Our Nightmare Journey home!

I am writing this in a very jet lagged and exhausted state, in a dressing gown and with no eyebrows, as I wait for my lost luggage to be delivered before I can take my kids to get some food. The luggage contains all my clothes and makeup!

We began our nightmare journey at 2am American time on Tuesday. First was the three and a half hour drive to Miami from Orlando with the hire car telling us one of the tyres had a fault and my son holding the cool bag incase he was sick.

Next, after finding the car hire return, we checked in at Miami airport. We were to be flying Miami to Washington on American Airlines and then Washington to London Heathrow on British Airways.

I had contacted both airlines in advance and made requests for special assistance as well as booking seats to ensure we were all sat together.

When I got the boarding cards at the airport, the Miami to Washington one’s all said “seats allocated at gate”. I queried this with the lady at the check in desk and explained that I had pre-booked seats together and the reasons I needed to be sat with my son. She told me not to worry because if I had pre-booked seats then we would be sat together and it was probably just a different plane.

When we got to the gate I took the boarding cards to find out our seats and they allocated me random seats throughout the plane. They allocated my son who is autistic with sensory processing difficulties and suffers from anxiety as well as separation anxiety from me, a seat on his own!

I calmly (on the outside) explained to the lady that I really needed to be next to my disabled child and that I also had other children with me that would need me on the flight and she said there was nothing she could do because it was a full flight!

I asked for pre-boarding to at least settle my son before others boarded and then had to try and prepare the kids that they weren’t sat where they thought they were and would have to sit with people they didn’t know.

By this time my son was getting very scared and crying.

At the time we were due to board the plane there was an announcement and the plane was changed again. Our bags were being unloaded and we had to walk to a different departure gate with different staff who did not know about our pre-boarding.

It was very crowded with people getting stressed and asking questions and my son had started to panic and become very distressed.

I managed to talk to the new staff who let us through with the travellers in wheelchairs. We had to walk to the plane steps and when we got there I was told we couldnt board because I didn’t have pre-boarding written on my boarding cards. My son, who is used to just getting on a plane when he gets to the door was still trying to board and getting told off by the air stewards!

When they eventually let us on the plane, everyone else was also starting to board. I sorted the other kids and then bravely sat in the seat next to my son that didn’t belong to me.

Eventually the plane filled up and feeling quite bad I had to ask the person whose seat I was sat in if she would mind moving to my seat as I needed to be next to my son. She was fortunately very nice about it and moved to my seat, I thanked her again after the flight. My son was not in the best state to fly due to all the stress and it took a lot of time to calm him down.

When we landed in Washington we went straight to the BA first class lounge where they were expecting us. We had been put here, despite being economy passengers, due to my son and the fact we had a six hour wait for our next flight. We were given a private, quiet room with comfy chairs and sofas and told to help ourselves to snacks and drinks. This was a very welcome area of calm that we really needed at this time and we are very grateful.

During our stay in the lounge a British Airways representative came to check our boarding cards for the next flight and to arrange for us to be accompanied to the gate and pre-boarded.

Unfortunately the plane had again been changed and our pre booked seats changed also. My daughter couldn’t get her head round the new seating configuration as she was originally sat next to a window and now seated in the middle of the plane next to a stranger. She was already very tired and stressed from the first flight and ended up having a melt down which involved throwing her hot chocolate across the first class lounge and kicking bags around the floor. Fortunately there were computers in the lounge and my son was distracted by a screen!

I had bribed my daughter into sitting in her new seat by the time we were collected to board the plane and she had calmed down.

We were taken straight to the gate and into the pre-boarding area where we waited about two minutes before boarding the plane.

We were delayed on the ground for a while but everyone had found something to watch and quite happy.

Happy until take off that is! We hit really bad turbulence which lasted a couple of hours and caused every child to be sick and my son to feel ill for the rest of the journey so when we landed at London Heathrow he was overtired, over stimulated and not feeling well!

Fortunately staff let us into the disabled queue at passport control, unfortunately it was quite long and my son was lying on the floor crying!

We eventually got to baggage reclaim and waited, and waited and waited until we realised two bags were not coming and had to spend half an hour reporting them to lost baggage before leaving without them. We landed at 7am yesterday morning. It is 3:30pm now and I still have no clothes but at least I have a very good excuse for not unpacking and spending the day in bed instead!

