Made it to Vegas!

After a harrowing journey we made it to Vegas! I did a quick livestream update video on what our plans are for the next few days. Check it out here!

The harrowing part of the journey had to do with Southwest Airlines. In order to get to Vegas we first had to fly from Hartford to Chicago. The Chicago flight had a two hour delay which would put it on the ground long after the Vegas flight departed.

Oddly Southwest did not cancel the flight or rebook me. When I called customer service the advice I was given was go to the airport because they might figure out a way to get the Chicago plane out on time.

Tracking the flight via Flightaware I noticed that the aircraft for our journey was actually arriving in Hartford on time yet the connecting flight was not leaving for well over an hour after its scheduled departure.

I arrived at the airport just as flight 1424 pulled up to the gate well in advance of the Chicago departure time. At the gate was a ramp agent who directed the exiting flight crew to gate 4 where a new aircraft would continue the flight on to Chicago.

I struck up a conversation with ramp agent and he was very helpful in trying to come up with some options. During the course of the discussion he looked up the reason for the equipment change, citing a maintenance issue on the aircraft. He said that under the circumstances I should be eligible for a hotel voucher and he checked with his supervisor who concurred.

Armed with this information I walked over to the ticket gate and had a conversation with the supervisor. I am never aggressive in these types of interactions especially now given all that Southwest’s employees have been through. Sadly this manager could not have been more condescending to me – asking me why I decided to leave for the airport if I knew the flight wouldn’t make it and telling me my options were to pay for a hotel out of pocket or sleep in the airport.

She then looked up the reason for the delay and said it was an ATC delay due to weather – not maintenance – that was delaying the flight. While that was true for the replacement aircraft, the reason why there was a replacement aircraft was because of a maintenance issue!

She then rebooked my Chicago to Vegas flight for the following day and refused the hotel voucher along with denying me a refund on my “early bird” boarding fee. I ended up with a high “C” boarding number which is the worst possible number to get when boarding a Southwest flight.

But we had to get there and Chicago overnight was the only way to do it. So I booked a hotel room at Midway and got in line to board. When we were walking down the jetway the ramp agent I spoke with earlier along with his supervisor ran up and said when I get to Chicago take it up with the manager there and use their names. They were adamant that this was eligible for a voucher as it was a Southwest logistical issue – not weather – that landed me in this predicament. I really appreciated these employees going that extra mile.

But it all worked out in the end. As we were flying to Chicago my Google alert pinged a delay for that original Chicago to Vegas flight. Sure enough when we arrived it was still there and by luck it happened to be in the next gate over. Somehow it was still there after I got off the plane and the gate agent there was able to get us on right as the door was closing. A win!

It’s clear Southwest is going to need a serious overhaul. Their reliability has gone downhill over the years because they have not made the proper investments in their IT infrastructure. Thankfully they still have a lot of employees (minus the condescending manager) who do want to truly help customers. I hope the company realizes how lucky they are to have these people on the frontlines and equip them with the tools to help them do their jobs better in the future.