I have notoriously bad travel experiences that you’ve probably heard about if you’ve read my blog before. Pretty much every time I leave my home and go to the airport to go to an event, something ridiculous happens after a culmination of misfortune. This past weekend, I went to Burbank, CA for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, Heroes of the Dorm. Blizzard flew me out to do press and media coverage, and they offered travel and lodging, so I still accepted and attended the event, even though I’m not a huge fan of traveling. When I received a link to book my flight, the travel overlords noticed that I was about to travel again, and began their wrath.
It started out pretty simple – the travel agency’s website stopped working and gave me an error message that I couldn’t get around. So, instead of booking my flight normally, I had to speak with a customer service representative at the agency to get my flight booked. That was fine, though – I’m pretty experienced with travel, and I was able to find a good Southwest Airlines flight non-stop from Las Vegas to Hollywood Burbank that our travel agent was able to book for me.
Surprisingly, the flight to Burbank was pretty decent. This was my first time on Southwest Airlines, and although the cabin of their planes wasn’t really that great, I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness and efficiency of their open seating policy. Instead of picking a seat prior to my flight, I had to stand in line to get on the plane, then seating was done on a first-come first-served basis. Apparently nobody wanted the exit row seat, so I literally got a seat where there was no seat in front of me. It was literally the most leg room I’ve ever had on a flight.
Once I arrived in Burbank, I discovered that my shuttle wasn’t there. Apparently, the travel agency only had shuttles available at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (because that’s the airport to which everyone else was flying), and not at Burbank (which is a smaller airport that doesn’t service as many other airlines). So, instead of making a huge deal out of it, I just called my own Uber to the hotel, as I didn’t want to add extra work to the travel coordinator who was already running all over LAX to organize rides.
In the process of figuring this out, the travel agency found out that my shuttle had not been booked properly, and they ensured me that I would have a ride provided to me from my hotel to Hollywood Burbank Airport on my way back home. I told them it wasn’t a big deal at all, as I’m very familiar with travel logistics (seeing as I usually tend to book my own travel due to my preference of customization), but told them I appreciate the ride they will organize. Not long later, I received an email letting me know that a shuttle will arrive at 10:30 AM at the hotel to take me to the airport.
After the conclusion of the event, Sunday came around and it was time to go home. I had everything packed up and ready to go at 10:20 AM and I was outside the hotel where the shuttle had picked us up the two prior days to take us to the Arena – I figured that was just the designated pick-up spot, and thought it would be the best place to wait. Unfortunately, the shuttle never showed up.
About 15 minutes after the expected arrival time of the shuttle, I went into the group Discord server for Heroes of the Dorm travel logistics and asked what was going on. A different member of the press let me know that the 10:30 AM shuttle was actually at the Hilton hotel, which was several hundred feet away from the Marriott where I was saying. I thanked him for the information and started walking over when I realized I should probably check the shuttle’s destination – I asked again where that particular 10:30 AM shuttle was headed… and he said it was going to LAX. So, that wasn’t actually my shuttle.
I walked back to the Marriott and checked in with the travel agency one more time before just calling my own Uber, when a representative told me to stay waiting at the Marriott because she was calling me an Uber. I stood and waited for another 10-15 minutes when the agent let me know that a Honda was at the front door waiting to get me.
I roamed around the hotel for a while looking for this Honda, but couldn’t find it; I messaged back in the group chat that unless this particular Honda had a Kia badge (which was the only other car at the front of this hotel), the Uber was not in fact ready to pick me up. I checked in with her to make sure she had sent the Uber to the correct hotel, and… you guessed it, she sent the Uber to the Hilton instead of the Marriott.
I quickly messaged back letting her know that it was no problem, the Hilton was close by in walking distance, and I would jog over there to catch the Uber. However, the agent told me that she would contact the driver to head to the correct hotel, and before I could stop her, she had already let the driver know of the new pick-up address. I planted my feet and waited some more.
The Hilton is literally a block or so away from the Marriott – literally joggable in about a minute. The Uber must’ve gotten catastrophically lost, because he didn’t show up for 8 minutes. But, he ended up making it – after 8 minutes, the Honda showed up at the front of the Marriott.
I got in and let him know that I was headed to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport… upon which he informed me that he had to cancel the ride because he doesn’t have his permit to conduct rides to and from the airport. If you’re not familiar with Uber, rides to and from the airport are regulated more strictly and require the driver to pass a quiz to earn a permit, and they’re also more expensive due to extra airport fees and taxes. Apparently this guy had already passed his quiz, which is why Uber put him into the pool of airport-eligible drivers, but he hadn’t actually received his airport permit sticker in the mail yet, so he couldn’t conduct airport rides yet.
I exploded and told him not to cancel the ride, because I had a flight to catch and I had already gone through the absurd trouble of even getting a ride at all. Because I travel to Burbank a lot for Blizzard and ESL events, I’m actually quite familiar with the area. I told him that we’re going to change the destination – we are no longer going to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport, but to Panda Express.
At first he looked a little confused, but after I explained that Panda Express is nearby the airport and I can just walk the remaining third of a mile or so to my terminal, he caught on. He successfully drove me to Panda Express, I walked into the airport, and I successfully caught and boarded my flight. No exit row seat this time though, unfortunately.
The plane departed Burbank and made it to Las Vegas. As we were approaching McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, I looked out the window and spotted my apartment complex. We were a little too high for comfort, though – my apartment is only about 10 miles away from the airport, but our altitude didn’t really seem like we were about to land in 10 miles. Moments later, we flew right past McCarran International Airport and continued southeast.
We kept flying quite literally to the edge of Henderson, nearly to Boulder City. I clearly wasn’t the only person who was this confused, as other passengers were staring out the windows with puzzled looks on their faces. Once we were nearly 30 miles out… the pilot decided to do a 180-degree turn straight back to the airport.
Yes, I understand that landing order and directional runways are a thing – we sometimes have to wait for different planes to land first, and sometimes runways are shut down for one reason or another and we need to land from a certain approach angle. What I’m particularly curious about is why we ended up flying an extra 30 miles off into the corner of the city, only to turn around sharply as if we only had 1 mile of turning space.
I get motion sickness pretty easily on planes and cars, but I managed to avoid motion sickness on that flight.
Until that point.
My head felt like it was about to explode, and I nearly vomited.
I’m alive, safe, and back home now. The tournament was great, the Blizzard Arena was awesome, and the event itself was excellent. It’s pretty rare that I actually give out generous compliments like this, but I actually really think that the Blizzard Arena is one of the best studios I’ve been in. I watched some games from the stands, and although I think the lighting and immersion could use a bit of extra work, it felt like a real stadium experience. The behind-the-scenes of the Arena is intense, and the tour I got of the production rooms was intriguing and insightful.
I just can’t wait for esports to eventually move to Las Vegas as a main hub so I don’t have to get on another unlucky plane ride.