We got a train and then walked a very long way from terminal five to terminal 2 to get the right bus to our car park and then waited for 40 minutes for the bus.

I then drove for 5 hours (stopping every hour for caffeine and a quick nap) and eventually arrived home. Fortunately the kids were so tired they crashed in the car.

If the journey wasn’t so difficult I would  consider going straight back on holiday, I need one after surviving all that!

I tweeted American Airlines about the bad service and to make them aware of how they treat autistic children and they have someone looking into our experience. I will report back when I hear anything.

British airways have offered to refund me for my seat bookings on each leg of the journey and my bags have been found and will hopefully be delivered this evening.

Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

49 thoughts on “Our Nightmare Journey home!

  1. This sounds like a complete nightmare, I really feel for you. It is so tiring when you have to swap planes like this and with your son’s additional needs it must be so stressful. I hope you get some answers from American Airlines. B.A. sound great though, hats off to them

  2. It’s sad the hear your flight nightmares. I can imagine the stress you have gone through especially your child. Thankfully you arrived home safe. I agree that it’s a total shame on American Air they should have been more considerate. What a horrible service

  3. What an ordeal! Things like these are what I do not want to experience when I travel. Most especially, I do not want my kids to go through a lot of stress when they should be enjoying. Then again, I think that’s really part of traveling.

  4. Omg what a nightmare! And you survived so it mean it was not that bad!😂 (Just trying to be positiv).
    Flying with kids is already stressful enough but with a disable child is another challenge! Bravo for making it back home. And glad to hear about the refund and the bags!

  5. That is horrible! I haven’t flown since my oldest was 4 years old. It was shortly after his diagnosis and instead of driving (which was feasible) we thought it would be easier to fly. The airline was friendly and everything but my son had gone to the bathroom and just as he went in all of the toilets automatically flushed at once. It scared him so bad that he refused to go into another bathroom. Even after we got to our destination, he was so scared (he’s really sensitive to certain noises) I thought I was going to have to take him to the hospital because he needed to go to the bathroom but was holding it – for three hours! I can’t imagine what you went through with American Air. They really need to get on the ball and be more vigilant with people with specials needs.

  6. Hi, its awful how despite asking in advance plane seating can be changed despite there being a genuine reason behind your request. Glad you all got home safely in the end #mondaystumble

  7. That is absolutely shocking, especially as you had your children with you its not nice when flight arrangements are changed last minute. I am glad that everything got sorted in the end but still not good on their part x

  8. Oh that’s such a terrible experience. It must have been tough for you. We also sometime get allocated different seats and it becomes difficult when you have small or differently abled kids. And some fellow passengers are helpful to understand, but have experienced some passengers who don’t understand and help. Good that things were sorted at end.

  9. You are in much better shape than I would be — kudos to you for handling that nightmare so well. I hate flying to start with, but when you add problems like this, I get even less excited about it. I was delayed 11 hours at Christmas, and I had a flight the next day. Let’s just say there was a lot of internal cursing. I’m glad that BA stepped up (and it was great customer service that they had you in the lounge), and I hope American does the same.

  10. Oh, you poor thing! What a nightmare. I can’t believe the delays, the plane changes and the disregard for your pre-booked seats. It does sound as if BA was a bit on the ball and I’m glad you at least had lounge access. Now get some much-needed rest!

  11. hmmm… this was really annoying! And having the kids with you, actually is more uncomfortable. Pitty you had to live this! I hope it will never repeat in the future.

  12. Oh my goodness! That really does sound horrendous. I can’t believe they would split an autistic child up from his family (or any child in fact!). Glad BA are at least giving you some money back and your bags have been found. #MondayStumble

  13. OMG what a NIGHTMARE! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience – it’s so sad that they’re happy to jump and offer refunds after the fact because it’s bad press, but the representatives on the ground at the time can’t seem to find any semblence of common sense. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be with a disabled child who has issues with anxiety.

    We experienced a similar situation with Hawaiian Air a couple of years ago – flying to my destination wedding and the process to check in to catch our domestic connection was ridiculous, meant half of my party missed the flight – but they held up my sister at the gate and wouldn’t let her board even though her 2 year old and 4 year old were already on the plane. Then when we got to the other side, they wouldn’t give us any information abotu which flight she had been switched onto, even though we explained that we had her boys. Was absolutely freaking livid – please, seriously, COMMON SENSE!!

