Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, January 1, 2016

You Are Not Free To Move About The Country.

First of all, Happy New Year!  My campaign to have the holidays canceled was unsuccessful once again, yet we somehow managed to survive them anyway.  We even put up a tree, even if all we managed to put on it were lights.  (No, there's no such thing as a Buddhist Christmas tree.)  

Secondly, we flew out to Phoenix on Christmas morning to spend the holidays with my parents and my sister.  We almost didn't get home again.  Somehow, you don't expect flights to be canceled on a clear brisk day when the wind is blowing but there's nary a cloud in the sky.  But it does happen, and when it does happen it can be incredibly hard to get where you were going.

We were flying Southwest Airlines, like usual.  Besides not charging for checked bags, Southwest Airlines is about the only airline that has A Policy about what to do if you're a person of size, and you don't fit comfortably into one of their seats (Southwest also has the smallest seats in the industry, which is probably not a coincidence).  If an airline doesn't have A Policy, you might get grabbed out of line, embarrassed in front of 300 of your closest friends and forced to buy another ticket if you want to get on the airplane.  Or you might not.  It's like Russian roulette.  But Southwest has A Policy, we know what it is, and so we always buy three seats together when the two of us travel.  That way we have a whole row to ourselves, nobody's smushed up against us, we don't bother anyone and nobody bothers us.  They usually preboard us, the flight attendants are pretty nice, and if you're incredibly stressed out by air travel the way I am, nice flight attendants become a necessity.  So what I'm saying is, we fly Southwest Airlines all the time.  It's pretty unusual for us to fly any other airline, as a matter of fact.

We were supposed to fly back to Dallas on Monday night, the 28th. Our flight was delayed, but that's not at all unusual coming out of Phoenix.  So we checked in and we got snacks and we sat at the gate, reading books and so on, for quite a while before we began to realize that people from our flight were all starting to line up behind the check-in desk. It happened that we overheard one woman say that when your flight is canceled, you should call the customer service line because they could sometimes help you faster than the people at the actual airport.  Which was the first we heard anything about our flight being canceled, as there was no official announcement of any kind and nobody bothered to put up a sign or anything else. Honestly, if it hadn't been for that lady, we'd probably still be sitting in Phoenix wondering what in hell happened.  

What happened was, we got "timed out."  There was a big snowstorm back east someplace, and a number of canceled and delayed flights started a domino effect that started to affect flights that weren't even in the area.  Late flights pushed later flights to even later than that, until the crews that were supposed to work those flights literally ran out of time.  Pilots and flight attendants can't work more than a certain number of hours for safety reasons, and our flight ran out of hours.  So did another one right across the jetway, and about 300 more across the country.  

This is where I got my great lesson in how not to talk to airline personnel, courtesy of the lady behind me.  Look, getting kicked off an airplane is nobody's greatest moment, but this lady--I am not kidding, if she was going to be kicked off an airplane, then by God, everyone for miles was going to know about it and about how personally wronged she had been by the entire situation.  She wasn't even technically talking to me--she was talking to anybody and everybody in the immediate vicinity, as far as I could tell--and I still almost turned around and told her to shut up.  Well, I didn't.  Instead I was as nice as I could possibly be to the airline lady when I finally got up to the check-in desk.  If I had to deal with more than one Lady Behind Me in a shift, I'd have walked off the job, waved off my severance pay and activated the emergency slide on the way out--unless that's already been done, that is.  Call me crazy, but I just sort of figured we probably had a better chance of getting on a quicker flight home if we didn't piss off the person who was supposed to be helping us.

Anyway, when we finally did get to the check-in desk, we discovered that it's not exactly easy to rebook 250 people onto new flights with as full as airplanes get these days.  And just because you have a photo ID, can get through TSA and have money to pay for a ticket doesn't necessarily mean you are going anywhere.  There were no flights to Dallas with any available seats that night or the following day.  The flight they finally did get us on went from Phoenix to San Diego and then turned around and went to Dallas.  There wasn't even anything direct.  The airline lady checked Austin and Oklahoma City and even Tulsa, for heaven's sake.  She couldn't get us to any of them.  The best they could do was Dallas two days later.  

So that was two more nights in a hotel room that we hadn't planned on, to say nothing of two more days' worth of meals and incidentals and Star Wars tickets (okay, that last thing wasn't technically a necessity, but hotel rooms do get boring after a while.)  Two days I didn't get paid for, either.  And two days of our cats wondering where in hell we'd disappeared to (luckily, our pet sitter was still available and could still come by and check on them).  Southwest hasn't offered us anything by way of compensation, but I'm going to send them a nice letter with the hotel bill attached and explain that really, it would be nice of them to offer us something.

One thing's for sure--no more night flights.  I'm only ever booking morning flights in the future, to make sure there's time to recover if something goes wrong.

Last thing: Huge thanks to the parents, who drove us back and forth to the airport multiple times, let us use their washing machine and went to the movie with us. And kudos to Edith, the Baggage Supervisor at Sky Harbor Airport.  She was in charge of getting our bags back to us, which evidently meant searching some 500 bags by hand and only bringing up the right ones, variously described as, "It's blue." "It's medium sized."  "It has wheels."  Thank you, Edith.  And thanks to the lady at the check-in desk, whose name I never got but who had to deal with The Lady Behind Me after she dealt with me.  Sorry about that, check-in desk lady.  

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