Home Athletes Figure Skating Travel Woes: My Memories of a Bad Experience With United Airlines: December, 2008

Figure Skating Travel Woes: My Memories of a Bad Experience With United Airlines: December, 2008

Figure Skating Travel Woes:  My Memories of a Bad Experience With United Airlines: December, 2008

After the April 9, 2017 incident with United Airlines, I remembered that I wrote this blog post below on December 17, 2008. After that bad experience I had with United Airlines, I decided to NEVER fly with them again.

Figure Skating Travel Woes

When a figure skater travels by plane to an important ice skating competition, the following items must be carried on to the plane:

  • Skate bags with figure skates (of course!)
  • Competition costumes
  • Practice costumes
  • Warm-up jackets or sweaters
  • Competition Music

Airlines allow each passenger to board a plane with one personal item (such as a computer) and one carry on bag that must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat. These strict limitations make it very difficult for figure skaters. I know this from a personal experience.

In 2008, I traveled to a major competition with my children. Five of us were traveling. We had the following with us as we began to board a United Airlines plane home:

  • Two small skatebags with skates, skate guards, and gloves inside
  • Competition costumes in a garment bag
  • Sweaters, coats, and jackets (in a 2nd garment bag)
  • Lap-top Computer
  • Books and games to use on the plane
  • Food in a grocery bag
  • An opened tote full of the stuffed animals that were thrown on the ice after the children’s performance
  • Backpacks
  • Purses and wallets

The United Airlines check-in attendent told us that the loose tote with the stuffed animals counted as a carry-on bag. He tried to take my little girl’s doll away saying that since the doll was packed in an additional bag, that she had too many items! He even said that the plastic grocery bag of food counted as a carry on item.

Each person in my family did carry two bags on to the plane, but we were told that a second garment bag had to be checked since my husband happened to be carrying both garment bags. The problem was that my husband was not carrying one small item and one larger item. (The United Airlines  check-in attendant wouldn’t permit one of us to trade items with my husband to conform with United Airlines’ one small bag and one larger bag policy.) To solve this problem, we took the jackets and sweaters out of the garment bag and wore them as we boarded the plane, so we ended up entering the plane with only one garment bag instead of two.

We consolidated our luggage in front of the other customers right at the gate.  The attendant said we were blocking the gate and  kept trying to embarrass us and made my children cry as we moved things around.  Finally, he reluctantly let us enter the plane and yelled at us and called us names and said how stupid we were.  He publicly blamed us for delaying the flight even thought United had delayed our flight for three hours!

In an earlier instance with United, we were careful to consolidate all of our carrry-on luggage as we boarded a United Airlines flight.  When the United Airlines employee heard me tell my children to consolidate their carry-on luggage, she approached me as if she was a police woman, and told me that I had to pay $50 to check our carry on bag, because in her opinion, our carry-on item was larger than she liked.  After I was forced to pay the additional $50, that United Airlines employee  watched us as we boarded the plane and made sure we didn’t “dare” to carry on that bag!

In my opinion, what we went through with United Airlines was ridiculous!  The planes, in both instances,  were very empty and although we may have looked overloaded, we were traveling with the correct amount of carry-on luggage.

Figure skaters must travel with their skates, jackets, and competition clothing. Why is United Airlines so mean?  I’ve flown Southwest Airlines ever since and have never had any problems or issues….

By the way…did you know that United Airlines also breaks guitars?

Happy Skating!

JO ANN Schneider Farris

Further Reading:


Jo Ann Schneider-Farris Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in figure skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author. Jo Ann was the Figure Skating Expert for About.com for 10 years. Jo Ann began skating as a young child. She won a silver medal in the junior dance event at the United States National Figure Skating Championships and is a US Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist. She coached figure skating and has trained skaters of all ages and levels. In addition, Jo Ann taught hockey players to skate and gave instruction in power skating. She is the author of two skating books: How to Jump and Spin on In-Line Skates, the only book of its kind on inline figure skating, and a personal memoir, My Skating Life: Fifty Plus Years of Skating. Jo Ann also has contributed articles that have been included on the US Figure Skating website and the icenetwork.com website, in SKATING Magazine, Ice Skating Institute's magazine, the Professional Skaters Association magazine, and she also wrote about ice skating for Examiner.com. She is a member of the Professional Skaters Association, The Broadmoor Skating Club, and U.S. Figure Skating. Jo Ann is a graduate of the famous Hollywood Professional School, a school that once was in southern California where many serious figure skaters attended, including Peggy Fleming. She is also a graduate of Colorado College and holds a teaching credential from California State University Long Beach. As a figure skating competitor, she trained under World Ice Dance Champion and Olympic Coach Doreen Denny and also Darlene Gilbert, who has trained international and national teams. From JO ANN Schneider Farris: Hi and Happy Skating! Yes, Happy Skating is my motto. I hope to share my love of the sport and my knowledge of it with you and my goal is to link skaters from all over the world on this site. Happy Skating! Please join me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or follow me on Google+ and Pinterest. Email me at joannfarris@yahoo.com


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