to land, taxi, deplane, and be cleaned, which took about 45 minutes.
  4. Shortly before we were set to push back, the pilot announced that he was going to "time out." (The FAA limits the number of "duty hours" a pilot can fly in a given day.) The pilot said he pleaded to push out early so he wouldn't exceed his hours. But no luck. I was certain they would cancel the flight. But much to my surprise, the pilot announced that there was a "Standby" pilot on duty at the airport, who could take over the flight. About 30 minutes later, the new pilot comes on board. Ultimately, we finally took off about 2.5 hours late. Kudos to United for having enough flexibility in hardware (a new plane) and staffing (a standby pilot) to avoid cancelling the flight.
  5. While in the air, I received an e-mail from Avis–they couldn't hold my reserved car for more than two hours, so the reservation was closed. Now I would have to go to the rental desk when I landed, rather than go to my reserved spot number. And there is no guarantee anyone would actually be at the desk after 1 AM. Avis may have even sold out of cars! Fortunately, there was still a manager on duty, and I promptly received a car. However, Avis should not have cancelled the reservation. I included my flight number on the record, and Avis should have been able to track that my flight was delayed.
  6. I drive to the hotel, and one last glitch for the night. The Marriott reservation system was down. Bonvoyed! There were about 5 people in the lobby, milling around. Curiously, four of them were on my flight–one of them was my seatmate! Eventually, the system comes back online. I make it to my room at 2:30 a.m.

I am shocked, shocked, that despite all of these glitches, I actually made it to my destination, there was a car available, and I got into my room. So many things went wrong, and I was certain I would spend the night back home in Houston. My advice: never panic, stay calm, and realize no trip has to be taken.

In any event, two talks tomorrow, err today. Stay tuned!