The Indignities of Air Travel

By Jane Mountain | March 26, 2013


We’ve been observing today that air travel is a distinctly rotten way to start a trip.

There’s the mind-numbing sterility of airports (though we must say Heathrow has really pulled up her socks since last time we were there). There’s the indignity of being folded into a space just slightly shorter than your femur bones for 10 full hours. There’s the knowledge that you’re creating more carbon emissions in one day than your normal life generates in a whole year.

Is there any mode of transportation less dignified and more soul destroying than flying. We think not.

When traveling with bikes, flying gets even worse.

To start, dragging 43kg of equipment and two bikes through the terminal is no easy feat, and really not that fun, especially when we’re used to having one tiny suitcase each. Then, the check-in agents spend 10 minutes trying to figure out if it’s OK to have bikes packed in a bag, rather than a box, even though the information is clearly printed on their own website, of which you have shown them a screen grab. Once you finally manage to convince them your bikes are packed to code, they take your credit card and charge you an extra $300 because you have so much luggage!

The large alcoholic drinks we had while waiting in the departure lounge eased our anxiety a bit and prepared us for a long flight.

After 10 hours of bad movies, bad food, and bad sleep, we arrived at Heathrow, jet lagged, underfed, and slightly grumpy.

There, we were greeted by the world’s bitchiest ticketing agent. First, she informed us we weren’t allowed to be where we were, because our flight didn’t leave soon enough. When we pointed out that our flight was in 40 minutes, she seemed surprised to find that that flight even existed. Then she shook her head and said, “That flight is closed”. Of course that wasn’t even remotely true.

When we handed her our baggage claim tickets she looked at us in horror and screeched, “We have a problem here. Alitalia only allows one bag per person.”

We politely explained we had paid for our baggage through to Rome, then showed her the receipt. Visibly annoyed that she could not stop us from getting on our flight, she slowly printed out our boarding passes, though one second earlier she had been in a mad hurry, and we were on our way, with stress levels soaring from that brief encounter.

Thank you ticket lady, for reminding us why we left England and will likely never return.

We crashed on the second flight and arrived relatively wide awake in Rome.

We got our huge bags filled with panniers just seconds after clearing immigration control. My bike also arrived right away.

And then… nothing.

My bike was there, Stephen’s bike was not.

No one had seen it. No one knew where it was, or when it would get here. No one knew anything. How you lose something as large and unwieldy and clearly labelled as a bicycle is beyond me, especially since one of those labels was a barcode which you’d think could be used to track its whereabouts.

We left the baggage area with a receipt and the promise that IF they found the bike, they would deliver it to our hotel.

Based on our experience, if you can avoid flying Alitalia, you should. We have only had bad service and hassles from them.

Oh, and did I mention they LOST STEPHEN’S BIKE!

Despite the absence of said bicycle, we still had to find our way into Rome. I won’t detail the three hours (yes, really) it took of wandering around Fiumicino, asking every second person directions to this train or that bus before we could find someone who would take a bike into the city.

If you ever fly into Rome with a bike, skip the train, the taxi stand, the minibus agents, and the Alitalia bus and go to directly to the el cheapo bus stands. One of them will take you and your bike to Termini for 5 Euros. Deal.

After a long day and a half of air travel, filled with headaches and hassles, we were so happy to arrive in our pleasant little hostel / hotel, where we have a private room, a very pleasant and helpful manager, and excellent vegan breakfast. They also have a perfect little Italian restaurant just around the corner where we had a light, late supper before collapsing into bed.

There’s no place like home, but this is a pretty good place to be instead.  


  1. Comment by Alex

    Alex March 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Oh my God Jane, this is such an awful way to start your adventure. Of course I feel sorry that happened in italy …….although you should know that barely a few alitalia flights are run by Alitalia…….what happen is they use Romanian lines as contractors to operate their flights. Which is bad enough, but even worst is the fact they don’t advise the passengers about that! I can’t wait to see you……..Alex

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane March 27, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Don’t worry, Alex, we don’t blame the Italians – only the airline. Air Canada is just as bad!

  2. Comment by Ellie

    Ellie March 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

    So sorry to hear the news. What luck. I hope the bike is found with all its bits and pieces in tack. At least you haven’t got a time frame for Russia…?! Hope the Italians enjoy some peed-off Yoga tuition today and looking forward to reading the next installment!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane March 27, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Nope, no timeline to Russia, but we are hoping to be out of Rome by Easter weekend, since we doubt we’ll be able to find a room then.

  3. Comment by Tommy

    Tommy March 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I’m glad you made it safe, but sad to hear about the bike. It’s fun to know what happened after you got dropped at the airport. Please let us know when the bike shows up, I’m on the edge of my seat!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane March 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Definitely the best part of that day was the drive to the airport. We were so early the check-in desk wasn’t even open yet, which gave me time to repack those bags so that they met the weight limits. Thanks again for driving us!

  4. Comment by Carl

    Carl March 27, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I enjoyed hearing about the start of your trip but am concerned about Stephen’s BIKE!!! I can’t wait to hear what happened…did they find it? Yes, no, maybe….I hope that they do find it because it has a lot of special stuff on it! Namaste to you both

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane March 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks Carl, we are worried too, though we are hopeful it will get here soon. Also that it won’t be broken! Namaste to you too.

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