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    NEVER Fly America West

    January 24, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Well, we’re back. And in a future post, I’ll tell all the good stuff. Si graduated, we had a great time, etc. But first, I feel the urge to share the drama.

    Thursday night, we were set to fly to Las Vegas around 9pm and connect to a second flight that would take us to Dulles. {We were planning a day of touring in DC before heading to Virginia to commence with the school activities.} The flight to Vegas was delayed. Because of this, we were going to be missing our connecting flight. We were informed of all of this at about 8pm as we were checking in.

    There was a very nice man behind the counter who had already rebooked us on a United flight {note that this is an entirely different airline} to Vegas. He said we only had 30 minutes to change planes, so we would have to hustle, but this flight would get us to Dulles at very close to the same time we had planned on arriving in the first place. This all sounded good to us!

    Unfortunately, this very nice man has never actually been to the Vegas airport {its most notable feature, by the way is the pornographic advertising proudly displayed on the walls}, and is a little in the dark about how they function. Vegas is not one big airport, but rather a grouping of buildings. America West does not share a computer system with United, so we couldn’t be checked all the way through to Dulles. This meant that we had to run for 15 minutes straight while carrying our heavy bags and jackets and go out of security and back to ticketing, acquire a new boarding pass on the new airline {United}, and then go back through security…

    When we arrived at the United ticketing area, the woman who “helped” us was very rude and seemed to take it personally that they at America West had rebooked us on the flight to Dulles. She told us in no uncertain terms that they knew better than to do something like that, she could not help us, and she marched us over to America West to let them deal with us.

    They, thankfully, located a third flight to the DC area, this one heading to Ronald Regan airport. Now the problem with this was that our luggage was checked all the way through to Dulles, and the two airports aren’t very close, and we didn’t have a car. America West assured us that the bags would arrive in Dulles, and we’d have to go to baggage claim at Regan and have them call Dulles and transport the bag to our hotel. We weren’t thrilled about this, but what choice did we have?

    This new flight was about to leave, so we had to run again. When we got to security, a very rude security person didn’t seem to want to let us through, and sent us over to the first class security area instead. {We were later told by someone that most of the employees at the Vegas airport are rude. So far, I’d say this is about 2/3 true.}

    We were also randomly selected to be searched, patted down, and have our carry-on bags gone over with those little round tissues that look like acne treament pads! We couldn’t believe it. Si tried to explain that we were going to miss our flight, but nothing will get in the way of the US government protecting the country from we dangerous white Christians. We’re all terrorists, you know.

    The best part is next. This is where the woman who searched Si’s bag zipped it up, but not all the way, and as we were running, his bag with all his school papers flew open, and everything ended up on the floor. It was all I could do to not end up in a heap of tears on the floor. It felt like chasing the wind. We were trapped in Vegas, and no one wanted to help us get out. We shoved everything back in the bag and started running again. Miraculously, we made it to the flight.

    Neither of us slept much on the flight. Red eye flights are always the same. No matter where I sit, it feels like the only person who decided to turn on the overhead light and read is sitting right by me.

    We arrived at Regan, and the baggage claim worker there was a very nice, helpful, and thorough man. But he didn’t really know where our bags were. I guess it is hard to figure out, with us missing two flights on two separate airlines, and flying a third to a different airport and all. He gave us a huge list of phone numbers, started trying to track down the bag, and sent us on our way.

    We enjoyed a wonderful morning in DC, which I will tell about another time, and on and off throughout the time we were calling and trying to find our bag. I don’t remember what time it was when it was finally explained that our bag was actually still in Vegas. Apparently, it didn’t make that United flight either. And for some reason, no one thought it was their job to send it on the next flight, so it was just sitting in Sin City, waiting to be rescued.

    We were told they would have to fly it to Dulles and then have it bussed to our hotel. The flight didn’t even get in until 7pm or so, and we were to be at dinner by 5:30. Needless to say, we were a bit underdressed and dirty after a red eye and a very long day in DC.

    At 10pm, we finally had our suitcase. I was so happy to wash my face with my very own soap, and we both had our PJs just in time.

    Now, how funny would it would be if we encountered a similar fiasco on our way home on Sunday evening? Hysterical, indeed.

    We were supposed to fly from Dulles to Phoenix, and then from Phoenix to home and be home around 8:30pm. I even told E. we’d come give him a final kiss goodnight. {Mommy was made to be a liar in this, but Si let me know that, with no definite sense of time, it was all the same if I snuck into his room at 1:30am, which I did and it was.}

    We arrived at Dulles to be told that our flight was delayed and because of this we’d be missing our connection, and that connection was the only flight from Phoenix to home that night. His first option was to put us on a flight the next morning. We were trying to be kind, for this man was very easy to work with and we knew it wasn’t his fault. But there was no way I was going to be away from my children another day.

    It was decided that we’d fly from Dulles to Phoenix, and then from Phoenix to the dreaded Las Vegas for a yucky 2-hour layover, where we’d make a third connection to Bakersfield and be home around 1am.

    A lot of people on our flight were stressed. The second the plane stopped, they all jumped up, frantically reaching for their carry-ons. They were all missing connections, or getting to their destinations much later than planned.

    Later, on our flight out of Vegas, I overheard a young man sitting behind me say that his flight out of Florida was delayed and he also missed the Phoenix to Bakersfield flight and ended up adding a leg through Vegas in order to get home.

    At one point in our journey, someone told us they had heard that 50% of America West/US Airways flights are late. I have never heard that before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true considering all we and all the people around us went through. Even Tyrone at the ticket counter in Dulles said that he had recently had trouble {with his own airline} in Vegas and somehow ended up spending the night at LAX before being able to come home.

    We bought tickets on AmericaWest because they were the cheapest we could find. I’m not sure if their organization was as much of a mess before the merger with US Airways, but in light of our recent experience I would say that, unless one is in need of a good dramatic story to tell friends, perhaps one should avoid AmericaWest/US Airways as much as possible. I know we will!

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  • Reply Grace January 25, 2006 at 12:44 am

    Welcome home Vencels! Sorry to hear about your airline drama but am sure glad that you are back safely!

  • Reply Josiah January 24, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    As Jack says to Rose at the end of Titanic, “I plan on writing a strong and worded letter” to America West corporate. The only thing that made our travel debacle bearable was having my out-of-breath wife by my side, sharing my less-than-friendly sentiments toward AW.

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