I’m back from my business travel to Denver.
I was one of the unfortunate souls who were supposed to fly yesterday on American Airlines.
I arrived at a terminal that was in chaos:
I was one of the lucky ones. I only had to wait about twenty minutes before the computer system went back online. I checked myself in to my 3:25 pm flight and stood in line to get my back checked.
Unfortunately, the system was busy printing out bag tags for hundreds of other people who had checked in prior to the system outage. And most of those people were on a Dallas-Fort Worth flight that had already been canceled. People were not happy. I decided that getting angry at the situation would not help.
Air travel these days requires patience, I told myself. And a sense of humor. After what happened in Boston on Monday, I expected security delays at the airports. Boston was a tragedy. This was just a nuisance. I stayed calm.
“Your flight to LAX is still on,” I was assured by the poor ticket clerk who was dealing alone with angry passengers and the backlog of luggage tags.
My own tag eventually spooled out of the printer. He placed it on my bag and instructed me to put it on the belt and I headed downstairs to the TSA checkpoint.
According to my boarding pass, I had just 10 minutes to get to my gate. I wasn’t going to make it. But I figured I wasn’t the only one, so I stayed fairly calm (mostly fixating on the fact that I was hungry and wouldn’t have time to grab any lunch before my flight). By the time I got to the gate, it was 10 minutes past my scheduled flight — which was OK, because it had been delayed until 5:00 (I was trying so hard to get there on time that I didn’t think to stop and check the flight schedule board).
So now, I had time for lunch. Hooray. I bought a sandwich, found a seat near the gate and settled in.
There was a long line of people at my gate. I wondered if there was some kind of additional check-in procedure for this flight. I asked one of the women in the queue. “We’re all trying to reschedule our flight to Dallas from this morning,” she told me. She had a toddler with her. They were not happy campers. I felt bad for them and grateful that my flight was merely delayed a couple of hours.
Five o’clock came and went. I stayed calm.
At 5:15, the airline announced that our plane had arrived. “We just need to get these passengers off, clean it out and then we’ll get you all to Los Angeles,” they said.
At 6:00 they let us know that they were waiting for one more member of the flight crew to arrive.
I texted my husband and daughter updates on my flight status. My original plan — when I was landing in the middle of rush hour — was to take the Flyaway and get picked up by one of them in Van Nuys around 6:00. Now that I’ll be landing around 8:00, I might be able to get my husband to pick me up at LAX, I thought.
Twenty minutes later, a notification from my Tripcase app flashed on my iPad. It said that my flight was now canceled, but the info board at the gate listed it as going out at 6:30. I got into the line behind the last two remaining Dallas folks — and was in position when American finally announced that my LAX flight was canceled.
“We can get you on a United flight that’s going out at 10:00,” the airline rep said. That meant I wouldn’t get back home until after midnight. Not ideal, but I was happy to take it. By now, all I wanted was to get home. There was just one problem.
“I checked my luggage. Do I need to go somewhere to get it?”
“No, we will move it over to United for you. You just need to check in to your flight over there,” she said. She handed me a meal voucher and my original boarding pass from American. The receipt from my luggage tag was stuck to the back of it. “You’ll need this to get your bag,” she said.
At the United desk, I asked again about my checked luggage. “Is it going to make it on to the plane?” I asked. I was assured that it would.
You know how this story ends, don’t you? The flight to LAX went smoothly and arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I made my way to baggage claim, where a clerk was arranging bags from another flight.
“Are these the ones from Denver?” I asked.
She told me I had to wait.
So I waited.
I was nodding off against a column when she called me. “Are you waiting for someone from Denver?” she asked.
I told her I was on the flight from Denver and was waiting for my bag. She shook her head. “I thought you were waiting for a passenger,” she said. “We got all the bags from that flight. We’re done.” She looked at my tag from American.
“Your bag is not lost,” she said.
I was tired. I wanted to cry. “It’s not here, so it kind of is,” I whined.
“The problem is, because the computers were down, your bag never got scanned. It has to be matched with your name manually. It’s probably still with American. You can either make a claim to have it traced here, or go over there to look for it.”
It was now 12:30 in the morning and the last thing I wanted to do was march across LAX to the American terminal. Besides, if I wasn’t able to fly to LAX on my canceled American flight, how could my bag have made it here?
I made the claim at United. “They’ll find your bag and deliver it to your house tomorrow,” she assured me. “And you can trace it on our website here.”
As of this writing, it is nearly lunchtime. And so far, the United website is reporting that “the tracing process is continuing” and I should check back later.
I wish this was the end of my pitiful tale — but it’s not. While I was eating my dinner alone in the United terminal last night, I arranged for Super Shuttle to take me home. The van I ordered did not arrive until nearly 1:00 A.M. And on the ride, I noticed that my battery was running low. I turned the phone off and placed it back in my computer bag. Or so I thought. Because once I was finally home and had access to a charger, I could not find it.
One of the traits I really hate in myself is absent mindedness. It gets worse when I’m tired, as I was last night. I waste a lot of time trying to locate things I’ve misplaced. I spent an hour this morning trying to reach Super Shuttle’s Lost and Found.
So far, my phone is in the same boat as my lost luggage.
At least, I made it home all right. And after I get a little more sleep, my sense of humor may return.