What it Takes to Get Here: The Plane Ride Saga of 2016

We all have those hilarious travel stories – you know, the ones that are a pain to deal with when you’re in the middle of it but become some hilarious anecdote about why no one likes airlines and airports and why we always need “a vacation to recuperate from the vacation.”

The chain of events:

January 1: Arrive at airport to check in for flight to Chicago. The flight path is supposed to be Springfield – Chicago – Brussels – Senegal. The person working at the United Airline desk informs us that the flight has been cancelled, and there is no time for us to drive to St. Louis or Kansas City to get on a flight to Chicago in time for our flight to Brussels. The trip is officially delayed by one day. She proceeds to book us onto a new itinerary for the same time the next day, but gets confused about whether our final destination is Berlin. Nope. We are going to Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. Please and thank you for your time.

I would like to point out I did not receive timely communication from United Airlines that the flight was cancelled. Not fun.

January 2: Arrive at airport to check in for flight to Chicago. The lady at the desks asks to check us in herself because, “It will be faster” than scanning passports on the machine. Little did she know…

She cannot check us in for our flight because it’s throwing some kind of “error/exception” code. She cannot fix it on her computer and has to call the United Airlines helpline to figure out what’s going on. Apparently, we do not have confirmed or assigned seats on the flight from Brussels to Dakar. The person on the phone (with the lady at the United counter) calls Brussels Airlines to make sure we have seats. Ten minutes later, she confirms that we have seats on the Brussels – Dakar flight and the boarding passes must be printed in Brussels Airport when we arrive.

At this point, I know we don’t have seats on that flight but I’m willing to take my chance in Belgium because I have no confidence that United Airlines can handle the situation.

Of course, one of the better parts of the current situation is that our seats are in Economy Plus which equals extra legroom. They had to upgrade our tickets because there were no other seats in the class we originally booked the seats for. Yippee!!!! Four extra inches of legroom for an 8 hour flight.

Oh, and I gate-checked my carry-on bag in Chicago for simplicity’s sake. More on that later.

January 3: Arrive in Brussels, Belgium and wait for the ticket counter to open. Then, wait for the extremely long line of people to get their boarding passes and move into the final waiting area before boarding the plane. I walk up to the counter, hand the nice lady my passport…. And GUESS WHO DOESN’T HAVE SEATS ON THIS FLIGHT? That would be me. *le sigh*

So she sends us around the back of the check-in desk to her colleague and this other nice lady phones United Airlines to figure out WHY they lied to us about having seats when the flight was overbooked and had been for quite some time. Everyone at the Brussels Airlines desk is very apologetic as they wait for United Airlines to call back with additional information.


The flight is delay by OVER AN HOUR due to “technical difficulties” with the plane. At this point, I’m okay with staying in Brussels for the day if it keeps me out of whatever is going on with this plane.

We are also informed that our luggage is not on the plane because we were not on the Passenger Manifest. A nice man who works with luggage then takes down the numbers from those stickers they give you at the Check-In counter and goes to search for our suitcases.

Note: If you a flying internationally, KEEP THE STICKERS WITH YOUR LUGGAGE NUMBERS. It’s the only way they can find your luggage in the system and track where it goes.

So Greg gets on the phone with United Airlines via airport Wi-Fi (which is limited to one-hour’s worth of use) because they haven’t called the Brussels Airlines people back. The United representative proceeds to tell him that it’s Brussels Airlines’ fault, and they have to fix it. This person even gave a “confirmation number” that we had seats. Nope. It doesn’t work in the Brussels Airlines system.

At this point, I think the Brussels people were concerned that we were upset with them, but I just smiled and said that United made the booking and I would make sure that they took responsibility for lying about the booking in the first place. Since I was there for so long, We chatted a bit, and once everyone checked in and started boarding, we realized that we might be spending the night in Brussels… and Greg made sure that it would be on the dime of United Airlines because they were the ones who made the re-booking. Oh, and our luggage is confirmed to NOT be on the plane. Goody. Now if only we knew where it was….

FAST FORWARD: Greg has all of the information from United about how we are going to be compensated for not only the cancelled flight from Springfield, but also our expenses in Brussels because no one knows where our luggage is. The plane has been boarded for at least 25 minutes and they’re doing head count after head count to see if there are seats on this plane.

I continue talking to the people at the counter about what they recommend we do in the city for the day, and thank them for working so hard to figure everything out. They are then informed by the flight crew that there ARE, in fact, 2 extra seats on the plane in the Exit Row. WOOHOO.

“So what about our luggage?” I ask. “When and how will it get to Dakar?”

The people at the desk have no idea. Yikes. We take the seats, anyway, grab our passports and boarding passes, and sprint toward the jetway (the door was locked and they had to open it…) and onward to the plane. As we are waiting just inside the doorway to the plane and talking to the flight attendants (they already knew who we were because some of the people from the desk were standing there with us), the Luggage Guy walks up and informs us that our bags are on the plane. (I’m telling you, there was some genie magic going on there…) WAHOOOO.

So they let us on the plane and put away our carry-on bags because were are in the middle Exit Row section that doesn’t have seats in front of it and I cannot believe how awesome this is. Then, one of the flight attendants walks up to tell us where each of our carry-on bags is and says, “I just wanted to let you know, the people from the desk were adamant that we take special care of you on this flight. They said you were nothing but polite during this whole situation and asked that we make your flight as comfortable as possible.”

MVP award goes to Brussels Airlines for going WAY out of their way to fix the mistake of another airline.

Sooo…. a day late and after 24 hours of travel…. WE ARRIVED IN SENEGAL. YAY.

And now….

Here’s the first video of my reaction to being in Dakar, Senegal.

Thank you all for reading, and look for another post soon!

1 Comment on “What it Takes to Get Here: The Plane Ride Saga of 2016

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