The Unfriendly Skies
It all started out as a simple flight from St. Louis to San Francisco for my son’s wedding. Several months ago the wedding date was set for June 1. My oldest grandson was graduating from high school on May 30, so that gave us one day to travel for the wedding.
I was very excited about this trip because it would be the first time in almost six years
that all my children would be together along with my husband’s son. We were going to be together to celebrate my oldest son’s wedding. I wanted to get to our destination with as much time as possible to relax ahead of time, iron our wrinkled clothes that were stuffed in our luggage, and be on top of my game starting with the 5:00 pm rehearsal dinner.
I did a lot of flying when I was employed, but I did my casual flying on Southwest Airlines. They always did a great job of being on time, never lost my luggage, and the employees have been the best. Since we now have a home in Missouri and Arizona, I was looking forward to beginning to pile up the points for flights. On the other hand, Dennis is a road trip person. He loves traveling by car to see what he says we miss between destinations. This trip could have been one of those fun road trips had we not had a graduation that I would not miss for my life. I had Dennis even apply for a Rapid Rewards number so he could also be saving points for future flights.
My family asked why we were taking such an early flight on the 31st. Our itinerary was to fly out of St. Louis at 6:50 am, change planes in Phoenix, and arrive in San Francisco at 11:15 am. We had a rental car scheduled to drive to the wedding destination, which was a 90+ minute drive from the airport. I was willing to do the early flight and changing planes, in order to have this early arrival.
So much for well made plans . . . .
I should have known at 6:00 am at the St. Louis airport that things were not going to happen as planned. We are TSA pre-check, so we got through the security line in no time flat, and made our way to the proper concourse. I love that the airport has rocking chairs around the gate. It was a lovely way to relax as we are waiting for our plane. All of a sudden there is beeping over the loudspeaker and we are told to evacuate the concourse. Really? What’s going on? Hundreds of folks came out of the woodwork making their way out of the concourse. As we waited around about 20 minutes, we were informed by security that we could return. Everything from that point on to boarding the plane was smooth as could be.
We were having a great flight out. It has been a long, long time since I have flown (being married to the king of all road trips), and I was glad to see I no longer have to pay to have a wifi connection. I was well entertained above 10,000’. Now it was time to put our seats back in position, close our tray tables, and prepare for arriving in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport.
As we are getting ready to approach Phoenix, I received a text message on my phone, saying that our flight from Phoenix to San Francisco was not delayed, but cancelled. Cancelled? Why on earth would they cancel a flight? There was no weather issues. Were we the only one who made a reservation on this flight, so they couldn’t afford to send an empty plane? I think not. In fact, another couple across the aisle from us was also transferring to that flight. All I knew is that when the doors to the plane opened, I needed to be right up front to hustle to the Southwest agent to find out how we was going to get to San Francisco.
Do you remember the old Hertz Rent-A-Car commercial where O.J. Simpson is running through the airport, leaping over barricades? Well, that was going to be me. I was going to leap over seats to get off the plane as quickly as possible to find a flight to get us to San Francisco quickly.
As soon as the plane stopped at the gate, I bounded from my seat as folks were slowly unbuckling their seat belts. I quickly made my way up to the front until I got to about row 10 where a fairly large lady in the aisle seat remained seated with her bag and her leg in the aisle to block any further movement. There were gaps before her, but she was not budging, nor would she look at me. I even kind of leaned against her leg thinking that would be uncomfortable, and she would move it and I could get another 5’ forward. I cannot believe I did that, but she didn’t budge. She didn’t look at me. She just kept me blocked. My good manners kicked in and I moved back from her space a few inches and waited. As soon as I got off the plane, I bolted toward a Southwest agent.
I told her my dilemma, and she said she would get us booked on the next available plane. Okay, now we are ticking. Then she looked at me and smiled and said, “We can get you to San Francisco on a flight that arrives at 8:00 pm.” Really? 8:00 pm? It will still be two hours before we could get to the venue once we get our luggage, pick up our car rental, and find our way to Stinson Beach, California.
By this time, my husband has joined me along with the other couple we met on the plane who had the same destination. She said that was all she could do. That was all she could do? I told her very clearly that I was the mother of the groom, rehearsal dinner was at 5:00 pm, and that I did not cancel the flight, her company did. I need them to fix this ASAP. I also suggested that I could “ugly cry” right there in the terminal. You know, the loud crying with snot running out one’s nose, and makeup streaming down the face. Truth be told, I can’t cry much less ugly cry, because I have dry eyes. The only thing that happens when I have to cry is my nose runs slightly. But, on the other hand, this airline agent doesn’t know that. My husband looked at me as if to stop my crying! Be assured, I didn’t scream at her, just stated that it could possibly happen.
