November 2, 2009

This one's for you, Mesaba Airlines ticket lady

This past week wasn't the greatest for travel news. First, there was the Northwest pilots who missed the Minneapolis airport. Then there was the blog post claiming that the TSA took a woman's baby while going through security. (The story has since been proven false.) Then there is the, up until now, unpublished story, "Family Voluntarily Takes 6 Flights," also known as "Let it Go, Mesaba Airlines Woman."

Our travels began last Thursday, as we made our way to the San Jose airport headed to LaGuardia via Minneapolis. This involved getting up at 4am, and gathering the following:
  • Two carseats
  • One stroller
  • Wheels to attach to the other carseat that makes it into a stroller
  • Three suitcases
  • Two backpacks
  • Two kids
We were prepared. We even had, I'm not kidding, a spreadsheet with our full itinerary, including when kids would need to eat, airport layouts, who would carry what, etc. Ha, ha, ha!! Such fools we were thinking we could have anything under control.

Trouble began before 6am. Our flight out of San Jose was delayed getting out. Then we had to circle the airport in Minneapolis. Jeff and I ran, each with a backpack and a kid on wheels, across the airport to make the connection, which was also delayed, but not long enough. It had just left. At the gate, we were informed that the airline already booked us on another flight to LGA, which was going to go through St. Louis. That was not going to happen. After some prodding, we were able to get a flight to JFK. Our bags, we were told, would still go to LGA.

So, we get to JFK, and make a decision to get on the shuttle over to LGA. It only took about a half hour and since we had an hour drive to our destination, we thought it would be worth getting our bags. We get to LGA only to discover our bags - you guessed it - were at JFK. Arrgh! We arrange to have our bags delivered to our hotel in Connecticut and get the rental car. (The bags did not arrive until noon the next day, but they did make it.)

Skip ahead to Sunday. We had a flight scheduled out of White Plains to Grand Rapids, via Detroit. We were hanging out at my cousin's house, and yes, we left a little late. Even so, we were standing at the ticket counter a full half hour before our flight was to leave and this airport is tiny. There are 2 gates. So we get to the counter run by Mesaba Airlines, Delta's partner for this small trip. When we tell the woman behind the counter we're going to Detroit, she says we're too late - we have to check in bags a half hour before flight time. She tells me it is 3:32. So we're talking 2 minutes. We were clearly rushing and had 2 little kids. She pushes my ID back at me and says "I'm not checking these bags."

Now, if you were a helpful customer service agent, you might say something like "You're running a little late and your bags might not make it. Let's get you on this flight and your bags may have to get the next flight out." But she chose the "I'm not going to do my job" route. I think she thought we were just going to leave. So I raise my voice a little, and ask "What can we do?" To which she says "stop shouting at me." Okay, I see what kind of person this is and even though I have some choice words ready for her, I chose to take the high road and apologize just so my bags don't end up, I don't know, back at JFK. She finally radios the guy who gets our bags on the flight no problem (because the airplane is like 10 feet from where we're standing), but has to remind me and him, and everyone else 100 times that I yelled at her. Which a) I didn't, b) I apologized for, and c) just do your job!

Okay, so we get through security with the kids and the stroller and the carseats and rush to the plane. As we are halfway to the plane, we realize Jeff FORGOT THE CARSEAT AT SECURITY. He runs back, gets the carseat, and we make it on the plane with a few minutes to spare.

We got to Detroit and I think our next flight was on time, but to be honest I may have blacked out from the stress. Anyway, I have never been so happy to be in Grand Rapids.

Fast forward to our return home on Friday. I checked in online and printed our boarding passes in the morning. Our flight was scheduled for 3:10pm but we were not taking any chances, and were ready to go at 1:15. Before we left, I thought I'd better check for delays, and it turned out our flight was delayed by 2 hours! So late, in fact, that we would miss our connection in MSP (even though that flight was also delayed). I call Northwest, which is now Delta, except it isn't because they can't find my reservation and have to transfer me to Northwest even though their "on hold" recording tells me that NWA and Delta are now one seamless airline. Huh?

Okay, stay with me. So the woman on the phone tells me they were aware of the issue and rebooked us on a flight scheduled to leave at 12:59, as in 20 minutes ago. But they never told us. How exactly was that supposed to work? But guess what? That flight was delayed too and wansn't going to leave until 2:40. So I hang up on her and we run to the car, rush to the airport, and we make the flight with time to spare.
Now we're back in Minneapolis with one flight to go, and you guessed it - it was delayed. For hours. People's entire lives were played out before us. I'm not kidding - we actually shared a retirement party cake with the gate agent. By the time we got on the plane the kids were an exhausted mess.

Both kids were remarkably well behaved and patient on every flight, buth this final flight was rough. They were so tired and they really tried their hardest to fall asleep. But for some reason the pilots and the crew on the plane felt the need to make an announcement about every 10 minutes, which would wake them up. So it wasn't fun. But we finally touched down back in San Jose, all our bags arrived (which was good because I left my car keys in my suitcase), and we made it home.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.


  1. Jen- That sounds horrendous. Almost reminds me of the Continental customer service person who put me on hold "until I calmed down." Welcome home!

  2. oh. my. god.

    i say everyone comes to you for the next couple of years.

  3. This one's for you. Different airline, but same general emotion:

  4. I worked for Mesaba for many years and trust me when I say; DRIVE YOUR OWN CAR even if its 10,000 miles. Stay at a hotel every 4-500 miles. Kids can swim. Everybody eat pizza. Flying used to be a wonderfull experience back in the 80's when I first got inot the biz. Now you are just cattle with cash in hand. DRIVE THE FAMILY TRUCKSTER and leave the airplanes sit.

  5. Holy shit. I think I blacked out from stress just reading this. Travel with kids is an ugly, ugly endeavor. Now that I've quit drinking I don't think I'll be doing it any time soon.

  6. What a great reminder of why not to fly! :-) I haven't been on a plane since 1999 and I sincerely hope I never get on one again!

  7. I don't think I will ever complain about my travel horror story again. I only sat on the ground in a plane for 6 hours. Nothing compared to what you went through!!!

  8. pffft, can't believe that one got so shirty over 2 entire minutes!! Thanks for joining in Blog Gems. Jen


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