Airport Fiascoby Jim

23 Dec 2007
3:12 pm

Sorry for the long post, but this was an eventful and frustrating day… so, hear me out.

The bay area has a few airports, which can be kind of confusing. Until the night before we left for Utah, I thought we were flying out of Oakland — the same airport we’ve used for the last few trips we’ve taken. I had forgotten that the best fares were out of San Francisco Int’l Airport. Justin Bradley was kind enough to drive us to the airport early Thursday morning. I had originally told him what time I wanted to leave based on the distance to Oakland, not San Francisco, but I called him the night before we left to reschedule. I thought that an hour would have been enough time and that we wouldn’t hit traffic that early in the morning.

Well, I was wrong on both accounts. We were a little bit late getting out the door (10 minutes or so) and then we hit traffic. I had planned on being an hour early, but we ended up walking into the airport exactly 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave. They put us in line to wait to check our bags, so by the time we got to the kiosk, we were only 25 minutes early. Unfortunately, the kiosks don’t let you check in if you are less than 30 minutes early, so the agent told us we missed our flight and that we should go call an agent to reschedule our flight.

I sat on hold for a few minutes waiting for someone to answer. The lady said that everything was pretty much full and that things didn’t look good. The best she could do was put me and Angie on a flight that went to Los Angeles, then to Phoenix, and then to Salt Lake City. By the time she took my credit card and booked the ticket, there were no seats left for Angie. I asked if they could switch and put her instead of me (since Angie had a surprise birthday party to attend), but she said we’d probably lose our chance if she tried. She told me to hurry and go to the ticket counter to get our ticket and rush to the gate.

We walked over to the counter and got the attention of an agent and explained what happened. It took a minute to explain what was going on, but they quickly got us ready to go. They checked two of our bags, but the third they forgot. When I mentioned it, they tried to check it too, but it was too late and they had to do a handwritten tag, which worried me a little. They rushed us through security and we hurried to our gate. There wasn’t too much need because the flight was delayed. The agent told me to cut in line and I ended up right in the middle of a family going through security. The mother of the family looked irked and said to me, “I don’t understand how you got in the middle of my family.” I felt really bad as I said, “I’m sorry, they just put me on a flight that is leaving right away.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I just tried to pretend I wasn’t there, which doesn’t work like it used to.

It must have been that the flight was delayed that we were able to get on. They couldn’t put us on a flight that left at 7:30 when we were only 25 minutes early. But at 7:25 they put us on a flight that left at 7:53. I guess that 5 minutes makes quite a difference.

The flight to L.A. left late by about 30 minutes. We landed at about 9:45 and taxied toward the airport. We were parked on the tarmac when the captain told us that our gate was occupied by another plane and that as soon as they push back, we could pull in. He estimated it would be about 10-15 minutes. 20 minutes later, he came back on the P.A. and explained that the plane at our gate was waiting to leave, but that their crew was on a flight that was just arriving so it would only be another 15 minutes or so. Everyone was getting pretty restless. Lots of people were asking the flight attendant what would happen if they don’t get to the gate in time for their connecting flight. Finally, the plane started moving, but we just drove in a circle and stopped again on the tarmac in a strangely familiar place. The captain came on the P.A. a time or two more and told us they were still trying to find us a gate. Supposedly, the gate that was intended for us was vacated, but that they gave it to someone else, so we had to go to another gate. We taxied over to another part of the airport and waited even longer. We spent about an hour and a half on the tarmac and finally got off the plane at 11:20.

I had called my dad a number of times to try and find another way to Salt Lake. He found that there were 3 flights from L.A. to S.L.C. that left before our flight to Phoenix. I wasn’t really excited to go to Phoenix, so I planned on trying to get onto a non-stop as soon as we got into the airport. Well, because we sat on the tarmac so long, we missed the first one, but the next had been delayed, so we had about 40 minutes before it left. I went up to the counter and asked the agent if I could get on the flight. She brushed me off by saying, “No, there are already 11 people on the list and only one person hasn’t checked in.” I asked about the flight that left after 1:00 and she said it was overbooked by 15. I was discouraged after being couped up in the plane for so long, so I didn’t push it. It turns out that there would have been room for Angie and me if I had insisted on getting on the flight. (Dad looked to see who did get on and we should have had more priority if we had been on the standby list.)

