Travelling Home Solo

After Arabella finished hugging the pilot, she stepped onto the plane and the door was closed behind her.  Organising her own itinerary, she had about a 35-hour journey back to Sydney via China (China being in no way, on the way).

Meanwhile, I had the trolley with all our luggage and I again took it down to the Air-Train and went over to Terminal 8 for my own flight from JFK to LA.  I was in a sweat with a rapid pulse thanks to all the drama Arabella had put me through.  The sweating and rapid pulse continued as I glazed at the amount of excess baggage I now had with me.

Heading out for our last night in New York

Heading out for our last night in New York

As I queued at the American Airlines counter, I prayed to be served by someone kind-hearted and sympathetic.  But I didn’t pray hard enough because I was summoned to appear before a stoney-faced, emotionless robot who talked like she was on remote-control.  ‘Passport’, she barked without looking at me.  I nervously handed it across the counter.

‘How many bags are we checking?’ she said without making eye contact.

‘Well, the thing is…’

‘How many bags?’

‘Yes, well there’s been a situation and…’

‘How many bags you checking?’

Defeated, I answered, ‘Two’.

‘Put them up’.  And I lifted the first bag off the trolley and tried to make it look effortless like it wasn’t actually heavy.

‘Next’.  I lifted the second bag onto the scales.

‘That will be $94.00 in excess baggage’.  I handed her my AMEX card.  She had a colleague standing with her and they were in deep conversation regarding some aspect of the job they didn’t like and how one of them nearly ended up in a whole lot of trouble and while talking to her friend with her back turned to me she proceeded with the process of checking me onto the flight.  My suitcases disappeared, I was given a receipt for the excess baggage and handed a boarding pass.  I took a look at it.

‘Uhm, excuse me’, I said as I interrupted her conversation, ‘I went on-line and booked a window seat.  This isn’t a window seat or even an aisle seat’.

‘There aren’t any window seats; they’re all taken’.

‘And one of them was taken by me when I went on-line and pre-booked a window seat and then I was sent a confirmation email confirming my booked window seat’.

‘You booked seat 16F but it was already taken’.

‘Then why did the website allow me to book a seat that was taken?  And she shrugged and turned to her colleague.

‘Well where else can I sit?’

‘It’s a full flight; there’s nothing else’, as she turned away from me.

‘Excuse me’, I said, raising my voice,  ‘There was a tack on the floor and while I’ve been standing here it’s gone into my shoe and I can’t get it out.  Do you have a tool to take the nail out of my shoe?’

‘Nothing’.  And that was my introduction to American Airlines.

I arrived in LA and tried to pull my suitcases from the moving carousel but they were so heavy I was being pulled along with them and leaning over in my sundress I’m sure I was making quite a spectacle of myself.  Em was there to meet me and then we had to haul the luggage into the boot of her car.  When we arrived at her house I hoped her husband would still be awake but he’d gone to bed and in the morning he said he was glad he did otherwise he’d have been a sherpa.

Driving through LA

Driving through LA

We decided Arabella’s suitcase should just stay in the car.  From the garage I lifted my suitcase up a narrow and steep set of stairs and once I was at the top, Em told me her house is another three stories high.  I decided my suitcase could stay on the lower level and I’d just pick things out of it.  I opened it up and handed Em a gift.  As she hadn’t been able to come to Archie’s 21st, I gave her a few bottles of wine from the party.  That wine had travelled with me from Sydney to New York and then to LA.  As I lifted the weight out of my suitcase I’d never been more happy to give someone a gift.  I also had toys that were in big boxes for my nephews so it was with great joy I handed these over as well.

The well-travelled wine

The well-travelled wine

I needed all the space I could find because you might recall that when Arabella was in LA she had told me to pack lightly because she was leaving a whole lot of things at Em’s for me to take home – excellent.

I spent 22 hours in LA and although short, had a really lovely time.  Em and I went out during the day and she drove me around her favourite places and then before heading to the airport we went to dinner at one of their favourite venues. Also dining close to our table was the very stunning Jennifer Aniston who was wearing a beautiful black floaty sundress with shoestring straps and casual black sandals.  When I’d only see her on-screen, I envied her hair; now I envy the complete package.  Photography at this venue is strictly banned but the dessert looked so good I was given permission to take one photo.  The serving was more than generous; we ordered one Eton Mess between the three of us and even then, we couldn’t finish it.

Eton Mess - too much for three

Eton Mess – too much for three

After dinner I changed into my winter-woolies and Em’s husband took me to the airport.  When I saw the lengthy queue at the QANTAS check-in I was not encouraged.

