Will a Donner Party representative please approach the ticket counter?
"A United Airlines flight from Shanghai, China, to New Jersey should have taken just 13 hours, but it took some folks three days to make...
Detroit Free Press
"A United Airlines flight from Shanghai, China, to New Jersey should have taken just 13 hours, but it took some folks three days to make that trip. . The nightmare began, passengers say, after the first cancellation." - ABC News
You may have heard about unlucky United Flight 87 that stranded 225 passengers in Shanghai because of a parade of goof-ups.
The flight was canceled July 11 because of a broken jet part. The next day, passengers returned to the airport only to find out the plane was still busted and the flight was canceled again.
On the third day, exhausted passengers boarded the plane only to find that the crew had been on duty too long and couldn't fly.
Protests, fist fights and a blockade of a gate ensued, captured on video by angry passengers who broadcast their unfair plight around the world. And when at last the bedraggled flight arrived on July 14 in Newark, passengers were greeted by groveling United customer service folks, who refunded their ticket money, gave them $1,000 credit for another flight and begged for another chance to be their very favorite airline.
Now, I'm as guilty as the next person in enjoying a nightmare travel tale, if only for the schadenfreude aspect — thank goodness it wasn't me.
But is this story really an outrageous experience to scar a traveler forever?
Not even close.
"Actually, all had gone pretty well until the Donner Party reached the Wasatch Mountains. . Then, for weeks, they hacked out a 36-mile wagon trail through heavy brush and trees. What normally would have been a three or four day journey stretched into 21 days." — Howard Hickson's Histories
Let's all agree: Flying sometimes stinks. When things don't go perfectly, there are all those annoying lines. Stress. Hassle. Incompetence. And meal vouchers don't even cover the cost of a decent breakfast!
But how small our gripes seem when compared with what travelers endured in the past.
Spending three extra days in Shanghai isn't exactly like wandering 40 years in the Sinai. It's not like spending months in a wagon fighting hunger, illness, storms and fear.
I don't recall God giving Moses a hotel voucher to make up for the delay in getting to the Promised Land.
Nobody in the Donner party got an apology and $1,000 toward a future, non-cannibal, wagon train.
"Passengers say they couldn't get to their luggage, some of which was unceremoniously dumped off carousels, leading to fist fights." - ABC News
Believe me, I understand the emotion involved. But staging a revolt and getting into fist fights really isn't your best plan if your flight is canceled.
My advice? If stuck in a foreign land in a similar situation, rebook on the very first flight that gets you to an airport, any airport, in the United States, where it will be easier to connect home. Scan the overhead departure display to see what's leaving as soon as possible for the U.S. Ask the agent politely, and you may have luck.
Conversely, try the Zen approach. Walk away from the madness. Go have lunch or take a nap at the airport. Find your luggage and keep it with you. Then rebook in the lobby, but on a flight leaving a few days later, when presumably the chaos and bottleneck will be over. Take the delay as a sign that you are meant to stay longer at your vacation spot, and save yourself hours of queues and hassles.
"Ten miles after leaving the railroad terminus in Grinnell, the Fergus' wagon train was delayed for several days after being mired in the mud. After 17 days on the road, the wagon train had gone a total of 105 miles." - Christopher Czajka, PBS
The Fergus family in 1864 had something legit to cry about. You probably don't.
The next time you are enraged and indignant that your flight is delayed one whole hour, or, God forbid, even overnight or even THREE ENTIRE DAYS, think of the pioneers who headed west.
Think of their time frame.
Emulate their endurance.
And remember, no fist fights.