So, Miss Southwest Agent, who didn’t seem concerned at all about the situation, said that she could get us to the Oakland airport for 1:45 pm. That will work! I won’t have a lot of time to get ready, but I won’t miss this occasion that I have so much been looking forward to. Sure, rebook us to Oakland.
Then she said, “You are voluntarily separating from your luggage.” What? Are you kidding? The plane just landed. There is NO other plane going to San Francisco for hours. What do you mean that I am “voluntarily separating from my luggage?” She said she cannot guarantee my luggage will get to Oakland because it is scheduled for San Francisco. Wow! Really. I get it if I decided I wanted to change my schedule, but Southwest Airlines, you were the ones who cancelled, not delayed, my flight to San Francisco. When I told her that was unacceptable, she made a phone call and then said she thought she could get our luggage on the plane to Oakland. We were thrilled and thanked her for her help, and proceeded to our new gate for our new destination.
Now as we approach our gate, Dennis needs to call the rental car company and tell them we are now re-routed to Oakland, and will be picking up our car there, but because this is part of the original ticketing, we will be delivering the car back to San Francisco rather than Oakland, and all of a sudden our car rental price more than doubled. We had no choice. At least we got a rental. Then he had to call his son who was flying on Delta to San Francisco. They were arriving within 15 minutes of our original arrival, and we were going to be riding in the rental car together. Sorry, son, you need to find your own way. Actually, that was no problem, as Dennis’s son is a responsible adult who had no problem finding his own transportation.
Now we are happily on a flight to Oakland, and I can sit back and relax. I am so proud of my bounding through airplane skills, and negotiating a new ticket. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, our Oakland flight had a change of planes in Las Vegas. So, we leave the plane, and I check with the agent in the airport the status of our Oakland flight to be sure nothing terrible has happened. Everything seems to be okay, our agent assured us as we told him the story of our flight. I then looked around the airport at all the slot machines. I looked at the agent, and said to him, “With all that has happened today, do you think I should try my luck at the slots?” He laughed and said that was not a good idea, of which I had already known!
Our plane departed for Oakland, and I am a happy camper—that is, until we arrived at the baggage carousel, and there were no bags for us. Dennis immediately went into Southwest Airlines Baggage office at the airport to report our missing bags. The lady asks for our baggage tickets, which I hand over to her, but apparently those numbers are meaningless because they are attached to a flight that got cancelled. She asks if they gave me new tickets, of which I replied they did not. She proceed to say that if they changed the flight, new baggage tickets would have been issued. Now she wants a description of the bags—that’s easy. Then she asks me to name three items in each bag. Shoot. I packed Dennis’ clothes in with my clothes plus clothes to go on to Arizona from San Francisco, but what bags they are in is a mystery. I do remember a couple items, not sure in which bag but they are on top.
Our baggage agent tells us that she cannot locate our bags at all, so she doesn’t know where they might be, but as soon as she locates them, she will call us, and arrange to deliver them to us regardless of which airport they arrive. I am not happy, but it’s the
best we can do for at the moment. I am hoping to hear from her in the next couple hours.
Our rental car was the best thing that happened that day. We took the bus to the car rental center, and, of course, the rental company we were working with had about 30 people ahead of us. Their computers had gone down, so I was told. A lady in front of us pointed out that her husband was in a different line applying for a Fast Break card, and he might get a car faster. I remembered that when I was working and traveling a lot, I had a Fast Break card, so I got in line and asked, and he asked for my ID and ID for Dennis. He proceeded to give us our rental as we bypassed the long line. I’m still not sure we are actually in the Fast Break program, but I am not questioning something good happening.
We proceed to our destination. I was exhausted, and felt so yucky. I had been in the same clothes for more than 12 hours, and I have no clothes to change, no toothpaste or brush, no deodorant. Because we left in the early hours of the day, I had no makeup on, and my hair was not done. I was going to have time when we got the wedding venue. Needless to say, the first thing Dennis did was find a local store to purchase toothpaste, toothbrushes, a hair brush, and deodorant. I took a shower and put back on the clothes I have worn for hours—it was that or I was going to become the “Emperor with No Clothes” which I didn’t think was a good idea.
We had a wonderful time. The dinner was a casual get together with friends and family. Of course, with all this running late stuff, most of the food was gone when we arrived, so once again, no real food was eaten that day. The party helped me forget, for a short
period of time, about the fact I had no luggage and the wedding was just hours away.
