Florida was beautiful. My sister and I had a great time strolling along the beach – okay, striding along the beach; she never strolls. We drove up to Disneyworld and visited Epcot Center and MGM Studios. For late lunch, we ate at that yummy French restaurant in Epcot, and had our favorite item, French Onion Soup. We also had time to tour some of the other sites, such as the Naples Zoo and the Seminole Hard Rock Café and Casino. Things were going fine, until the day we were scheduled to return home.
At the Ft Meyers – Naples airport, we were interviewed by the local television station regarding the cost for extra baggage airlines were charging. We were pleased to be interviewed, since we knew people in the area and realized they would have a great time watching us on television that evening. We bragged about Southwest Airlines’ decision to not follow the herd, and allow a second bag for free. We truthfully expressed our pleasure with the service we had received from Southwest, making it our favorite airline. The gods must have been laughing that day. Our organized plans were about to be turned upside down.
The weather had turned cold in Florida, and even colder in other parts of the country. Our plane was delayed flying out because of bad weather in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Chicago. When we finally boarded and our plane soared into the sky, we reminisced about the great trip we’d had. Bump! Bad air pocket and a dip interrupted our conversation. The jet shuddered slightly getting its wings back. That put a temporary halt on beverage and snack service, so we relaxed and watched a movie on my portable DVD player. Each time the plane bumped, the movie would back up or restart. It kept us entertained a bit longer.
Because we were going to be cutting it close with the change in planes at Midway in Chicago, we asked the flight attendant if she would please notify Southwest at Midway that we were on our way in, and if they could hold the plane so we did not miss them. Passengers were told in a snotty voice that it was not the airline’s problem if we were late. Needless to say, this was not received in a friendly fashion. Was the attendant hiding horns and a tail? I believe so. The crew was out of Chicago, and as far as they were concerned, we were dirt on the sidewalk.
As soon as we could deplane, we raced to our gates. My sister was headed to Burbank, CA, and I was scheduled to go through Las Vegas and then to Reno, NV. My heart went thump when I was told the plane had not arrived yet, due to the weather. Luggage was being held for transfer to that plane. I was not looking forward to spending the night in Chicago with light-weight clothing. I asked if it was safe to go to the snack bar for something to eat, and was assured it was no problem, as the plane would have to land, get to the gate, deplane, get cleaned, and then start loading. An announcement would be made in that section of the airport regarding the plane’s arrival and boarding status.
My sister had time before her flight boarded, also. We got sandwiches and coffee, and sat midway between the two gates enjoying the meal and waiting for the announcement. I checked with the staff at the counter a couple of times, but was told there was no update. After saying “‘later” to my sister, I walked back down to my gate. There was a throng of angry people by the check-in counter. “Great,” I thought to myself, “must be another delay.” Edging in, I listened to the conversation. The plane was gone. Left. Hasta la vista, baby.
It seems that another plane was moved to the gate and anyone in the area was boarded. The “announcement” was the representative telling people in the area what was happening. Those of us left behind were told Chicago-Midway was too big of an airport to make announcements over the air. As a group, we were told we would have to figure it out ourselves. In the baggage section were phones that hooked up with hotels we could go to at our own cost, and then we could contact the airlines the next day to schedule a flight. There was no guarantee that credit would be given for the missed flight, since we should have stayed in the seating area.
I waded through to the front of the line and requested a supervisor. I calmly explained our situation; that when more than fifteen people, with more still showing up, miss a flight because of misrepresentation from the airline’s staff, it is not the passengers’ problem. Waving a vague circle towards all the people around me, I asked if there was a flight going to Las Vegas, and how we could get reservations for points beyond. At first I got glares from the supervisor, but she soon realized the others were calming down as I pointed out a not-perfect resolution, but a resolution none the less. There was a plane leaving shortly for Las Vegas. We were directed to different counters to have connecting flights confirmed, though we would have to get the actual boarding pass in Las Vegas the next day. She took care of my boarding pass for the pending flight, and confirmed a reservation on the first flight to Reno from Las Vegas this next morning.
Pulling out my cell phone to call home about the change in plans, I discovered the battery was dead. The charger, of course, was in my luggage, which was already on the way to Las Vegas. Digging out my credit card for the pay phone call, I left a message that I would stay at the airport in Las Vegas overnight, and arrive in Reno about 7 the next morning. Just as we lined up to board the plane, my phone rang. My husband spoke quickly, as there was just enough juice for a quick discussion. He had reached my brother in Las Vegas. His plans had changed, so he was home, and would pick me up at the airport, and bring me back the next morning.
The flight to Las Vegas was uneventful; we actually landed a bit early. After deplaning, I headed toward baggage claim to meet my brother. I settled in the car, and as he drove out of the parking lot, noticed the needle on the “E.” “The way this day has gone,” I said, “you had better stop at the first gas station you see.” At least that was one problem resolved. We enjoyed a quick visit and I crashed in his guest room. My nephew and sister-in-law were already asleep, so I missed seeing them.
A few hours later, we were awake and back on the road to the airport. I got my boarding pass with no problem, and relaxed in my seat with a cup of coffee. Less than an hour later I was in Reno. My luggage was in a secure area, I was told. I was pointed to a room on the other side of the carousel. Spotting one bag, I claimed it, but did not see the other. After some searching, I found it behind and beneath a stack of others. I will admit I had some doubts for a moment. It turned out that one day of travel hell was all I was scheduled for. My husband was out front, and traffic was minimal. The drive home was uneventful and enjoyable.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the airlines, but never received a reply. Since I generally have great experiences in traveling, I did not pursue it. Perhaps all the bad vibes were wrapped up in one occasion. I can handle that.
Based on personal experience of the author