I hoped for the best but alas, I asked for either a window or an aisle seat and was told they were all taken.  Then she said, ‘But the good news is, I can give you a seat just behind the bulkhead and that will give you six-inches of extra leg room’.  And after I paid the $75.00 excess baggage charge she handed me my boarding pass.

Em with her bundle of joy

Em with her bundle of joy

And then they confiscated my hand luggage.  I was boarding the plane when I was pulled aside.  Yes, my hand luggage was bulging and yes, it did look like it weighed more than the allowed 7kgs.  They asked me to lift it onto some scales and whoops, it weighed 14kgs.  I was told it was going into cargo.

After all the messing around with the scales, I was about last to enter the plane.  I started heading down to the back and when I saw my seat I was gutted.  Because on the aisle next to me was an incredibly large man weighing about 200kgs (440lbs) whose frame was so large he was not only sitting in his seat but in mine as well.  His shoulders were so wide they spread across his seat and finished halfway across mine.  I found the nearest flight attendant and said, ‘There’s a man sitting next to me who’s so large he’s occupying half of my allocated seat.  There’s no room for me so can you move me?’

‘I’m sorry; it’s a full flight’, as he breezed on by.  Sitting behind the bulkhead is a dud spot as you cannot stretch out your legs and that ‘six-inches’ of extra leg room is just fiction.  There was nowhere to put my handbag so that was on my feet and I had to lurch to the right because of the bulk of the man on my left but even then his shoulder was still touching mine.  With him beside me and the bulkhead in front of me I felt utterly trapped.

Enjoying being an auntie

Enjoying being an auntie

However, there was a miracle.  About an hour after take-off another flight attendant approached and said, ‘I have an aisle seat for you further up the plane if you would like to follow me’.  I couldn’t get up fast enough.  He took me into the galley and said, ‘I could see you must have been extremely uncomfortable.  It’s a full flight but two people missed the plane so I can move you’.  I could have kissed him.

I sat in a new seat with no one’s flesh touching mine – as long as I didn’t move my elbows.  All was going well until three hours into the flight when it was about 3am LA time.  I thought I’d try to get some sleep so I slowly and carefully and mindfully started to recline my chair.  The thug behind me yelled, ‘Oi, excuse me! I’m trying to have a drink back here’.  I don’t think I’m up for a long-haul economy flight ever again – they are just hell.

After 16.5 hours I was finally back in Sydney.  I pushed all my luggage through the terminal where I found Carl who was with Arabella and Alfie.  And then Carl announced he had driven his small sports car to the airport.  I was shocked.  ‘Did you think about all this luggage?’

I had just a bit of luggage to wrangle

Where’s the people-mover?

And no, he hadn’t thought about it.  We could only fit one suitcase in the boot and the other had to stand up on the front seat.  Arabella, Alfie and I were squeezed into the back seat just like an economy flight – welcome home!

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach – Home Sweet Home

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  1. That is absolutely SHOCKING service!! And to think, they’re such an internationally known airline too. For shame. Oh well, at least you had a chance to visit your sister and nephew. What a precious time it must’ve been for you!

  2. Welcome home, what an adventure! And hopefully a break from airports for a while. 🙂

  3. Lovely to be home close to family again – ha ha – but I bet you couldn’t wait to get home and really really stretch out!

  4. Oh, Charlie, I can so sympathize and empathize with your flight home. “Hell” is the perfect way to describe a long-haul economy flight on any of the airlines I now have to use–made better only if I can avoid all U.S. airlines. All of them. Each and every one. I did love Carl’s final touch of bringing a sports car. A perfect ending. You and Em look so much alike–lovely to see.

  5. I would have slapped the lady at the desk if she’d talked to me like that…you’re a lot more patient and kind than I! Good grief. People like that need to find a different job! If you have to work with people, you need to be kind!

  6. What a trip home!! We came so close to running in to each other too. Glad you made it back safely. Flying has become slightly uncivilized. Which is why we’re driving to Vegas! XO

  7. Oh, Charlie. I was eagerly awaiting the sequel to your last post but your journey sounds so horrible I am wincing in sympathy! I bet you are very, very glad to be home.

  8. Wow. What a journey. I am not certain that I could ever face flying that far- not sure is survive! So glad that you’re home safely and that your trip was worthwhile!

  9. I don’t fly but my nephew, who is tall and a ‘plus sized’ young man does. He has horror stories too. 🙂

    I’m glad you got home safely with your extra luggage and had some fun with your sister and nephew on your brief layover.

    You’re such a good mom.

  10. As if the Arabella experience wasn’t enough! What an awful experience!

  11. OOO, American Airlines SUCKSSSSS. Sorry you experienced that. You should write to them.
    Also, the photos of you & your daughter are stunning.
    Who is the mommy? Who is the daughter?
    xxxx KISS from America.