  14. Oh wow, what a disaster! While I know some things are out of employees hands it seems they could have been more helpful. I can’t believe they wouldn’t move you! Fortunately the lady changed with you!

  15. Oh my. Sorry you had to go through that! There have been lots of stories going around lately about how awful airlines have been treating passengers. Glad you guys are home now. Hopefully your next holiday will not be as rough!

  16. Your family’s flights were a nightmare! Just reading what you went through makes me exhausted. Is it common in the states for airliners to chop and change seats and planes?

  17. Your family’s flights were a nightmare! Just reading what you went through makes me exhausted. Is it common in the states for airliners to chop and change seats and planes?

  18. I hope more companies will provide services that are meant/designed for autistic children. That was really a nightmare but glad you survived and you’re back home safe and sound.

  19. What a nightmare! I still don’t understand why they seat minor children away from their parents. This makes absolutely no sense to me! There should be a regulation in place preventing this. Glad to know that you guys got home safe and sound.

  20. What a nightmare! I still don’t understand why minors are seated away from their parents. This baffles me! There should be regulations in place to prevent this. At least you got home safe and sound.

  21. Oh gosh what a nightmare!! We had an issue with an airline sitting our children away from us and in the end we refused to get on the flight. I’m so glad you got home okay in the end. xx

  22. I am so sorry you guys had to experience that! I have four children, two of which have autism. I could not imagine taking them on a plane, little on in seats away from me! I cannot believe they even did that to you! The great thing is you guys are home and the trip behind you. Hope your next journeys go a lot better!
    Alicia Trautwein | https://themomkind.com

  23. What a nightmare for you and your kiddos! I’m so sorry that you had to go through this, but at least you were safe, the lady sitting next to your son helped you out AND you’re being financially compensated by the airline. It could’ve been much worse and I’m so glad that it wasn’t!

  24. It looks very scary with such a unfriendly service by airplanes. Airlines are famous for their hospitality but some airlines are really worse in customer handling. Hope your son had overcome this now.

  25. I’m sorry you and your family had to go through this! Flying is stressful and scary enough without having something horrible like this happen. I’m happy that you were able to get a refund and hope that this is a learning lesson for them on what NOT to do in the future.

  26. Wow that sounds crazy. Sorry you had that experience. Sucks when they switch the planes and mess up the seat confirmation. I could go for some hot chocolate right now though lol.

  27. That does sound indeed like a horrible journey! It’s nice of BA to put you in the lounge though, to make your wait more comfortable. I have it when airlines change the seats. You were lucky though, I had two experiences like this and both times I was left behind, to catch a later flight because they overbooked and send a smaller plane.

  28. Oh my goodness! That sounds scary and frustrating at the same time when you have kids traveling with you. These last minute plane changes are always a pain, sometimes if you are lucky then the airline staff is nice and understanding but sometimes it just ends up in a nightmare washing away all the excitement of reaching your destination.

  29. Sad to read about your unfortunate experience. Lost or misplaced luggage – it’s a nightmare that ruins a vacation and affects millions of airline passenger. I dislike the long hours of travel, as well as the transit aspects. And with kids in tow? Hmmm..

  30. What a nightmare, I am so sorry you have been through this. Tears were coming while I was reading your post. I hate when people act like machines and they only try to do their job and not considering other people`s feelings and needs.

  31. Oh my gosh that’s awful!! The fact that they wouldn’t find a seat for you next to your Son who needed you is appalling! I hope you’re bags arrived back with you and that you and your Family are all ok now.

  32. Omg I’m so sorry you and you family had to deal with all that mishap and downright terrible service. Airlines really need to start getting their stuff together when it comes to providing proper assistance to their customers especially for those with disabilities. My dad requires assistance and we always leave the airport with more stress and tension. I’m happy they did right and refunded you.

  33. Oh my gosh, this is awful! Unfortunately, so many of us have our own nightmare version of travel gone wrong. That being said, it’s taken to a far different level when you’re traveling with kids! Have you ever seen the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” It’s one of my all time favorites, and hopefully one day you’ll be able to read this post again and laugh! (Someday). x

  34. These sounds so horrible. I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad service in that airline, so said. These kind of mistakes are repeating nowadays and it`s so frustrating.

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