Monday, November 29, 2010

I've got a turkey, wanna neck?

Actually the clever pick-up line is, "I've got a chicken, wanna neck?" And actually it isn't that clever and never worked for me anyway on the few times I'd holler it out the car window when my friends and I would pretend to cruise Main Street when I was a teenager growing up in Boise. Unfortunately, it also dates me since no one uses the term "neck" to describe making out anymore.

But I digress right from the beginning.

It is time for my annual post about my Thanksgiving journey to Boise. Though technically, I didn't post anything last year about our trip to Boise. Something about having two toddlers skews my sense of time, place and posting.

Anyone who religiously follows my blog knows by now that every year I make a pilgrimage back to my birthplace in Boise, Idaho for the ritual sacrifice of the turkey for Thanksgiving (I'm willing to bet the turkey doesn't see that much to be thankful for in the holiday). The primary reason I go to Boise now is to allow my children to spend as much time as possible with my mother. She is 85 years old and I want my kids to have some sense of her while she is still with us.

There aren't a great deal of options for getting to Boise. Either you drive and risk encounters with winter storms going over a couple of passes, turning a nine hour drive into a marathon affair (not something you want to chance with two toddlers in the car) or you fly and risk encounters with winter storms that turn an hour and twenty minute flight into a marathon affair or cancelled flights and lost luggage.

We opted for the latter. I should have known better when all of the planets were aligning against the trip. We were leaving Monday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. They began predicting snow a few days earlier. When we woke up Monday morning, my daughter had a fever. We looked outside and it was snowing fairly heavily. One of our three cats puked all over the stairs as we were leaving. It took 40 minutes just to get to the freeway from our house.

Still we made it to the parking garage and the airport in ample time to make it through security, have some lunch and make it to our gate. After mediating a debate with my son and daughter over whether to have pizza or hot dogs for lunch, I got the first e-mail alert on my Blackberry that our flight was delayed. Snow was coming down fairly heavily by now, so I assumed it was just the standard weather delay. We made our way to an airport play area to kill time until the new flight time. That's when the second (and third and fourth) flight delay notice came in.

Four hours later we were stumbling down an icy stairway carrying our children and two strollers,  making our way to a Horizon aircraft that is too small to use a civilized jet way. I was a bit relieved to actually be on board the plane and tried not to get annoyed when the pilot announced that they just had to deal with a few maintenance issues and get the plane de-iced before we could be cleared for take off. An hour later we were bumping along toward the runway. The pilot then announced that they had to go back to the gate to deal with some more maintenance issues.

After resolving the maintenance issues and getting de-iced and refueled, we noticed our luggage being taken off the airplane. After two hours we were told we had to get off the airplane because they were having issues now with their radios. We bundled up our kids and headed outside through the snow and back to the gate.

I want to go on record now that Horizon was not prepared for snow in Seattle. They seemed under staffed, under informed and unable to cope with anything going on at Sea-Tac on that fateful day. I got in a line at the gate counter and handed my boarding passes to a surly ticket agent who didn't say a word . She simply typed away on her computer and then handed me new boarding passes saying we were on standby for an 8 p.m. flight to Boise.

I watched the monitor above her head for the next hour or so and saw that we had been given seat assignments. I stood in line again and the surly gate agent told me that she wasn't ready to officially move our status from standby to confirmed and that I should wait around. I watched the 8 p.m. flight status change to 8:30 and then 9:15 p.m. Another ticket agent announced that the airplane we were waiting for was having maintenance issues. Then suddenly they changed the gate we were to leave from. A surge of passengers rushed off as we frantically packed our kids and scurried off to the new gate.

We finally boarded the plane at about 11 p.m. and sat there waiting for it to be de-iced. At close to 11:45 p.m. we finally took off in what appeared to be a total white out. We touched down in Boise around 1:30 a.m. their time. The car rental place was closed. It didn't really matter because although we'd made the flight to Boise, our luggage and car seats hadn't.

I waited in yet another line to file a missing luggage report. I was assured that the luggage would be on the first flight from Seattle the next morning. Then I gathered up my family and called the hotel for a shuttle. The shuttles had stopped running, so they sent a taxi instead. The taxi driver took pity on us and drove us around to several mini-marts trying to find diapers at 2:30 a.m. We couldn't find any so ended up at the hotel with one diaper and one pull up to last the night.

To make a long story short, our luggage didn't arrive on the first flight from Seattle the next morning. It came in at 2 p.m. I was able to get the hotel shuttle driver to take me to Albertsons to buy diapers in the morning and then to the airport to pick up a rental car. Almost two days of our Boise trip were spent waiting to fly or waiting for luggage.

I have written my semi-annual complaint to Horizon Air asking them to give me something, anything to make up for the nightmare. I'm assuming they will respond that they couldn't do anything about the weather and pony up 1000 frequent flyer miles in good faith.

I would prefer free flights to Mexico, because the next time I fly somewhere, it better be tropical and serve a decent Margarita.

Oh yeah, it snowed in Boise and the average temperature was below zero.

It was good though, that my kids got to see their grandmother.



R. said...

I got a rather disjointed version of your saga from Grandma.

The trip out was a royal cluster fuck. Sorry you had to be there.

Time said...

Mom has only been on an airplane twice in her life, so I guess it was a bit much for her to comprehend. On the bright side, Horizon came through with a "customer service gesture" that should cover the better part of a trip somewhere.

Hope you and your family had a nice Thanksgiving.

Pernicious Panda said...

Did I mention that I worked for Horizon for 15 years? In many ways, it was a great company to work for. I miss my old boss almost every day. But now I work for REI. The main difference between the two? The way they respond to snow. I still bless myself whenever I wake up to snow, thanking god I no longer work for any airline. At REI, they all press their little noses against the frosty window glass and sing like the Whos in Whoville--I just can't convey the sense of joy about the snow. Much better.

Time said...

I do recall you worked for Horizon. I'm sure people who work there are as thrilled as people who work for public transit agencies when it snows. I don't blame Horizon for the snow. I do blame them for being stingy with information when you are at the airport. People are much more forgiving about delays if they are told why.

Are people at REI thrilled about snow because they are outdoor enthusiasts or because they can sell lots of cold weather gear?