It was bound to happen. I didn’t know when or with whom, but it finally happened. I don’t travel much, not in comparison to others I know, so I figured my day would come one day. And it finally arrived.
The day I was ticked off at Southwest Airlines.
Honestly I was shocked when it did happen because Southwest Airlines has been such a great partner to fly with for years and years. Then I learned (too late, I suppose) that Southwest married with AirTran at some point, and that’s where the honeymoon ended for consumers. But I suppose like with any merger, there are birthing pains and I was caught in a rather significant cramp.
I am unsure if SW had more flights to my destination in Florida before the merger, but on the dates I traveled only four a day were available. Two at dinner and two at the crack of dawn. We missed the first pre-dawn flight because curbside check-in was horrifically understaffed for the huge onslaught of travelers. So when the single worker finally got to my family 45 minutes after lining up, he informed us that we missed the checkin window by less than 90 seconds. So we will have to reschedule our travel plans.
In the normal queue now, and another 40 minutes the clerk slaps a “late check” flag on our luggage. More on that later. All seven bags weighed fewer than 50 pounds so we were breathing a sigh of relief after the clerk, who bore more than a passing resemblance to the late Vince Lombardy, added us to the next flight out in under an hour. Carry on bags slung, eyes bleary, and checked bags out of sight, we trudged to the security check posts where TSA relived us of anything metal or liquid they deemed unworthy of being 20,000 feet in the air. I peered through glazed over eyes seeking a Starbucks. My family in tow.
We make the flight, very much on time and settle into our seats certain our flight would be un eventful. It was. We land at the layover city and find more family to join us in our merry adventure. They inform us that our flights need not wait until dinner time from here. We are now on an earlier flight that will get us to Florida not at 7:00 or later, but instead at about 2-3 o’clock. We clap our hands with delight. Yes. We actually clapped. Remember, we are somewhat delirious at this point and a little punchy.
We arrive in Florida a bit the worse for wear and go to baggage claim. This is where the fun begins.
Off to the lost luggage room where a beleaguered looking customer service rep gives us the side eye. We explain that our bags are missing and are curious as to when they will arrive. The lost luggage CSR informs us that according to our information the bags were “late check” and they are adamant about that. But she chose not to explain what that has to do with our bags. She simply repeats the mantra “Late check, late check, LATE CHECK” as if we are deaf and repetition at ever increasing volumes will clarify the issue. Unfortunately it did not. So we continue to press, and she still refuses to explain what late check actually means. It is at this point that decorum finally fails and the CSR informs us that we are told to “…leave her area… Or shall I call security?”
By now we are shaking with anger and unsure of what our next steps should be. So we challenged her on her request for security and not long after that two policemen and her boss arrive. By this time everyone’s arms are waving in the air and no one is able to keep calm. The police do exactly what they are supposed to do they separate the two quarreling parties and they meet with us individually to try and solve the problem. It is at this point that the police officer and the CSR’s supervisor realize that we as the customers are actually in the right and the CSR was wrong. Everyone, return to your corners.
Two hours later our luggage finally arrives and we are off to pick up our rental car to go to the hotel. It’s a complete shame that we had to go through such lengths just to get our luggage back and all because the original person back home decided to put a “late check” on our bags.
I can’t say that flying in airplanes is supposed to be painful but it certainly seems that in recent months and years that’s exactly how the airlines want it. All I can say now is that this strengthens my argument even more strongly than ever before: if you gotta get there, take a train!