Fade to Gray: Taking a flight
Once a year my wife and I take a trip to Las Vegas because we love lying around the pool during the day and seeing fun shows at night.
In the past decade we’ve seen Celine, J-Lo, Shania Twain, David Copperfield, Chris Angel, Penn and Teller, and a half-dozen others. The hotel, weather and food are always great; it’s just getting to and from the western part of the country that’s always a nightmare. You tell yourself this year will be different and then it’s not.
Join me now as I recount what just happened this time around, I think you’ll enjoy my misery.
Two days before Thanksgiving the wife and I decide we will go to Vegas the second week in June and buy our airline tickets on Southwest. I have points for most of it so fortunately I’m not spending a lot of cash out of pocket. I immediately forget about the trip because it’s still 2018 and I have other things to worry about like how much stuffing to eat on Thanksgiving and my Christmas shopping.
Jump ahead to early 2019 and the wife and I have a meeting at the kitchen table to discuss what shows we want to see this time in sin city. Lady Gaga is playing when we are there but she wants about $500 for a single ticket (not even great seats) and I decide we can just watch “A Star is Born” on cable TV for free.
Since we’re skipping Gaga we decide to see two Cirque du Soleil shows instead. In fact we buy the two tickets to two shows, four tickets total, for less than one ticket to Lady Gaga. So everything is fine until I got the email.
About three weeks before our trip, Southwest lets me know that because they, like every airline, have had to ground some of those planes that crashed recently they may have some delays in the weeks ahead. They tell me if I want to change my flights I can do so without penalty.
Will my flight be one of those delayed or cancelled? I call the 800 number and sit on hold to talk to Southwest about it.
A nice lady tells me there’s no way to predict what will happen but my flight to Vegas is late in the day and the later you fly the more likely you’ll have an issue. So, we change our flight to the first one out of Albany at 6:05 a.m. My plane will stop in Chicago but I don’t even have to get off. Great.
The day before our flight my wife sets the alarm for 6:05 a.m. to “check in.” We’ve paid an extra $50 for the “early bird” but there’s a problem. It allows her to check in but not me. It says I have to go to the counter at the airport. I drive to the airport and wait in line only to find out my flight didn’t transfer over when they changed it for me.
They fix it, but I’ve lost my early bird spot. They tell me to call and ask for a refund on that portion of what I paid, and I do.
The next morning at 6:05 a.m. we fly to Chicago and are immediately told to get off the plane even though we’re not supposed to. They put us on a different jet and tell us we are now leaving one hour late to Vegas screwing up my ride I had picking us up at the airport there.
We get to Las Vegas and have a great time; it’s sunny and 98 every day. Performers with Cirque bend in ways that would put me in the hospital. My wife eats a bag of peanut M&M’s from the mini-bar back in our room, and I learn later they charged me $19 dollars.
I immediately experience stroke-like symptoms.
Three days later we fly home. After landing in Chicago we have to change gates and planes twice. We are now an hour late (again) getting back home at 2 a.m. The Wi-Fi doesn’t work on most of the flight, and a woman sitting directly behind us talks the entire 5 hours of the trip without taking a single breath.
I pray for her husband and children.
My wife calls Southwest the next day and sits on hold 47 minutes. A representative gets a manager and eventually they agree since both legs of our trip were screwed up we should get two vouchers for a partial refund. It’s about 25% of what we spent.
We vowed not to fly Southwest again next year but now we have these vouchers so it looks like we’ll give it another try.
I’m not mad at any of the Southwest employees we encountered along the way because they were all nice and they got stuck switching planes with the rest of us. I immediately go to Walmart and buy a bag of peanut M&M’s, and they cost a dollar. Just for kicks I try to put my leg behind my head like the guy in the Cirque show and lose consciousness.
I wake up covered in candy and write this column.
The end. John Gray is a news anchor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Channel 10. His column is published every Wednesday. Email him at [email protected]