I recently returned from a much needed vacation to Wyoming, and I wanted to talk about my experiences with Southwest. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
I love this program on A&E called Airline that allows me to see what Southwest customer service reps deal with on a daily basis at various airports in the United States. One episode involved a woman who missed her flight and blamed Southwest; another episode involved a man whose shorts were “too short” for him to fly, and another one involved a man who was visibly angry about weather delays, and was rude to the staff because they would not let him board his flight. He managed to get on another flight, and he was rude to the agents as well, but he was removed from that flight and his money was refunded.
As I am watching the show, I hear all sorts of disparaging comments about Southwest. One passenger wanted to sue, another swore up and down that they would never fly with SW again, blah blah blah. I can clearly see that customer service is doing what they can within their parameters to solve the issue and get the customer(s) on their way. I got tired of hearing the trash talking. So before I cast judgement on an airline that I had never travelled on, I wanted to experience Southwest for myself.
As mentioned before, I was able to take a vacation and visit Wyoming to see my daughter. I didn’t want to go to JFK because it is too far away and too complicated to reach from my home. I preferred to use MacArthur Airport (ISP) the local regional airport that Southwest uses. There was a flight leaving Saturday afternoon with a stopover in Fort Lauderdale, then on to Denver where I would get a connecting flight to Salt Lake City (SLC). I wanted a direct flight, but this one was leaving in the afternoon which gave me time to prepare and reserve a cab. When I arrived at the airport, I was in for a few surprises. Keep in mind that the last time I flew on an airline was somewhere in the mid 1980’s. Back then, I flew on Lufthansa and American Airlines direct from JFK to Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica. In a way, it was slightly afraid to fly Southwest because I was so accustomed to Lufthansa, and I love them to pieces. But curiosity won over fear, and I was eager to experience flying again.
When I arrived, there were kiosks to check my bags, which I had never seen before, but none of them were working, so I went to the agent. I went through TSA, and they had to scan me twice. I know I didn’t have any illegal contraband with me. The only casualty from the bag search was two small bottles of water. Seems like I am allowed only one. Whatever. I bought a Gatorade when I arrived at the gate. The aircraft was not there yet, so I settled in for the hour wait. I was surprised to see power outlets built into the seats. Good thing I remembered my charger. I plugged in my phone and was watching Addams Family reruns on Pluto TV. When the Boeing 737-700 arrived, it was a lot smaller than the 747 of Lufthansa that I travelled on many moons ago. There was a sizeable crowd at the gate, and I was wondering how will all these people fit on a such a small plane.
I’m glad I had spent the extra money on the Early Bird option, so I was one of the first 50 passengers to board first. I almost crashed into the person in front of me in the jetway because it on a slight downgrade and there was a line at the aircraft door. Once on the plane, I chose to sit in the window seat in the last row. This plane had 3 + 3 seating arrangement, rather than the 2 + 3 I was accustomed to. It was a packed flight. A thin woman squeezed in between me and the guy in the aisle seat. Well, there goes my hope of not having anyone sit to me. At least she wasn’t a nuisance. After sitting for a few minutes watching the baggage handlers load the rest of the bags and aircraft fuelers top off the tanks, I felt the familiar backward lurch. Pushback! I heard the right engine start up, and we taxied to the runway. There was a bit of a wait due to congestion on the tarmac. Our turn came and we made a sharp right onto the runway. The engines revved to full power, and I was pushed back into my seat. Wow, what a rush! We were going so fast! The plane lifted gently off the ground. I’m on my way! This is the first time leaving NY in decades. We climbed for a few minutes until we were above the clouds. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I’m on a plane for the first time in years!! Next stop, Fort Lauderdale!
I didn’t have to change planes thankfully. I got up to stretch my legs and take a comfort break, whilst watching the flight attendants do their thing. When boarding started, I opted to sit in the exit aisle for more legroom. Southwest has an open seating policy. It was another crowded flight. This time I had a guy sit next to me. He was mildly annoying, but not a nuisance. I had more knee room, but visibility outside was limited because I was sitting next to the wing. Oh well. We departed late due to congestion on the tarmac once again. But that was the least of my upcoming problems.
