Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Nightmare Ride Home

I am so excited for Cami to sit down and tell me all about her trip to Mexico, but I can't seem to pin her down.  It's like she's so excited to be home that she just can't stop sleeping or something.   

I've told her that tomorrow is the day that she sits down with us and tells us all about her trip.  Until then, I thought I'd capture the details of her ride home.  You know, so we can laugh about it someday.....


The Whole Story

It all started out on early Thursday morning when my dad dropped her off at the Salt Lake City airport.  She was there nice and early for her 8:30am flight, which the Southwest website said was set to depart on time.  After two weeks away from home, she was quite excited to be on her way.  

Shortly after arriving to the gate, she learned that her flight was to be delayed because of bad weather in Chicago, the city of her stopover.   At that point, Glen got on the phone with Southwest and asked them if they could put her on another flight through another city.  Southwest emphatically insisted that she was better off staying on her scheduled flight and that everything in Chicago was going to be fine very soon.  


20/20 hindsight being what it is, we are kicking ourselves now for not preventing the whole fiasco that was her ride home right here.  Had we done more research on the actual weather issues in Chicago, we certainly would have been much more insistent about switching her.  As it was, Glen was busy at work and I was at the church in the middle of a project, so we naively agreed to let her stay on her flights.  

It all went downhill quickly from there....very downhill!

A couple hours past her scheduled departure time, she sent us a text that she was finally taking off.   Her connecting flight was delayed as well, so it didn't appear that there was going to be any issues. We were mistakenly relieved at this point and thought that everything was hunky dory as can be and that Cami would be home in a few short hours....a little later than we expected, but still soon. 

The next contact I had from her was a couple hours later when she called in a somewhat alarmed state from the tarmac in MILWAUKEE!  Apparently Southwest didn't really check the weather very well in Chicago either and ended up diverting the plane to a whole different state where Cami ended up spending the next couple of hours, part of it circling the Milwaukee airport.  Eventually she made it to Chicago, but by that time she had long missed her connection flight back home.    

Thus began the phone calls and the line waiting part of her trip home.

While Cami was waiting in monstrously long lines trying to talk to people, I was spending hours on the phone with Southwest trying to make arrangements for her to come home.  Hold times with Southwest were literally 45 minutes at minimum and 1-1/2 hours at its worst.  Sometimes we could only get a busy signal.   

First she had a flight out for 9:00pm, which around 11:00pm was canceled.   She immediately got in line again to reschedule, while I called.  Knowing that there was no getting around the fact that my sixteen-year-old daughter was spending the night at the airport, this was about when I started to have a meltdown.  I think I cried every single time I talked to Southwest after that. 

 Eventually they booked her on a flight that left at 7:50am and then escorted her to a room for unaccompanied minors to spend the night.  

I breathed a tad bit easier knowing that she wasn't sleeping out in the open with the rest of Chicago Midway, but apparently it wasn't all that restful of a place.  At least not according to the messages she was sending to her friends. 

After a very long night with very little sleep, she called me again around 6:00am from her departure gate.   Shortly thereafter I refreshed the Southwest website and learned that her flight was once again canceled.

I melted again, then jumped into action.

Cami immediately got back in line behind the hundreds of other Southwest customers trying to get home and I got back on the phone.  By this time  I was so exhausted and worried that the poor woman who eventually answered the phone had to put up with a very emotional mama bear.  I will say that I did not take it well when they told me that the earliest flight out was going to be Monday.

Somehow though she found one spot left on a 12:30pm flight out.  She told me that she needed  supervisor approval to make it official  and to hold on just a minute.  A couple seconds later, she got back on the phone and said that she didn't know why the website let her do it without the supervisor, but somehow it let her give Cami that last slot on the plane.   She told me several times how surprised and pleased she was that she was able to do that without a supervisor.  She called it lucky, I called it divine intervention.

Cami waited another hour or two in the line (about 4 hours total) and got her boarding pass for the 12:30pm flight and got put on standby for an 11:00am flight.     I told her to go with whichever one left first.  Finally around 1:30pm she sent the note that she was finally on board the 12:30 flight and moving away from the gate!  She had a quick stopover in Columbus and by 5:30pm she was at BWI where I was more than happy to drive the extra distance to get her home.

It was nearly 36 hours after her ride home began, but we are absolutely thrilled to have her home again!!!!!!



Come to find out later, according to this article Southwest had canceled over 130 flights over the course of Thursday and Friday and EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT until noon on Friday.  Cami was literally among the first to leave Chicago Midway.

We're still waiting for her luggage (that includes her calculus homework) to arrive to her originally scheduled arrival airport (Dulles).  In the meantime she is one happy camper to be back home.  She slept 14-hours last night and honestly handled the whole nightmarish situation  more maturely than her own mother.

She did shower immediately upon walking in the door, but didn't even bother waiting for a
clean pillowcase or sheets to be put on her bed before she sacked out!



Never fly through Chicago.

(Someone at Southwest actually gave me this advice and said she would never put a child on a flight that connected through Chicago )


1 comment:

Kim said...

So glad she's home safe. Think what a story she'll have to tell her children (I had to fly uphill, both ways)! And the advice about Chicago--yep. I've only flown through there twice, both during the summer, and both times the plane was delayed because of weather.

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