We were hungry by now, so we went to get some lunch. Our flight to Phoenix left at 1:35, so we had plenty of time. The next flight to Salt Lake left at 1:04, and I didn’t want to risk missing both, so I decided it would be best to just go to Phoenix because we already had seat assignments and there was no risk of not getting on the flight.

When we got back to the gate, we saw that the flight had been delayed by about 45 minutes, so I called Dad and asked if he thought we should try the S.L.C. 1:04 flight after all. He said it had empty seats and I just barely had enough time to get to the gate. I ran ahead of Angie to get to the gate first (it was in a different terminal) and got in line. When it was my turn, the agent said to me, “Are you on this flight?” “No, but I want to be,” I said. I explained my situation and she quickly took my other tickets and did a bunch of typing on her computer and handed me some new tickets. Angie arrived in plenty of time and when the agent handed us the tickets, we thanked her and hurried to the jetway. The agent took our tickets and closed the doors behind us.

My dad was there to pick us up in Salt Lake, but (understandably) our bags didn’t arrive with us. We went to the lost luggage office and asked about our bags. It was a little strange to explain our situation; we had managed to arrive hours before our bags were even scheduled to arrive. The man at the counter couldn’t give us a reference number because our bags weren’t technically late yet. He tried to look up the bag tag numbers we got when we checked them, but they weren’t showing up in the system. He told us to call later to see if the bags arrived. I had planned on just showing up at the airport when the Phoenix flight was scheduled to come in and take the bags off the carousel, but the weather got pretty bad, so I decided to pick them up in the morning.

I called later in the evening to get an update on my bags, and to my dismay, they could only find one of them in their system. Strangely, it was the handwritten tag that came up. Unfortunately, it was scheduled to go back to San Francisco. The agent sent an urgent note to the Phoenix baggage people to forward the bag to S.L.C. instead. The other two bags that were scanned the regular way didn’t have any information about their whereabouts. We went to bed in borrowed pajamas and hoped for the best.

The next morning, I drove down to the airport with Dad and went to the luggage office. Fortunately, the two bags they couldn’t find in the system were sitting in the storage room. The third one (with the handwritten tag) was nowhere to be found and there was no update on the computer as to its location. The lady helping us created a reference number (now that our bags were officially delayed) and said she’d do what she could to get our bag back. She was actually quite upset that the bag was due to go back to San Francisco because it didn’t make any sense why they would have done that. My brother was flying in at 4 pm, and there was a flight from S.F. that should have arrived just about the same time. It would have been perfect.

Now that I had a ref. number, I could check the status of our “delayed” back online. I checked throughout the day and was a little discouraged to find out that it didn’t get on the flight we wanted it to and that it was scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake at 8 pm. I arranged for delivery and we finally got it Saturday morning at 6:30. The driver knocked on our door and said, “I can’t find your bag, but I’m sure it is in the van.” Mom woke me up and I went out into the freezing cold in just my pajamas and moccasins to dig through all the lost luggage in this guy’s van. Our bag was hiding under two ski bags. We pulled it out and we thanked the driver and I went back to my room and back to sleep.

So, the moral of the story? Use carry-ons when you can. Don’t travel on one of the busiest traveling days of the year. Always put your prescription medication in your carry-on. Also, bring your pajamas and one change of clothes in a carry-on. Remember which airport you’re going to. Leave earlier. Be assertive.

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  1. Kenn North
    8:14 PM on December 25th, 2007

    I don’t know why, but I read this whole post. It goes against my normal blog routine to read more than a paragraph or two. Hilarious story to look back on, not that funny to go through, but you lessons are amusing because the rest of us do those things because we don’t have family who work for an airline. :) Although that didn’t seem to help you much here. Thanks for the story.

  2. Rebecca
    5:03 PM on January 5th, 2008

    Oh, Angie! Oh no! I am so sorry you had to go through that!

    But I am so glad I got to see you in Utah! I love you! Happy 2008!

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