Monday, January 11, 2010
Flying to Kauai
Friday morning we got up at 5 AM to fly to Kauai. I shoveled the driveway one last time and decided I probably wouldn’t miss snow and ten degree temperatures. I used to fly 50,000 miles a year and I didn’t mind it. Most of those miles were to Phoenix and I had enough miles accumulated that I could usually upgrade. Flights into Phoenix were seldom delayed and I generally had good luck flying. Or through some complicated form of cognitive dissonance I convinced myself I enjoyed flying. Once I stopped flying and lost my preferred status (no upgrades, no decent seats) I quickly learned to not like flying.
But it was going to be different for this trip. I had used up the last 30,000 of my 980,000 air miles and we had first class upgrades all the way to Lihue. I imagined myself kicking back in my first class seat with a couple of Bloody Marys on the flight to LAX and then a brief stopover and then a pleasant five hour flight to Lihue with a chance to enjoy the Kindle which the kids gave me for Christmas.
It didn’t work out as I had planned.
United cancelled our 8 am flight and put my wife and I on the 8:50 flight and our two daughters (who agreed to vacation with us for one of the weeks since well it is Kauai and they live in Chicago) on a 10 am flight. They have only 50 minutes between connections and so we cleverly decide to have their bags checked on our flight (we don't have to pay because we're "first class"). But United because of the cancelled flight can’t check out bags through to Lihue. We have to recheck them when we get to LAX.
So as I settle into my bulkhead seat with no leg room for anyone over 5 feet, I calculated how much time I would need to race through LAX, grab the bags, drag them back up to the floor where they check the bags and then go back through security one more time. I decided it was doable because, after all I am a triathlete in superb physical condition and my wife and daughters' bags can't weigh more than two hundred pounds.
Then they start deicing the plane. And deicing it. And deicing it. By the time we lift off I know our bags will never make it on time. But if I don’t identify them for the baggage people they will just sit in LAX forever. So I will have to try and get them and I’ll probably miss the plane along with the bags. The one thing I am certain of is that the flight to Lihue will depart on time.
Suzanne waited for the girls while I raced to baggage claim. Last time I was here it took a half hour for our bags to arrive. I had nothing to do but wait, so I decided to do something totally unthinkable – I ask one of the baggage claim supervisors for help. He listened to my situation and understood immediately. He told me that I needed to alert him as soon as I got the bags and meanwhile he was writing up luggage tickets. He said he’d take care of checking the bags. He said the most important thing was for me to not miss that plane.
Then he retrieved a cart and grabbed one of his colleagues. And then the bags arrived iin record time and the second miracle – our four bags were the first ones down the chute. The baggage supervisor and his colleague took my bags and showed me how to get back to security. There was no line in security and I got back to the gate just as they started to board.
It was a great flight to Lihue and I wish I had thought to get the man's name because he has temporarily restored my faith in United Airlines. I was going to include my Kindle experience in this post but that will have to wait because we are going on an ATV excursion shortly. The temperature is 78 degrees and the water is great. I run every morning. I may not come back.