My NAIC travel “experience”

Winning Brisbane Regionals earlier this year was exciting for multiple reasons, most notably because that result made my ranking good enough to earn a travel award to the North America International Championships which occurred last weekend! I was really excited to attend the North American IC because it would be my first time out of Australia ever since Malaysia Regionals at the end of 2019 and I wanted to at least play at an International Championships this year. However, little did I know that my flight experience would be quite something.

Preparing and leaving

My flight to Columbus was going to be done in three legs - Brisbane to Sydney, Sydney to San Francisco and San Francisco to Columbus. The layovers I had weren’t too bad; I had a 10 hour stop in San Francisco and a two hour stop in Sydney. After getting to the airport incredibly early for my flight, I checked in, gave the airport stuff my luggage and flew to Sydney, landing at about 8 a.m. With my next leg leaving at 10, I thought I would have plenty of time to get to the international terminal. I barely got there on time, having to run across the airport desperately to make the final boarding call for my flight. After being seated, one of the attendants walked up to me and asked if I had checked any bags in. Confused, I said that I had. She said “okay, just checking” and walked off. I didn’t think much of it, and promptly fell asleep as I prepared for the longest leg of my flight.

Losing my bag

Once I arrived in San Francisco and managed to get through customs, I tried to look for my bag because you need to re-check your luggage once you get into the United States. However, I couldn’t find my bag. I called over an attendant and told them this, and I was told that my bag was still in Sydney (interesting) and that they could get it to Columbus by Tuesday (it was currently Monday morning in San Francisco). Shrugging it off, I went to check in to my flight to Ohio and settled into a long layover. Something I’m quite proud of myself for doing is being productive during that layover, I finished an article about Milwaukee Regionals which happened the week before and managed to get a significant amount of practice in for the tournament. At this point, I wanted to play either Turbo Palkia or Palkia/Inteleon, both decks I felt very comfortable with. When I was about to leave for Columbus, I checked up with one of the people at the flight desk and they told me that my bag would be on my flight to Columbus, and I could pick it up when I arrived. Feeling relaxed after hearing this, I boarded my evening flight and fell asleep on my way to Columbus.

After getting to Columbus, I waited for my bag on the carousel… until there were no bags left, and mine wasn’t there. I started panicking and ran straight to the airline’s office to ask what had happened. I was told by the person working there that my bag was still in Sydney airport! I was given a number to call and told to go on my way. To say I was angry would have been an understatement - an attendant had told me my bag would be arriving with me and now I learn that it’s still in Sydney! With my frustration being the only reason I could still keep my eyes open, I took the bus to where I was staying and met up with the first member of our Airbnb, who had arrived there the previous night. We went off to buy some clothes and groceries, but something which I hadn’t considered was actually getting cards for this event – I didn’t have many.

Getting the cards

Thankfully, I did bring the decks I had built in my carry-on, these being Mew VMAX and a version of Turbo Palkia without the Palkia VSTARs since I had lent them to a friend for Milwaukee. Unfortunately, my box of cards which I usually bring to tournaments was still in my luggage, so I knew I would have to scrounge around if I wanted to play something different. Because I knew that I would get my 4/3 Palkia VSTAR line before the tournament, I felt relaxed with choosing to stick to any Palkia deck. Obviously it would be easier for me to just play Turbo Palkia, and acquiring an Inteleon engine seemed quite doable. I decided to play Palkia/Inteleon at NAIC, and since I managed to get my 4/3 Palkia VSTAR line returned, borrowing the rest of my deck wasn’t too tough. Someone who I was practicing with had a spare set of Sobble, Drizzile and Inteleon, so I was able to borrow all of those. Luckily, a different friend had Iridas and Cross Switchers. So thankfully, I was able to make my whole deck even though my box of cards didn’t arrive!

Sorting my bag out

While I was in Columbus, I had to wade through incredibly long periods of being on hold in order to chat to my airline about my luggage. At some point, my partner managed to get through to Sydney airport and found out that the handle on my bag had been broken and the tag had fallen off! Thankfully, they were able to identify my bag because of its contents and said that they would deliver it as soon as possible. This was on Tuesday evening, and by the time Thursday evening rolled around, as far as I knew my bag was still in Sydney. I called up the airline company and just told them to leave my bag in Australia. I thought that it would arrive on Sunday and there was no point to risk it arriving after I’ve left. After managing to borrow all the cards for my Palkia/Inteleon deck, I fell asleep on the night before day one, feeling stressed about my luggage but good about my deck choice.

