I have gotten several requests from readers to write about my trip from hell home from Vegas. I admit that I have a policy not to write when I’m mad. Nothing good comes from writing in anger. So it has taken a while to find the humor in our travel experience. The short version is that we experienced reservation changes, mechanical failure, incompetent or unhelpful gate agents, medical issues, over booking, luggage and weather. I was looking for locusts (pestilence) by the time we got home. Read more if you want the specifics.
I booked our flights to Vegas about four months in advance because I wanted to connect in Dallas and have my mother join us on the connecting flight to and from Vegas. She hasn’t flown much in the past 15 years, so we wanted to make sure she was comfortable. We encountered the usual delays and gate changes on the flight to Vegas, but things went relatively smoothly. The night before our return home, I pulled our updated schedule and saw that American Airlines (there, I’ve gone and named names!) had moved Gene, Danielle and I to a different flight than Mom. How is that possible without a phone call? We decided to arrive at the airport at 8:00 a.m. in plenty of time to fix this.
Step 1. The helpful agent trying to move the line along tells me that I have to check in on a computer. I explain the issue and he helpfully tells me that it will cost $75/person for us to move back to our original flight. I’m not paying.
Step 2. The agent checking our luggage says she can’t help me, but to check with the gate agent.
Step 3. The gate agent tells me they aren’t working my flight yet and to come back an hour before the flight. I stand my ground and explain the circumstances, but since I don’t have a copy of my original flight schedule on me, she says it will be $75/person, and the flight is full, so not likely to happen. Mom states that she is a big girl and can take the flight on her own. We aren’t happy, but this will at least get her into DFW at a reasonable time. We wave to Mom as she gets on her plane. She is amazed to sit down and have a vacant seat beside her, in front of her, and several more on the plane. So much for a full flight.
Step 4. My phone rings and I start getting notices that our 1:10 flight is delayed. It continues to ring with delay notices until I get a message that we will now miss our connecting flight to Iowa and an agent would be calling me. No agent called. Ever.
Step 5. At 2:00 we find a helpful gate agent who looks in the computer and tells us that due to mechanical issues, we have been rebooked through Denver on a 3:40 p.m. United flight, and will get home about midnight. I sigh and say, “Thank you. This way I won’t miss chemo tomorrow.” I’m being nice. It isn’t the gate agent’s fault. The agent gives us new tickets and tells us that she cannot assign seats for United and that we should go to the United terminal and get the gate agent to give us seat assignments. She says they will attempt to find our luggage and move it to the United flight.
Step 6. We find our United gate and I approach the counter for seat assignments. The helpful agent told us he wasn’t working our flight yet. Being practically bald is not helping me today. An hour later, I approached the counter and the agent told me the flight was full and they didn’t have seats for us. Would I like to go back to American or wait to see if they had some no shows? At this point, someone in our party decided to be a poor sport. I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t Gene and it wasn’t me. I start laughing because there doesn’t seem to be anything else to do. When no seats are available, we are told to go back to American because, “This is their problem not ours.” We ask about our luggage. They tell us it is going to Denver without us.
Step 7. 4:00 p.m. Guess who is at the gate? The agent who sent us to United. She looks at us and says that we need to wait until she gets the flight at the gate out of the gate area. She does a double take. “Aren’t you the ones I sent to another airline?” Yep. That’s us. We tell her that there weren’t any seats for us. She promises to pursue it with her supervisor and asks if we would like to spend the night in Vegas or DFW. One of our disgruntled passengers lays her head on the counter and pouts. There are heavy sighs coming from her. We are booked on the 6:00 p.m. flight to DFW and told we will get a room voucher from the gate agent when we arrive. She hands us a $36 food voucher for our inconvenience. I just laugh. Gene calls and starts rescheduling his patients for the next day. The cancer clinic is closed, so I will have to call in the morning. Someone is busy texting her displeasure to the world.
Step 8. We board our plane and sigh in relief. Not so fast! I notice the pilot talking to a stewardess and she is pointing to a passenger. Oh boy. The pilot walks to a seat a few rows behind us and has a discussion with a passenger. He then walks to the front of the plane and makes an announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen. I apologize for the delay, but we have a passenger experiencing medical issues and we are waiting for the paramedics.” Thirty minutes later, the paramedics have wheeled the passenger from the plan. Announcement #2. “We thank you for your patience. But now we are without a ground crew and it will be a few minutes before we can get a push back from the gate.” Super.
Step 9. We land at DFW at 11:00 p.m. No restaurants are open so the voucher does us no good. The gate agent is very helpful and hands us vouchers for two discounted rooms at a nearby hotel. $69 for each room. We don’t care. We need sleep. She calls the hotel and tells us to go out to the baggage claim and walk outside and wait for the shuttle. Things are looking up. A free shuttle! We wait and wait and wait. Gene finds an American employee who says, you need to go downstairs to find the hotel shuttles. Super. We go downstairs and there is no one there. It is now 11:40. We decide to call the hotel on the shuttle phone, but the number has been disconnected. We decided to get a cab. There are no more cabs because the last flight for the day came in about 40 minutes ago. Gene finds another employee who calls a cab for us.
Step 10. The cabbie asks which hotel we are going to. North or South. We don’t know. We show him the address. I figure this isn’t going to end well. He tells us there is a $27.50 minimum for any ride out of the airport. We don’t care at this point. We are at the correct hotel. Someone is surly to the hotel clerk. Someone needs her nap. We kiss the beds. We can’t sleep.
Day 2. Step 11. Back at the airport. I get a pat down by TSA. I’m still extremely sore and oozing from radiation. I ask the agent to be VERY careful. She is. We sit at the gate and I stare at my $36 food credit. It seems like such a waste not to use it. I tell Gene I’m going to Starbucks to get us coffee. The girl at the counter says they accept the voucher but she can’t give me change back. She suggests I stock up. Danielle and I buy every granola bar in their counter, three cups of coffee, a package of almonds, a package of pretzels, and three brownies. The total . . . $35.40. Bingo! I’m happy. I take my grocery sack back to the gate and grin from ear to ear. Gene laughs. My phone rings. Flight delay. I just laugh and tell Gene we better not tell the disgruntled one. She is scary. We wait until she asks why we aren’t boarding. The disappointment requires her to send multiple text messages. I call the cancer center and schedule my chemo for later in the day. I tell them that if I don’t show up, start without me!
Step 12. We land in Cedar Rapids in a violent storm. We taxi to within sight of the terminal and we hear the pilot (I kid you not) say, “Unfortunately the ground crew is not allowed to work when there is lightening in the vicinity, so we will park over here until the storm passes.” Somebody groans. I snicker. All I have to look forward to is chemo, so I don’t care.
Step 13. 15 minutes later, we are allowed to proceed to the terminal and exit the plane. We are all making bets about our luggage at this point. We go to the lost luggage counter and explain what happened. The agent asks how many bags we have and we say “three.” He looks hesitant and says, “Let’s go see what we have.” Oh heck. Is it a bad thing to pray that if there is a lost bag it be mine? Thankfully, we find all three bags. Two have flown United. One has flown American. All arrived the night before.
That is how it takes 36 hours to travel from Vegas to Iowa. When people ask what happened, I reply, “everything.” I received multiple congratulations when I showed up at chemo. I was the last patient to leave the building.