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When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

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We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

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Experience 027 Shownotes. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Holiday Travel Horror Stories. The Seat 1A Podcast.

Dec 27, 2019

Recorded 20 December 2019

Written by: Geoff Dahl & Vinod Viswalingam

Listen to this experience wherever you download your podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play and Overcast.


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In this experience we celebrate the 2019 holiday season with a look at some of our crazy and (somewhat) horrific holiday travel stories.

But first, Vinny and Geoff celebrate a milestone in this experience. This is the 25th show that they have done in tandem. Here's to the next 25 being just as fun of a ride.

Vinny shares his incredible journey from CPH-LHR-AMS-JFK-YHM-YYC-YVR during a massive New Year's storm in YYZ. How many things can go wrong for Vinny on this flight? So many that we interject a couple of stories from Geoff along the way. Although Vinny's story is related to a standby experience, remember that you too could be affected by weather and become a standby passenger.

Vinny starts his journey in CPH – it was just after New Year's – and world weather seemed normal, for now. He connects rather uneventfully to LHR and then AMS (little does he know what's coming). Flying standby on KLM he notices his flight options across Canada are quickly disappearing as there are no seats available. All US options were disappearing as well, except for JFK. So off to New York for Vinny.

Geoff shares his experience when he caught the flu just before having to fly from VIE-DUS (don't worry we're just sharing the travel experience). He makes it to VIE and manages to catch his flight – but when he arrives in a delirious state to DUS, just how many times can he catch the wrong train? The next day he catches the correct train to FRA for a connection to YYC with Air Canada...all the while missing the massive 2013 Ice Storm that hit Toronto. He arrives in YYC - only to be subject to a medical check first implemented after the SARS epidemic.

We return to Vinny who is now at JFK – but his bag isn't. The storm is brewing, and Vinny knows to get priority he needs to get to LGA. He learns about the "passenger rest area" at LGA – even with official blankets. He wakes up to find that LGA-YYZ flights are getting cancelled all over. But wait, there is a WestJet crew – maybe there's a chance? Disappointment awaits – how did the sand get in the engine? What hope is there left? Not much by air, the open road was the only thing left and there was some good fortune with rental costs. Just in time to drive through Manhattan at rush hour!

Geoff shares another winter holiday travel delay experience yet again caused by a blizzard at YYZ. Conditions meant that the YUL-YOW-YEG ticket became a standby ticket, but only the YUL-YOW segment could be confirmed. Some t-shirts were traded for hotel and meal vouchers since he wasn't flying further that day. Eventually he got back to YEG with an upgrade to business class. The key lesson in the adventure is to be nice to front line staff...honey will get your further than vinegar – but make sure you know your cancellation or delay rights.

We return to Vinny, in a rental car, in Manhattan at rush hour. No storm visible yet the sun is still shining. But as night falls the storm unleashes its fury. The storm is so terrible that it closes the Interstate. Vinny pushes on, blasting through the blizzard in Upstate New York on country roads – all the while having no proper winter clothing. Finally, he reaches the Canadian border in the wee hours of the morning – with snow caked on the back of his car – and the severity of the storm becomes fully known. Vinny has to get to another southern Ontario airport – YHM it is. But how to return the car – since it's not at YYZ and there is no return desk? Vinny leaves multiple notes and voicemails and parks the car hoping for the best as he boards the flight to connect at YYC. How does it turn out? Four hours after landing, where was Vinny? Back on a flight as crew!

Lessons from the experience: 1) Keep moving forward; 2) figure out what your biggest block of problem could be; 3) Be prepared that it might cost a bit of money to get out of a jam; 4) Look for telltale signs of things that are happening; 5) Make sure you have all of your alerts set up...and check the weather. Oh, and by the way...what happened to Vinny's WS travel buddy?

News Items:

  • Flyertalk article "The Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Travel"
  • breakingtravelnews article "Christmas getaway begins in earnest at easyJet"

Vinny and Geoff give big kudos to crews and staff working over Christmas. Here's to another great 25 experiences together.