At 6:30 Saturday morning, we woke up, and proceeded to go to the living room of the cabin/house where we were staying, because the internet connection was strong there, and my cell phone signal was practically nonexistent. I called Southwest Airlines, and said that no one had called us about our luggage, and I am now in a panic because my son’s wedding is quickly approaching. The customer service lady said that she sees that the luggage is in the San Francisco location. I was amazed that no one had called me—my phone number is even on the luggage tags. This agent tried to call baggage claims twice and got no answer, so she gave me their direct line and told me to keep calling until they picked up. Now my work is ahead of me. Eventually, I am on the phone with baggage claims and told her that we were going to drive down to get our bags because we needed them immediately. She assured me NOT to do that. They use Uber and Lyft to deliver the bags, and those drivers are really good, and she will get the bags to us no later than 9:30 am, so I go back to sleep for a short time more, and Dennis goes to the main house where the address matches what we gave baggage claim. At 9:30 am, there is no sign of our luggage. I called back to San Francisco baggage claim. Now I am getting frantic. We are out in a resort area, no stores, no way to rebuy clothing for a wedding. The agent put me on hold and comes back to announce that our bags are still at the airport, that the Uber or Lyft driver came and then declined the delivery.
Okay, I hope it is alright if I lose it by this point, because I did. I was so angry. I asked why they didn’t call me when the driver refused the call (or did they really call for a delivery). I said that we were going to come down there to get our bags. Now the lady is telling me to wait, and put me on hold again. She comes back and says they found a new delivery option but the driver cannot pick up our luggage until 11:00 am. I am so angry. I asked her what guarantee that was when early in the morning the lady guaranteed me that I would have my luggage by 9:30 am, and she knew it was a 90 to 120 minute drive depending on the traffic. They didn’t bother to call the first time—why could I believe them this time? Then I got emphatic and told them to hold the luggage there and we were personally coming to retrieve it.
We drove down to San Francisco on a busy Saturday and got to the airport, where our luggage was delivered to the trunk of our rental car. We proceeded to find a place to get breakfast since we hadn’t really had a meal in 24 hours. Then we took the beautiful windy California Highway 1 up the coast to the location of the wedding.
Now we have clothes that are extremely wrinkled. I was wearing clothes that have been on my body for well over 24 hours. It is time for us to both shower and get dressed. Of course, I also had hair and makeup to do. We kind of delayed the photo session, but I couldn’t go any faster than I had.
It wasn’t until the reception started that I was able to let it all go and have a great time. I did have a great time, and the people were so much fun.
I am not sure I can ever get my husband back on a Southwest Airlines flight. He was appalled at how much they didn’t care that our luggage was lost. We also asked why our flight was cancelled and they said that Air Traffic Control cancelled our flight. Are there any airline workers reading this? I am having a hard time believing that Air Traffic Control cancelled a flight. Every other flight got to San Francisco on time that day, except for ours. What’s with that? My favorite airline has let me down big time. From now on, I will take direct flights, so I never have to go through four airports in one day, pay more than double for my rental car, and go without clothes for hours on end.
There are things I need to say about my weekend. I loved seeing all my children together. I couldn’t be more proud of them. The wedding was a spectacular event, and the wedding party couldn’t have been more gorgeous — of course, it was made up of the groom’s brothers (my sons) and the brides sisters. The people were friendly—this was no wedding where you sit on one side and people you don’t sit on another. Apparently, I adopted 3 adult children that day (Ha!). I have no idea what kind of stories my son told about me that three people asked me to adopt them. It was rather comical. I saw one of my sons on the dance floor who I have never see dance before, and he was having a great time! I always love when people come up to me and tell me what a great person my son is, and how much their friendship means. Maybe that happens at weddings of older people, because in the last 18 months, two of my sons got married, and that was the response I received from their friends. I must say it feels pretty good. The venue, Willow Camp Estate in Stinson Beach, CA, was between the Pacific Ocean and Muir Woods, which is the start of big crazy trees like in the Redwood Forest. Everyone was welcoming of everyone. I wore my new wedding clothes and then a few hours later, I got comfortable in my favorite jeans and sweater, and nobody cared!
We are back at our home in Arizona now. I am a bit under the weather today—I think it was the stress of my Southwest Airlines mess and a lack of a good of a good night’s sleep, which probably was due to the first reason.
I hope when you take the friendly skies, you will have a better experience than we had. I hope your airlines and your airline agents will care and not give false sympathy. I hate the “I know how upset you must be.” Really? First of all, is it required to be upset, because she said you “must” be. If you work in customer service, please don’t use that line. A better response is, “I am really sorry this happened. Let me do everything I can to rectify it. Is there anything we can do to help you want to fly with us again?” This flight was way more money than I wanted to spend for the kind of aggravation I received. Cheap flights like on Allegiant Airlines can be aggravating, but they are cheap, and you get what you pay for. Someone from Southwest Airlines should have followed up with a phone call to find out how things went. No phone call, no contact. It makes me think they really don’t care that I fly their airline over another. I might fly them again, but flying between St. Louis and Phoenix gives me a lot of options, and I may have to look into those.
Here are a few photos of the beauty of the wedding venue.