Sunday, January 8, 2012

Marooned in L.A.

I admit it. I'm one of those people. I don't want to get to the airport three hours before my flight, just to sit and languish in the airport forever while waiting for the flight to board. I've had my fair share of close calls, but have never missed a flight, and really, have very rarely made any mad dashes through the airport, either.

This is a deliriously happy sight for any traveler!
However, this time was different. With snow falling on the day of my departure and three very heavy suitcases to heave around, I was taking no chances. My mom and I had a great lunch and a pitcher of margaritas at a local Denver Mexican restaurant at around 2 p.m., then headed to the airport very early. I arrived some two and a half hours before my flight, and I am here to tell everyone: If you want to fly out of Denver hassle-free and without a crowd of millions at every security checkpoint, Saturday evenings seem to be the time for that. Look at this total lack of people at security. I breezed through!

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the good times ended. For some reason, the plane that was to take me to Los Angeles was late in arriving, so there was an announced 20-minute delay in the flight. Since I had a little over a two-hour layover in L.A., this wasn't too troublesome. However, the 20-minute delay swelled into a 75-minute delay, and we took off at 8:12 p.m. instead of the originally scheduled 6:55 p.m. As we made our approach into L.A., our announced arrival time was 9:07 p.m. My China Southern flight was scheduled to depart at 10:30, so I was pretty concerned at this point.

My snow-covered plane that got me to LAX safely,
just not on time
The flight itself was fairly bad, too. The snow in Denver didn't cause any serious problems apart from an extra ten minutes or so of delay as they de-iced the plane's wings. But once we got airborne, nothing really improved. Despite the near-empty terminal, this flight was completely full, and there must have been two dozen small children on the plane. I'm not kidding; there were at least six of them right around me, one of whom threw a full-blown and very loud screaming tantrum as we neared LAX. We also had some really bad turbulence on the descent, too, which is never a good time. Anyway, we landed, taxied to our gate, and I got off as quickly as possible and collected my checked luggage probably around 9:35, loaded up a luggage cart, and bolted out the door for the International Terminal, which is stupendously far from Terminal 1 at LAX. At a leisurely walk, it would easily take 12-15 minutes. I got there in about half that time, and when I got to the China Southern check-in counter, it was nearly closed. Only two staffers were still there, and they were closing out everything and cleaning up. They initially said that it was possible for me to make the flight, but that there was absolutely no way my luggage would go -- and that it would arrive a day later. After explaining my options to me, it was around 9:50, and by that time, there was no way for even me to get through security and to the gate, so I had officially missed my flight thanks to Southwest's delay.

So, on the advice of the China Southern ticket agents, I trudged all the way back to Terminal 1, only to find that the entire Southwest ticketing wing was closed. Nobody was there at all, so I went down to baggage claim and found some of their staff hanging around. They issued a so-called "delay certificate," which supposedly will get me onto the next China Southern flight without being charged, and told me that Southwest would reimburse me for my lodging and food on account of my being stranded for 24 hours in Los Angeles, so I'm saving my receipts and holding out hope that Southwest will be as good about taking care of this issue as they were about paying up for my destroyed suitcase and its contents back in September 2008 when I first moved to Malaysia. Like this time, that flight was also quite late in departing. I'm not sure what it is with Southwest and its flights to L.A., but I've not had any luck at all with them.

Watching the game at the Radisson's restaurant
I got a shuttle bus to the Radisson, staying once again in the same hotel I stayed in almost three weeks ago, except that time intentionally. And that's where I am now. I went down to Subway for lunch, and wow, was it ever nice outside! Can't deny that southern Califoria in January is a great place to be... it was a perfect 67°F (about 19°C) with nice blue skies. So I had my lunch, and the front desk folks let me stay in the room until about 2:30 p.m., and now I'm in the lobby in their casual restaurant, just relaxing, surfing the net, and watching the Broncos-Steelers NFL playoff game on TV, which is a great way to pass the time... much better than being adrift and miserable at the airport, in any case. It's about 4:30 p.m. now, so I have another six hours to go before my flight departs. With any luck, my next entry will be from the cozy confines of my condo in Damansara Perdana.

Oh, as a P.S., I just got an email notifying me that China Southern has cancelled the flight from Guangzhou to KL that I was originally scheduled to be on. At first I thought it meant that they had cancelled my seat since I missed the flight from L.A., but when I read it carefully, it showed that that the entire flight was cancelled. So even if I had somehow managed to make that outbound flight from L.A. last night, I'd still have been stuck, for who knows how long, in Guangzhou's airport of despair... so maybe this was all for the best.

Will I ever get home?? Stay tuned!


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