According to the law of averages, on Sunday, February 4, we might have exhausted our year’s worth of first-world problems.
Crummy Boarding Position
8:30 am – On the cab ride from The Rock Boat to the airport, even though we had paid for EarlyBird Checkin ($50), we have boarding passes of A60 and B1 for our flight from Miami to Austin (2.75 hours) and Austin to Houston (1 hour). Using the Southwest Airlines app, I decide to spend $60 to upgrade Sheryl and me to positions in A1-A15. Sheryl gets A4. I get A6. That’s right – we added $110 to the base price of our flight home in pursuit of good seating.
No Place to Sit and Pass the Time
8:45 am – We arrive at the Miami airport, but since our flight is not until 1:45 pm, we can’t tag and check our bags until 9:45 am (four hours before the flight), so we decide to find a place for breakfast. There are slim food choices at the Miami airport, and none of them have places to sit, so we abandon the idea.
Broken Baggage Conveyor Belt
9:15 am – There is a very long line for Southwest Airlines tagged baggage drop-off. The conveyor belt for baggage check-in is broken. Seeing that the line is about a mile long, we get in line with our bags (even though they aren’t tagged yet). At 9:40 am, I leave Sheryl with the four bags, get the tags, and return. We tag our bags, but do not get to the front of the line until 11:00 am. That’s right – it took an hour and forty-five minutes to check our bags.
Slow TSA PreCheck
11:00 am – We enter the TSA PreCheck line, because in theory it’s faster. The line is long and hardly moves. As it turns out, there is only one TSA agent for PreCheck, and that agent has to merge in the Clear passengers. While in line, at 11:15 am, everyone’s phones buzz as there is a tornado warning for the area until 11:30 am. We get through the TSA screening at 11:45 am. That’s right – it took forty-five minutes for TSA PreCheck.
Wrong Boarding Pass Upgrade
11:50 am – Looking at our A4 and A6 boarding passes, we see our flight leaves from Gate 19. We can’t find Gate 19. We ask a gate agent, who notices that our boarding passes are from Austin to Houston, not Miami to Austin. I inadvertently spent $60 to upgrade the 1-hour flight instead of the 2.75-hour flight. We get in line and ask a customer service agent if we can spend another $60 to also upgrade the Miami-Austin flight, but there are no seats available. We fetch the correct boarding passes from my laptop bag and make our way to Gate 11 for our flight to Austin.
Weather Delay Means Missed Connection
12:45 pm – Due to bad weather (i.e., tornado warning), our 1:45 pm departure gets delayed to 3:20 pm, then 3:00 pm, and finally 3:31 pm. This puts our arrival in Austin at 5:42 pm with the connecting flight to Houston departing at 5:45 pm. With only a 3-minute layover, there’s no way we will make that connection, so I get in a Southwest Airlines customer service line that is sixty people long. After twenty-five minutes, with the line still at fifty people, I get out of line and decide to address things as they happen.
Rebooking Excludes Boarding Pass Upgrade
1:45 pm – Southwest alerts me that they have rebooked Sheryl and me on a later flight (7:50 pm) from Austin to Houston. Though we no longer have to worry about missing our connection, our phones show we have boarding passes for A49 and A50. They did not apply our $60 upgrade to A4 and A6. I get in a Southwest Airlines customer service line to get this fixed. There are forty people in this line. Each transaction takes ten to fifteen minutes, but there are two agents serving the single queue. With about fifteen people left ahead of me, the second agent goes on break, so we are down to one agent. I get to the front of the line at 3:00 pm, and the agent tells me there are no openings in A1-15 for our new flight, so I assume I’ll get a refund one day. He prints boarding passes for us for our new flight. That’s right – one hour and fifteen minutes in a customer service line.
Long Wait While Preboarders Board
3:10 pm – We line up to board our flight. There are tons of preboarders, many in wheelchairs, yet only one gate agent to wheel them down the jetway. Sheryl helps out by wheeling passengers to the front while the gate agent takes them down the jetway. Preboarding takes quite a while. At 3:31 pm, we step aboard the plane. That’s right – twenty-one minutes for loading preboarders. The flight is supposed to depart at 3:31 pm, not begin general boarding.
Long Wait to Take Off
4:09 pm – We board and are ready for takeoff. We sit on the runway until 4:39 pm. That’s right – thirty minutes between all aboard and wheels up.
Lost Boarding Passes
7:11 pm - In all my years of flying, this has never happened before. While at our gate in Austin, I realize that I lost the boarding passes that the helpful customer service agent had printed for us. They must have fallen out of my jacket while waiting in Miami. Minutes before boarding in Austin, Sheryl and I load boarding passes (A49 and A50) into our Apple Wallets using the Southwest Airlines app. Crisis averted.
Service Cut-Off Just Rows Ahead
8:13 pm - Our flight from Austin to Houston is not full. With boarding passes of A49 and A50 (not A4 and A6), Sheryl and I are instructed to sit in rows twenty-one or greater to evenly distribute the weight load to allow proper flight. With such a short flight, the flight attendants don’t take drink orders but distribute water instead. After handing out water to the first eighteen rows, the captain asks the flight attendants to take a seat due to upcoming turbulence. Despite my thirst (I just had eaten M&M’s), water service is discontinued.
Things like broken conveyor belts happen, and bad weather happens all the time. It was just unfortunate that nothing seemed to go right on this day. There is some good news: Southwest refunded our $50 EarlyBird Checkin without me even asking. I have requested a $60 refund for the A4/A6 upgrade that didn't happen. There’s also the fact that Sheryl travels for free on my Companion Pass. Despite the problems getting home, the Rock Boat XXIII of 2024 was wonderful.
I look forward to many positive experiences in 2024.
Mishaps are alive in the lab.