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My Flight to Midwinter

So I was that person whose luggage went missing, before conference. Awful timing, too: they took a bunch of pictures at the Emerging Leaders meeting, where I was wearing a t-shirt (only mostly covered by a cardigan) and dirty jeans. I even made it on Librarian Wardrobe, I think as a cautionary tale. ;)

But let’s go back a bit. (And if you don’t want to read about airlines and how they’re frustrating, it’s probably fine to skip this whole post. There are no nuggets of wisdom, besides perhaps “Always bring a change of clothes in carry-on.”)

I left Anchorage at 12:30am on Thursday morning, to catch a connection in Seattle, as most Alaskans are wont to do. (We do sometimes have non-red-eyes, or connections in Portland or elsewhere, but it seems to me as though 4/5 of flights leave in the middle of the night and go through Seattle. Great news for next Midwinter, though, right?) As we approached, Air Traffic Control started suggesting that maybe nobody should land right away. We circled for a bit, and then our pilot decided we didn’t have enough fuel to do that indefinitely and (wisely) flew us to Portland.

Which was a disaster.

They weren’t ready for all of Seattle’s incoming flights, which they basically got. None of the desk agents were really willing to talk to us, certainly not about rescheduling flights. They just kept repeating “Call Reservations.” (Heartbreakingly, several people got hung up on after 45 minute waits. I did make it through, after an hour on hold. And once my flight was scheduled, I gave my phone to someone else, so she could schedule hers. We travelers all bonded in an anti-Alaska Airlines kind of way.) My new flight put me in Dallas at 7:15pm, after a connection in San Francisco; this was much too close to the 8:30pm social I had set up, meaning I’d probably miss it, which made me very sad. (Spoiler: I did end up missing it. But I hear it went well! And I doubt there will be snow in June, so we’ll try again in Anaheim.)

But that didn’t make me nearly as sad as the word from the gate agent: “No, we will not be transferring any luggage from this plane. We are sending it all back to Seattle.” I couldn’t believe them! Really? It turns out, they were understaffed and unwilling to call in extra people to deal with the issue. (An issue they had 24 hours’ warning about, I feel like I should point out: I was warned the morning of my flight that Seattle was a mess.) Why they thought it was a good plan to send the plane to Seattle, of all places, is a mystery to me—I have a complaint lodged with Alaska Airlines, and sometime in the next 30 days (no joke! they say there’s a 30 day delay in answering comments!) they will presumably explain. And maybe apologize?

Anyway, I got to Dallas, so that’s great! It only took one extra flight (ANC->PDX->SFO->DFW, instead of ANC->SEA->DFW), and I was only 6 hours late, which, in the scheme of things, is pretty awesome. I shouldn’t downplay that. (And I made it clear, in my complaint, that there were really good aspects to the whole experience. As awful as the luggage part was, the reservation agent was great. I remembered her name and gave her props, even as I complained about the poor decision-making and general unfriendliness displayed by the PDX staff.)

But I wasn’t allowed to put in my luggage claim until I was standing in Dallas; they were unwilling to even think about my luggage until I reached my destination, which I found frustrating. They basically decided that everyone whose flight was supposed to go through Seattle would have to wait a day, minimum, for their luggage. It’s like they were punishing us for having the poor sense to run into bad weather! (I doubt that was really the logic, but it felt that way, in how we were treated and the decisions that were made.)

When I did reach Dallas, I put in the claim, and I took SuperShuttle, and it was 10pm before I got checked into my hotel. I don’t know where nearly 3 hours went, but they did. So no tasty Mexican food for me. (I did hit up Iron Cactus later. It was great! Coconut margarita: total win!)

Anyway, long story … still rather long, I suppose… the phone system called to tell me that they couldn’t locate my luggage. I checked every few hours and received the same message, “Your luggage has not yet been located. We apologize for the inconvenience.” So I went shopping for clothes in Dallas (kind of expensive, especially including cabs), and an hour after I had those clothes—which I skipped a reception especially for Emerging Leaders to meet the ALA leadership to do, heartbreakingly enough—they called to say my luggage would be delivered by 10pm. It was not delivered that night, but rather early the next morning. But I was pretty ticked off. “We cannot locate your luggage” is very different from “Your luggage is on its way to Dallas.” Grr.

Like I said, the lesson is “bring a change of clothes in carry-on.” (The lesson is NOT “bring a giant roller bag in carry-on.” Too many people do that, with too big of bags. It slows down the whole air travel system. I hate that. Don’t be that guy.) The other lesson is “avoid Portland airport,” maybe? Or “Alaska Airlines is great for 8 out of 10 flights, but when they mess up they REALLY mess up.” … I suppose there could be multiple lessons, here.

Anyway, despite the wasted time and money and the embarrassment of wearing dirty clothes to the Emerging Leaders meeting, I still had a great conference. So I try to look back and laugh about it. (Though I guess you can tell from the tone of my post that, if I think too hard about it, the laughter doesn’t come quite as easily…)

(Next post? I think I may take on a copyright issue.)

Published in#el12alaalaalaskatravel

3 Comments

  1. Amy W.

    I’ve been that girl, only travel to SLA. It sounds like you handled it much better than I did – I called every hour and sobbed to their outsourced customer service because I had a 9 am board meeting and had no interest in showing up in dirty underwear. So my takeaways are: 1) Never fly through Denver (not one, but two incidences of lost luggage), 2) librarians bond with librarians in times of crisis (seriously, some guy from the NYC chapter kept me from making a major scene in the Seattle airport), and 3) always take clean panties in your carry on.

  2. Coral Coral

    I left it out of the post, but believe me: there were tears. I had a meltdown in Portland, on the phone with my husband.

    I learned to hand-wash clothing when I lived in China one summer, so, while it did nothing for my jeans or t-shirt (wouldn’t have dried in time–now I realize I left out the part of the story where I bought an Oregon Ducks shirt at PDX), I was able to hand-wash everything else.

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