The tournament, and randomly getting my bag back

I had quite a good day one at NAIC, finishing 7/1/1. However, after round five ended, I got a very curious email, saying that my bag had been delivered! I was very confused reading this - didn’t I ask for my bag to stay in Australia? It turns out that my airline sent it anyway! Luckily, someone was at the place I was staying and was able to pick up my bag. When I got home and saw that it was there, I was incredibly confused but relieved. I was grateful that my bag had arrived, but I did ask for it to be left in Australia. I shrugged it off and went to sleep for day two of NAIC. After a mediocre showing on day two and me finishing up at 52nd place, I went to the airport on Monday, not knowing that my return trip would have more problems than my arrival.

Losing my bag again

The problems all started when I landed in Sydney and tried to make my connecting flight to Brisbane. However, I first needed to re-check in my luggage, a task which hasn’t gone well for me so far. After getting cleared through customs, I made my way over to the baggage carousel and waited for my bag… and waited… and waited. Eventually, I was fed up with waiting and asked the employees at the desk nearby where my bag was, showing them my baggage tag. They checked it and after a couple of minutes, confirmed the worst-case scenario: my bag was still in San Francisco. I was still deliriously tired after my long flight, but with frustration fueling me, I got on the bus to the domestic terminal to try and make my connecting flight. I already knew I had missed it, but one of the attendants told me that I would be rebooked on another flight as soon as possible. That was the plan.

Missing my connection and being stuck in Sydney

When I got to the desk for my connecting airline to try and get on another flight, there was someone in front of me who had the same problem and was being told that there were no more flights to Brisbane available. Fearing the worst, I went up and gave them my situation and was told the same thing: the airline had no more flights to Brisbane that day. I asked for a hotel and a flight for the next day and was denied, essentially told that it was the responsibility of the airline I booked with. Still fuming, I asked if I could get on another airline and was told that I would likely have to book and pay for it myself. I asked if I could have a number to call the airline I booked with and was told that it would take a while and I could get one.

I found a spot near the desk and sat down. Not having any luggage was bittersweet here because I wasn’t taking up much space. I ended up bonding with someone who was in the same situation as me - she was traveling to Rockhampton (north of where I live) for college and we both shared in our own frustration at being stuck in this corner of Sydney airport.

At some point, we managed to get a number to call. After being on hold, I managed to get through to my original airline and the operator was surprised, I had been rebooked on a flight for that evening! Obviously, I didn’t know this. I never received an email or a notification of any kind that I had been rebooked, so I was very confused. After confirming the final flight details, I made my way to a different domestic terminal and after a few hours boarded my final flight home. I got off the flight, booked an Uber home and immediately passed out on my bed the second I arrived back. But this isn’t done yet, at this point I still don’t have my luggage.

Getting my last piece of luggage, grasping at straws

My ordeal to get my final piece of luggage from this airline was incredibly confusing, it seems so easy to just deliver the luggage to Brisbane then to my place, but this was obviously far too much. The airline seemed incredibly reluctant to move my bag, at some point leaving it in Sydney for over a day before finally getting it to Brisbane! During Thursday afternoon, I received a phone call from Sydney airport informing me that my bag was with them, it was going to be put on a flight to Brisbane that afternoon and delivered to me on the same day. Feeling good about this, I went to bed early that night, knowing that my dog or a family member would wake me up if my luggage arrived. Lo and behold, it didn’t. After getting through to a different member of the airline, I discovered that my bag wasn’t in Brisbane, it never left Sydney! It was finally moved to Brisbane on Friday (current day when I’m writing this) and delivered to my home, without telling me! It was quite a big shock for me to come home from university to discover that my bag had arrived when I hadn’t been informed of anything. Even worse, my bag and its contents were damaged. The booster box I won from the tournament had a slight tear and several things I bought with the intent to keep sealed had their wrapping pierced. However, it’s still a relief to finally have my bag and no longer be dealing with this nightmare travel situation.

Overall, this was without a doubt the most stressful trip I’ve ever had, including all the times I’ve traveled for non-Pokemon reasons! I’m very proud of myself for being able to get any sort of placement at this event, considering that I didn’t own most of my own deck. Hopefully, next time you travel for any reason it’s nowhere near like this one!

Autor: Natalie Millar

Natalie started playing Pokemon in 2013, and has been competing at the highest level since late 2018. She won the first Players Cup and has performed consistently well at Regional and Internationals. In 2022 she won the Brisbane Regionals, and made top 4 in Perth.