If you have a holiday travel horror story, a question or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at

(Sleighbells sound FX from GowlerMusic edited and mixed with other sound FX




NEWS ITEMS | The Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Travel (16 December 2019)
"...There’s just over a week to go until the festive travel season comes into the flow and as travelers prepare to take to the nation’s airports, Upgraded Points has unveiled the results of a study that analyzes data from 25 of these facilities by their Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wait times..." | Christmas getaway begins in earnest at easyJet (20 December 2019)







  • What's in this experience? [00:00:52]
  • A Seat 1A milestone - 25 experiences of Vinny and Geoff recording in tandem. [00:01:10]
  • Vinny's incredible holiday horror experience. Geoff knows about this one. [00:02:29]
  • Even though this story is related to standby travel, remember that you could end up being standby due to weather cancellations. [00:03:46]
  • Vinny had celebrated New Years in Copenhagen. Now he had to get home to Vancouver. [00:04:17]
  • World weather...everything seemed normal. [00:05:01]
  • Vinny needed to find another way to YVR due to standby restrictions he had - opting to use KLM from AMS. [00:05:21]
  • Vinny's very early LHR-AMS flight. [00:06:34]
  • There was a winter storm brewing on the US Eastern Seaboard. [00:07:35]
  • Since Vinny was non-KLM employee he was not top of the standby list. [00:08:12]
  • Captain has the final say if jumpseating is possible. [00:08:31]
  • AMS-YVR was absolutely oversold. [00:08:44]
  • AMS-YYC captain would not allow non-KLM staff to use jumpseat. [00:08:53]
  • Vinny having to go between gates, but also do preboard security at each gate. [00:09:34]
  • Preboard security at AMS has changed since Vinny's experience. [00:09:59]
  • When Vinny was rejected, he would have to go and get re-listed along with the bag. [00:11:18]
  • Seats for AMS-YYC...not happening. [00:11:52]
  • Vinny makes a connection with a fellow WS employee trying to get to YYZ. [00:12:13]
  • Let's try for Toronto! [00:12:43]
  • Almost got on for YYZ. Didn't get on. [00:13:00]
  • YUL was leaving at the same time as YYZ - Vinny picked YYZ due to larger aircraft. [00:13:16]
  • Westbound rush hour is getting close to ending. What's left? [00:14:00]
  • LAX, SFO - no go. All the was left was JFK. [00:14:19]
  • Could fly to JFK or stay another day in AMS. [00:14:40]
  • Keep going forward rather than resetting. [00:14:50]
  • Let's just fly to JFK...and Vinny made the flight. [00:15:19}
  • Things start to get wild and crazy at JFK...Vinny's pausing the story for the moment. [00:15:45]
  • Geoff travel horror story - flying when he got sick just before leaving VIE. [00:15:56]
  • Geoff caught a stomach flu in Vienna - but he needed to get to DUS. [00:16:23]
  • Navigating a new terminal at VIE while sick. [00:17:01]
  • Connecting via train from DUS - there are 2 stations. [00:17:27]
  • Geoff needed to catch a train to Düsseldorf Main Station, but he went the wrong way to Duisburg. [00:18:06]
  • In his delirious state, Geoff catches another wrong train. [00:19:20]
  • Geoff was totally knocked out and slept off much of the flu. [00:19:56]
  • Geoff has slept off the worst of the flu, now time to catch a train to FRA. [00:20:29]
  • Geoff's FRA-YYC flight plans avoided the chaos of the 2013 Toronto Ice Storm. [00:20:42]
  • Train system issues meant that Geoff had to stop at the old FRA regional station - with the green tile floor. [00:21:40]
  • Before Geoff could clear customs in YYC he had to visit an infirmary since he still looked sick. [00:22:38]
  • Standard protocol since the SARS epidemic. [00:23:16]
  • Remnants of the SARS epidemic still visible in some Asian airports. [00:24:24]
  • Flying when you're sick. [00:25:02]
  • Keep an eye out for people being sick on your flight and keeping things sanitary. [00:26:00]
  • Back to Vinny at is he going to get back to Canada? [00:26:44]
  • Vinny's bag didn't arrive, but it wasn't overly surprising. [00:27:27]
  • Vinny's bag was still in AMS - but he needed to file the report at YYC to ensure proper delivery.. [00:28:12]
  • Vinny didn't have toiletries and a change of clothes with him. [00:28:33]
  • What does Vinny do next? [00:28:59]
  • At the same time there was a pending storm brewing. [00:29:25]
  • WS flies out of LGA, Vinny would get crew priority there. [00:29:41]
  • Off to LGA. [00:31:48]
  • At LGA there is a "passenger rest area". [00:32:06]
