Flying with “Murphy” in 2023
In order to get the full significance of this article you must first understand Murphy’s Law and who Murphy was.
A rule that states, “If something can go wrong, it will.” An addition to this law reads, “and usually at the worst time.” The identity of “Murphy” is unknown, but the saying was first used during the 1940s and may have originated with members of the armed forces in World War II.
An Americanism dating to 1950–55; named after Edward A. Murphy, Jr., (1918–90), an American aerospace engineer who worked on safety systems.
When traveling by air in today’s world almost everything begins online, searching for flights, comparing airfare, booking flights, selecting seats, requesting mobility assistance and more.
While domestic travel allows one to check in and print boarding passes up to 24 hours prior to the flight, international travel is a bit different in that online check in is not allowed and must be done in person at the airline counter where the “fun” begins, at least on this trip that’s where my fun began.
Late last year I booked roundtrip travel for 3 passengers from Colorado to Bangkok, Thailand traveling in mid-January and returning on March 1st. Due to the destination my itinerary involved two major carriers and I was able to download an app for each one which allowed me to monitor and/or make necessary changes and to insured we were all as the airlines say “travel ready”.
Departing from a relatively small airport in Colorado Springs that literally and figuratively turned the lights on at 4am we were among the first passengers arriving for that scheduled 7am flight to Denver, where we had connections for Los Angeles, Tokyo’s Narita airport and finally arriving in Bangkok at midnight 2 days later. We knew from the start that the timeline would be close and voicing my concerns with a customer service person on the phone assured me there was more than enough time to make each connection. I don’t think that customer service rep had ever met Murphy.
About 10 minutes after 4am airline personnel came out of their office huddle and moved to their respective spaces at the counter. As I moved forward to check in and surrender my luggage, I was stopped by an airline employee who said to check in at the kiosk. Even after I informed him that my party of 3 was traveling internationally, he pointed and said “kiosk”. So we each found our own kiosk and began the checking in process he came over quickly and said if we were traveling together only one needed to be at a kiosk. And since he was already there he “helped” us through the process, tagged our luggage and told us we were all set. We collected our carryon bags and headed to TSA for the trek through security not knowing that Murphy had already struck. As we inched closer to TSA I realized we had no boarding passes. So leaving my family in line I hurried back to the airline counter and informed the same agent we had no boarding passes. He quickly printed and handed them to me so I could get us through TSA.
There’s a saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but Murphy does and in spades. We got through TSA screening and down to the gate while imagining that airline employees were engaging the seat warmers for our short flight to Denver. Soon we were seated on the plane, but waited for the de-icing crew to spray our plane so we could get airborne. The 18 minute flight was soon over and we taxied up to the gate. Now we had only minutes to make our connecting flight. Everyone stood up to collect their hand carry item so they could hurriedly get off the plane and over to the various departure gates. Murphy had other ideas. The gateway was frozen and had to be thawed out so it could be moved over to the plane. Then the frozen hydraulics wouldn’t allow the gateway to be lowered to the plane. Maintenance personnel worked frantically to free us “hostages” as time slipped rapidly by, and finally the door opened. Although sprinting wasn’t an option, walking rapidly was the best us senior citizens could do. It seems that Murphy still had a trick or two up his sleeve. We hurriedly arrived at our departure gate we discovered our flight to Los Angeles had backed away from the terminal and was headed without us. We didn’t know that our luggage had actually made that flight to Los Angeles. Our only recourse was customer service who after a great deal of time managed to re-route us to Chicago telling us that our luggage would also be with us because it couldn’t travel on a different aircraft.
All I know about Chicago is what I see on TV or in the movies. It’s colder than a bucket of icy water and the ground is always covered with snow (from someone residing in Colorado). Soon we were airborne and when we landed in Chicago and all I saw out the windows were green grass and a bit of wind. We headed to our departure gate and got checked in for the flight to Tokyo’s Hanada airport.
After going through Japan’s TSA security screening we went to our departure gate. After sitting for a short time it became obvious that our gate had been changed (Murphy at it again) so we hurriedly moved over 2 gates and soon began boarding for the 5 hour flight to Bangkok.
We cleared passport control easily and headed to the baggage claim carousel. As we watched the bags come down the shoot, an airline employee came around with a list of names asking if ours was on the list – they were ALL our names so she said to follow her. We’re wondering what was going on (Murphy)?
She said our bags were not on our flight and they hadn’t located them yet. She created a missing baggage report and said once our bags arrived they would be delivered to us at our house. We met our van driver for the 2 ½ hour drive to the house.
So in reality it seems that our bags COULD fly on other aircraft with or without us as it turned out that our bags sat at Tokyo’s Narita airport instead of moving on to Bangkok. I had a list of phone numbers to check on the bags status. The airline app allowed me to “track your bags” and I found that 24 hours later they had been loaded on a flight from Tokyo’s Narita airport and would be arriving the following day. It was 10:40 pm 3 days after we arrived that our bags were delivered to our house (Murphy had that final say).
When it came time to leave Thailand I made sure that I took pictures of the luggage. This would important should our luggage become lost or delayed. We took the hotel van to the airport for a 4am check in and everything went smoothly. As we left Bangkok we had minimal waiting in Japan before boarding our flight to Los Angles.
Upon arriving at our departure gate in Los Angeles there was an announcement to check all hand carry roller bags due to lack of overhead bin space. I decided to check our hand carry bag, but didn’t see the drop off door and ended up carrying it into the aircraft and placing it in the bin over my seat. An airline agent came on board the aircraft and spotted my bag with the checked luggage tag and removed the bag from the plane, intending to hand it down to the checked bags guys at plane side (Murphy had different ideas).
When we landed in Denver, and then boarded our flight to Colorado Springs we knew were almost home free. After collecting our bags we noticed the roller bag was missing (delayed). I went to baggage claim and learned that it had been sent on a different flight out of Los Angeles and landed in Denver about the same time as we were picking up luggage at the airport. Another delayed baggage claim report. On the way home it occurred to me that inside the pocket of that bag were the keys to my house as well as the TSA keys to our luggage (Murphy’s final blow).
We left the airport for a leisurely ride home, feeling good to be back on American soil and in traffic on Powers Blvd. We rounded the final turn onto our street my doorbell camera alarm told me there was movement at my front door and as we pulled into the driveway I could see my front door wide open and my grandson standing there waiting to bring our luggage into the house. Inside was his girlfriend and they had a steak and chicken dinner with all the trimmings and place settings already on the table. I rummaged through my makeshift keybox and located an extra TSA key that did unlock our luggage. The missing bag was delivered at 2:40 am the following morning. So take that “Murphy” and stick it in your ear……RTM