  12. Oh you poor thing! I think you need a holiday to recover from your holiday! I loathe being crammed in next to people, it’s so far out of my introvert comfort zone that it takes me days to recover 🙂 I sure hope you didn’t walk in the house after that horrible trip to cries of ‘what’s for dinner’, I think you needed a large alcoholic beverage and some quiet time to yourself! I bet they were glad to see you though, and did your cute ppuppies just about eat you up? Xox

  13. Oh American Airlines, they really do need to sort themselves out. I have to say, you’re a very kind and tolerant mum. But it must have been fab to have time alone with Arabella. GG

  14. I’ve only had one experience like that and the whole way I kept telling myself, ‘5 minutes closer to home.’ You had a wonderful holiday with your daughter, saw your sister and nephews and smiled a lot. I’m glad you’re home safe and sound.

  15. I don’t want to even think about it. They don’t call it cattle class for nothing do they? It just gets worse I swear! Glad you’re home in one piece. That nephew of yours is adorable!!!

  16. That is part of the American airline’s motto and also Delta. They treat everyone like cattle. I am sorry your flight was rough but it looks like you had a glorious time with your daughter and some beautiful memories.

  17. Oh what trials, but you made it! And you got a better seat. Congratulations, and I hope you can relax now that you are back home.

  18. Oh well, at least you had a fantastic trip! Never focus on the economy flight, it’s rarely good unless you’re lucky enough to sleep through the whole thing 🙂

  19. How incredibly stressful Charlie. Hope you enjoyed a large glass of wine when you got home.
    Have a happy Monday.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  20. The horrors of modern day travel. There was a time when getting on a plane was as much a part of the holiday as the destination. Now it’s something we must endure before the fun starts. Then getting home, I can just imagine how “thrilled” your must have been to get into the backseat of Carl’s car. Welcome home, Mum!

  21. Glad you are home safe and sound. You should write a book about your trip to the USA, your writing style would make very interesting reading and who knows, make it to the best seller list.
    You now need a vacation to recover from your trip.

  22. Traveling by plane certainly isn’t what it used to be. You went through so much to make Arabella happy…you are a great mom.

  23. Oh no Charlie . Thats happened to me only I wasnt lucky enough to be moved. Funny Carl brought the small car to the air port when his two girls were being picked up. Surely he knew…..

  24. Ugh – so sorry to hear about your interlude with American Airlines! GAH! Glad you are home safe finally!

  25. Oh, my, so glad you actually got home after that trying saga.

  26. Oh dear – and you’d had such a lovely trip over. Welcome home!

  27. oh crumbs! this story reminds me why i just can’t bear long-haul flights. I can barely stand domestic ones either:)

  28. Oh my god. Long flights are genuinely murderous!
    Bet you are glad to be home now 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  29. I am so sorry to hear about the way you were treated in some of the airports. It really is a shame. My nephew is a TSA and one of the kindest, most generous people, but then he can only be in one place at a time. 🙂 But I’m delighted you had time with your sister and that gorgeous baby. Do come again…and stay awhile. ox

    • I’ll definitely be staying longer next time, Debra and I am planning a holiday in LA hopefully within in the next 12 months. I’ll be sure to let you know when I’m coming because I’d love to catch up.

  30. Thanks for the follow up story. It certainly didn’t get any better. Travelling alone can be hideous because you feel you have no voice. Two of you gives you a little more weight. I am sure you are very happy to be home. I think you should ban Arabella from ever leaving Australia again. But you did get to see Jennifer Anniston. How amazing to be right in the middle of Tinsel Town like that. We have a 30-hour flight to Copenhagen coming up.

  31. Sadly, this reminds me of the last time I flew overseas on Lufthansa. The woman in front of my cranked back her seat so far that she broke it and was in my lap for 9 1/2 hours. I’ve never been so glad to get off a plane. But then as luck would have it, we got on the flight to come home and she came barreling up to us saying “good to see you again” and sat down in front of us again. My husband endured the flight back. Economy provides about enough room for a large cat these days. Glad you and Arabella finally got home in one piece and with all of your luggage.

  32. Gees woman, first class all the way for you next time 🙂

  33. Boy oh boy that sounds epically sh!t. I can’t believe ALL the bad things that happened on your journey home. Bet you are glad to be back tho! Hoping you will keep up the US adventure posts, you guys did all the things on my list. 🙂

  34. An appropriate ending to a nightmare trip… hah!

  35. I don’t know why people are so rude and not helpful. What do they get out of it?! I’m glad you arrived safely. I have been catching up on your NY posts and I have a little more posts to go. You write very good stories and it’s been a fun bed time story tonight!

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