  • LGA is shutting down just as Vinny shows up. [00:33:01]
  • Rest area = food court. [00:33:26]
  • But...there were official blankets. [00:34:46]
  • ORD does have thousands of cots for stranded passengers. [00:35:51]
  • Good Vinny going to make it? [00:36:11]
  • Flights are all getting cancelled for LGA-YYZ - there's an ice storm in Toronto. [00:37:03]
  • Vinny having no luck finding a toothbrush at LGA. [00:37:37]
  • Flights would list as active and then cancel. [00:38:13]
  • But there is always one plane that remains overnight...maybe this could be Vinny's? [00:38:35]
  • Vinny is trying to figure out other options. BOS, MIA, LAX? [00:39:18]
  • Wait...there's a WS crew. [00:39:48]
  • Bad news after the captain does his walk-around. [00:41:25]
  • An ill-placed cowling cover while the plane was sitting overnight. [00:41:35]
  • There's sand in the engine. [00:42:08]
  • Vinny reaches out to Geoff - was there any other hope? [00:43:05]
  • Vinny realizes he's lost control of the situation. [00:44:14]
  • There was one only solution left - driving by car. [00:44:27]
  • Vinny still didn't know the severity of the storm. [00:45:23]
  • What about car rental drop fees? [00:45:41]
  • Budget had removed their drop fees. [00:46:04]
  • Does Vinny stay, or does he keep moving forward? [00:46:31]
  • Vinny's travel friend decided to take a flight instead. [00:46:54]
  • I'm out. I gotta go, because time's a ticking! [00:47:56]
  • The car is rented - it's black - just in time to try to get through Manhattan at rush hour. [00:48:27]
  • Vinny pauses again - the race to the be continued. [00:49:13]
  • Geoff shares a delay experience flying YUL-YOW-YEG. [00:49:25]
  • YYZ had a massive blizzard to disrupt flights across Canada. [00:49:59]
  • Geoff was confirmed standby through for YUL-YOW, but not YOW-YEG. [00:50:50]
  • I have no idea why Montreal booked you through. [00:51:27]
  • Trading t-shirts for meal and hotel vouchers. [00:51:58]
  • Geoff's flight the following day had to connect through YYZ, AC was still using ex-CP metal but in business class. [00:52:46]
  • Make sure you're nice to the counter or reservations staff. [00:53:28]
  • Make sure you know your cancellation or delay rights. [00:55:38]
  • Back to Vinny - sleepless, in a rental car, in Manhattan at rush hour. [00:55:50]
  • There's no storm that I can see, I can see the sun for crying out loud. [00:56:25]
  • It's late evening, dark, and here comes the storm to unleash its fury. [00:57:15]
  • It's getting worse and worse it's not like he's on a country road...yet. [00:58:03]
  • The weather was so bad it closed the Interstate. [00:58:21]
  • Blasting through Upstate New York in a blizzard on country roads. [00:58:52]
  • Vinny is doing all this without real winter clothing. [00:59:49]
  • Vinny reaches the Canadian border in the wee hours of the night. [01:00:57]
  • So much snow that it was caked on the back of the car. [01:02:03]
  • Vinny finally realizes how severe the situation is. [01:02:31]
  • Vinny has to decide on another southern Ontario airport. [01:03:14]
  • YHM it is. [01:03:33]
  • Where's the Budget return desk? [01:05:08]
  • Car contract says it needs to be returned to YYZ - where can Vinny drop it at YHM? [01:05:43]
  • Leaving a long voice mail at the downtown Hamilton office...which leads to another number. [01:07:37]
  • Now where and how is Vinny supposed to leave the car at YHM? [01:08:21]
  • Dear AVIS, this is a Budget car... [01:08:50]
  • Vinny gets on the plane and flies home. [01:09:21]
  • Vinny calls Budget when he gets to YYC. [01:09:35]
  • You're all good... [01:10:04]
  • Four hours after landing in YVR, Vinny was back on a flight as crew! [01:11:01]
  • Lessons from Vinny's experience. 1) Keep moving forward. [01:11:47]
  • 2) Figure out what your biggest block of problem could be. [01:12:28]
  • 3) Be prepared that it might cost a bit of money to get out of jam. [01:13:02]
  • What happened to Vinny's AMS-JFK flight buddy? [01:13:22]
  • 4) Look for telltale signs of things that are happening. [01:14:29]
  • 5) Make sure you have all of your alerts set up...and check the weather. [01:14:57]
  • News items. [01:16:24]
    • The Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Travel. [01:16:27]
    • Christmas getaway begins in earnest at easyJet. [01:21:58]
  • Vinny and Geoff's holiday flights. [01:23:39]
  • Giving big kudos and thanks to crews and staff working Christmas. [01:24:05]
  • Here's to a great 25 experiences! [01:24:58]
  • Show wrap-up and a tip if flying to SAN. [01:25:29]