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The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Flight

And how Southwest made it right.

It was the Wednesday evening before Labor Day and my wife’s grandfather had just passed away. The funeral had been scheduled for Friday morning, just 36-hours and five states away. While my wife was on the phone with her family, I was practicing the fine art of airline ninjutsu trying to find flights for the next morning that didn’t equal the cost a second mortgage.

The Terrible Incident

Our return flight was leaving from Reagan National in Washington DC on the Saturday before Labor Day. It was scheduled for 2 p.m. and would get us as far as Atlanta. We had a 45-minute layover before boarding our final flight home. At least that was the plan.

The Horrible Incident

A few minutes later we began the taxi process only to be immediately halted — incident number two. The pilot came on the intercom and explained that the tower reported a “security incident” grounding all DC air traffic. Given our extra passenger and flying out of Reagan on a Labor Day weekend, the combination of events was less than comforting. While sitting on the runway I was trying to find information about the ground-stop, but at that point Twitter and CNN only had news of the airspace being closed. There weren’t any details as to why. It wasn’t until the next day that the news reported the cause for the ground-stop to be a private plane wandering into restricted airspace. A few minutes later the pilot came back on and announced we had been cleared to resume our place in line for takeoff.

The No Good Incident

Our flight had been rather smooth until the pilot came back on the intercom. He explained that while we were only about 90-miles outside of Atlanta, there was a ground-stop in place due to weather and the tower was anticipating about a 30-minute hold. Before the groans about missed connections could even emerge, the pilot dropped the other shoe. He explained that we didn’t have enough fuel to wait out a 30-minute hold so we would be landing at the Greenville-Spartanburg regional airport in South Carolina — incident number three. At this point resignation set in as our connecting flight was well beyond reach.

The Very Bad Incident

When we landed the pilot explained that Greenville-Spartanburg was a Southwest airport and would be able to fuel us and get us on our way. He also explained that while AirTran is owned by Southwest, the crew on the ground wasn’t expecting us and they would have to negotiate our servicing.

How Southwest Made it Right

A short 45-minutes later and we were on approach to Atlanta. The mood on the plane, once on the ground, was tense. Everyone, myself included, were very concerned about connecting flights and the ability to get to our destinations. To Southwest / AirTran’s credit, there were gate agents at the end of the walkway ready to go when we arrived. They had boarding passes ready for some of the connecting flights and, for us and the majority of the plane that were continuing onto Orlando, they were checking us in directly. I don’t know if it was luck of the draw or our place in line, but my wife and I were checked into the next Orlando flight in first class. All that was left to do was go purchase dinner and wait the hour or so until our flight began boarding.

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