A story of four children, one adult (me) and nearly 3000 miles of travel both ways..
|Posted by Beth Ann Bentley on Sep 09 2008|
|iLunchbox Blog >> Beth Ann|
So, how was everyone’s first week of school? The last month has been super busy for us, as I am sure it has been for all of you: end of summer activities, getting ready for the first day of school, work, home, kids, and life! I get it! Now that I can take a breath I want to tell you all a story…
The first two weeks of August my children and I went to visit my parents on Long Island, NY. We took Southwest Air mostly due to flight schedules & airport convenience; they fly into Islip, Long Island about 30-45 minutes from my parents’ house. On the way there, things went great. There was curb-side check in at Oakland Airport and the Porter took very good care of us and the kids and I were off and running. They have a “Family Check-in” at Security where you can stay with your small children and all be processed together without people cutting in front of you. There was even a guard at the other end of the metal detector where there was a convenient line of chairs to put shoes on. So while I was repacking the baggies of liquids and gels and the electronics, my kids had a place to sit and a guard nearby so they wouldn’t run off or get taken. YEAH!
We got to our gate with enough time for me to get a cup of coffee and were able to board during family boarding which is right in between sections A and B. For those unfamiliar with Southwest seating, you do not get an assigned seat, rather a number in which to board and then select your own seat. Sometimes it’s great and other times not so great. This time it was great, the kids and I were able to get seats together in the back of the plane. Our flight to Chicago Mid-way went smoothly. We arrived just in time for lunch. I proceeded to the first sit down restaurant I could find and the five of us had a very pleasant meal. After lunch we walked around the airport, used the facilities and then re-boarded our plane. We had a 3 ½ hour layover in Chicago. I want to applaud that airport; it was the first one I had been in that had a family or assisted use bathroom where I could offer my 8 year old son some privacy to use the bathroom without making him use the ladies room. And I got to use the facilities without making the kids all line up where I could see their feet while I did so…you know what I mean?
The next leg of our journey was equally as pleasant and the flight attendants were so nice and helpful, really great. On this leg of the journey I acquired an extra child in my care. I couple we had met on the first leg ended up not being able to sit together, but their daughter was having such a good time with my kids she asked to sit with us. It worked out great and I even got a free glass of wine from the flight attendant. Who says kindness never pays! All in all a great travel experience thanks in part to my husband who booked the flights, great kids and the great service at Southwest.
Coming home I was not so lucky. Islip Airport was a nightmare, backed up, under staffed, unorganized, you name it and this is a really small airport. We arrived over an hour before our flight with boarding passes in hand and still nearly missed the flight. I had to carry my luggage from the self check in to the TSA then go through security where the guard really made each kid carry their own boarding passes. Then a rude family behind us kept trying to cut in between my kids and me. Of course my bag got selected to be scrutinized as my children were out of sight trying to get their shoes on. All of this happening as the flashing red light on the monitor alerting me to the fact that my flight was on last call for boarding. I thought we were doomed.
We made it to the gate only to find that the monitor was just one more problem Islip Airport was having. The monitor was announcing boarding, but the gate area was having other problems and the flight was not yet ready to board and we would be running late. Already a little scrambled at this time I was concerned we would miss our connection in Vegas. More on that later.
So, out of breath and sweating, yet relieved we were still going to make out flight, I relaxed. The night before I had gone to the deli and had them pack up bagels and fruit for breakfast, a couple of sandwiches for lunch. I also made a few PB & J’s for the two youngest, I was looking for easy. The first leg of our flight was going to be 5 ½ hours and we have been up since 5:30am. Thank goodness my dad was able to stay in the airport with me to help watch the kids up until we got to security. However the kids did not eat their bagels while I was checking luggage because the deli guy put sour cream instead of cream cheese on the bagels and it was gross. No worries I think, I packed an extra PB&J and granola bars they can eat when we get on the plane. OH NO. A mom presented at the gate counter that her child was so deathly allergic to peanuts, peanut dust and fumes that any peanut product on the plane needed to stay wrapped. There goes breakfast and ½ my lunches and we have 5 ½ hours to go. YIKES! To make matters worse, I notice at this time that the deli sandwiches are bad too. They smelled and the cheese was hard and nasty.. So now with the exception of a couple of apples we have no food for the flight.
Southwest Flight Attendants to the rescue! I wish I had gotten his name. He, my hero, asks what the kids will eat and rushes to get off the plane to find it for me. But alas the gate closes and the jet way pulled away. Then he tells the pilot what has happened…A mom with four kids at the back of the plane only has peanut products to feed her kids…The captain pulls back into the gate, orders the jet way back, the attendant runs off gets fruit and danishes for us and comes back on. I ask how much I owe him and was told it was “Pilot Day” at the airport and it was all free. I think they were just being nice. So fruit, 100 calorie packs, some Danishes and 5 ½ hours of flying time we make it to Las Vegas. Phew!
Still thinking I have missed my connection, I start asking where to get information on catching an alternate flight. I am now informed that the pilot of the flight I am currently on is the pilot of my next flight so don’t worry, he won’t leave without you. Great! We get off; the monitor say the flight hasn’t even started boarding. I know the pilot is still on the first plane so I take the kids to the bathroom and go to the gate and sit down. We are there about 5 minutes when the gate attendant calls last call for boarding of our flight. I nearly lost it! He apologizes that the monitors are not working correctly but they had boarded early and were just waiting for the pilot who had just gotten on board. Man I just can’t win this trip. So we get on and go to the back where we are told there are some seats near each other to sit in. WRONG! I another family of three had decided to spread out and was not going to move to allow the kids and me to sit together. The woman was so rude she even told me I should have gotten there sooner. I was now PISSED! The three older children were good sports and sat with strangers, but the youngest was not going to do it. But yet the same woman would not sit next to her husband to let me sit with my kids. So once again, flight attendants to the rescue, they make a request over the loud speaker and a man volunteered immediately. He was sitting in the front of the plane. So three kids in the back with strangers and me in the front with one child. I was stressed. Although the three children in the back were sitting with what seemed like nice people, that one very rude family was there too. It was a short flight and the attendants kept an eye on them back there for me when I was unable to check myself. We land, our luggage made it (not a sure thing I had been told at the beginning of our journey) and my husband picks us up, brings us home where he has a late lunch waiting for us and a glass of wine for me. After we ate, the kids and I went to bed for an afternoon nap. All was well again. I have to say, had it not been for the excellent help of the SouthWest flight attendants on that day I do not know if I would have made it in one piece. Thanks SouthWest for the excellent service. Thanks Oakland and Midway Airports for your excellent service as well.