Fade to Gray: Tak­ing a flight

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - John Gray

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]

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