On the approach to Denver, the pilot informed us that we were in a holding pattern due to a power failure at the airport. Oh great. Just what I need. At first, I took it in stride because I know these things happen. But, when we landed, we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for an available gate. I began to worry. My connecting flight to SLC was leaving in less that 40 minutes and it was already after 8pm. If I ever get to the gate, I will have to hurry. We waiting for what seemed like forever until a gate finally became available. This was my first time in Denver, and the airport was crowded! I was hurrying to my departure gate way over on the other end of the airport, oblivious to the fact that I needed a comfort break. By the time I reached the gate, there was a line at the customer service desk. Oh no! This is not good! I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The woman in front of me said that the flight had left. Oh nice!! I’m sitting on the tarmac like a dope, and the plane left already! Now what do I do? That’s when I realised I REALLY needed to use the mens room, so off I went.
When I returned to the gate, the line had not moved much. I was so angry, but there was nothing I could do except hurry up and wait. When I finally reached the desk, I could see and feel that the Southwest customer service agent was exhausted; as she as she was the only one there. I explained the situation to her, and she rebooked me on the first flight to SLC in the morning at 6:10am, no charge. She said she couldn’t give me a hotel room because the power outage was not their fault. I understood. It was already after 9pm, so it looked like I will be bedding down for the night at the airport. After having a meal at McDonalds, I went to the departure gate. The plane was already there, bedded down for the night. All the plane windows were dark. It was raining hard outside. I sat at a desk, plugged my phone in, and was watching Cops and Addams Family reruns, along with a few YouTube videos from my subscriptions. I finally decided to lay down on the floor since the chairs were not the least bit comfortable to sit in. I was tired, but not sleepy. I alternated between closing my eyes and watching videos. Thankfully, the airport crowds were gone. The only noise makers were the cleaners making the rounds.
Boarding commenced at 5:50am after a sleepless night. It was a light load, but I sat in the last row on the right side by myself to be away from the others. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming up. I noted that I was on a 737-800. It seemed to be a little bigger than the 700; although the knee room was the same. No snacks were served since it would be a short flight. I was enjoying the view of Moab, Utah. I was looking for the Great Salt Lake, but I guess we didn’t fly near it. Oh well. The magic moment came when we landed in SLC. Wow! I had never been here before. The airport is massive! The excitement was tempered by the long walk to baggage claim, and I mean a LONG walk. I was walking down one side of the airport, descended into some kind of underpass, came up the other side, and I was still walking. Oh my gods, how far is this baggage claim? I was tired, hungry, and I wanted to rest, but I kept going. After a few more minutes of walking, I finally arrived at baggage claim, But wait! My troubles were not over yet.
My bags didn’t show up on the carousel!! Oh my gods! All sorts of doomsday thoughts were running through my head. What was I to do? Where do I go? I’ve never been here before. Then I saw the Southwest baggage claim office. I went in and explained the situation to the very sweet baggage claim agent. Surprise, she had them!! My mind instantly put together what happened: my bags were loaded onto the flight that I had missed. Boarding was finished, but I bet the plane was held so the transfer bags could be loaded. Any unclaimed bags on the carousel would go to baggage claim. I was so happy and thankful! I found the exit, and made my way to the street where my daughter picked me up. It was a bittersweet moment. I’ll chronicle my experiences in Wyoming in another post.
With the exception of the missed flight in Denver, the trip went well. All the Southwest employees were courteous, professional, friendly, and treated me with respect. I never saw any of them be disrespectful to anyone. They do want to get you on your way, they will give you options if there is a problem, they will do what is needed to help you reach your destination, within their job description, and within reason. I hope to fly Southwest again.
I need to find out if my collaboration with Custom Ink will happen. In the meantime, you can leave a comment if you wish to order merch, and I will tell you what is available. I really want to put this together. Thanks for reading my post. Remember to Be Your Greatest Version, or the person you were meant to be.