Gabe Rizzi, President, Travel Leaders Corporate

Since I’m on the road all the time for work, I’m one of those ultra-frequent flyers. Sometimes I get the question – ‘what’s your worst flight ever?’ I’ve had many 'memorable' flights…but this one was quite unique.

Just after Labor Day weekend 2016, I took a flight to San Diego from my east coast home. We were somewhere over mid-west at 10:30 pm and the pilot came over the loudspeaker to say that a suspicious device has been identified in the back of the plane! I had to take my headset off and say, ‘did he really just say that?!’ It created a bit of a stir to say the least, and a guy came running up from the back of the plane yelling in a heavy accent, ‘It’s blinking, it’s blinking!’ I thought he was going to get tackled by the flight attendants! There was a scared flyer sitting in the row across from me. She was already petrified before we took off due to the turbulence. I tried my best to calm her, reminding her to breathe. At 30,000 feet, there’s not much you can do – it’s in the pilot’s hands so by panicking she only made matters worse.

They diverted us to Denver and when we landed, we were greeted with dozens of emergency vehicles whose red flashing lights illuminated the runway for 300 yards. When you land and see a sight like that, it’s a little unnerving and highly reminiscent of the movie Die Harder with Bruce Willis. The capper is that the FBI boarded the plane! We sat on the runway for about an hour and a half after we touched down at 11:00 pm. And then we were escorted off the plane where everybody was screened with bomb sniffing dogs and boarded shuttles that had been ferried out onto the runway. They scoured the plane for the next two hours. Turns out it was a child’s toy that caused this massive reaction!

They finally boarded us back on the plane and took us to the terminal at about 1:00 am before lo and behold, our flight crew timed out. There was no new crew available to fly our plane out, so we were truly stuck at the Denver airport. I was able to contact our TL Connect customer service center which is available 24/7 to determine my options. But, there weren’t any. Nothing was flying in or out at that hour. Still, I felt better knowing that someone else was trying to help me solve this logistical nightmare. Sleeping in airport in my suit was a real low point. I was scheduled to speak at a conference in San Diego the next morning at 8:00 am. I wasn’t going to make it, so I flew back home. That was my worst flight ever.

With so many packed flights these days, when a cancellation hits, a line of grumpy customers quickly forms at the airline’s customer service desk - and it’s usually so long that it snakes out into the concourse. But, if you book with Travel Leaders Group you don’t have to stand in that line, you can just text somebody in our TL Connect service center. Even though they couldn’t get me out of Denver, they’ve found a seat for me on full planes, gotten a last-minute car when I needed one, and secured reservations at overbooked hotels. They’re my superheros - managing the unmanageable, foreseeing the unforeseeable. I’m always in their debt.

For more business travel horror stories, check this out.

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