For those of you eagerly awaiting the final instalment in the epic Vegas trip, it’s time to exhale and enjoy the schadenfreude-al goodness of a day that you didn’t have to experience. For all previous chapters, check out: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
As well-known high-roller Charles Dickens once wrote: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. As you can gather by that statement, the journey home started off well and then ended… not so well. We were picked up at the Aria by the same limo we arrived in – but, of course! And so just as we arrived, we left.
Moments before I took this picture, this guy said, “I’ll take an 8×10 of that.” And then wished us well.
LAS Arrival in Style
We departed the Aria after saying farewell to our arena-sized room and shortly thereafter arrived at the airport. And, as responsible Canadians, we gave ourselves plenty of time to check in, etc., before boarding. Translation: way more than 20 minutes. We headed up to the first-class check in counter, only to be greeted by a somewhat flustered ticket agent who informed us that we had plenty o’ time to catch our flight, seeing as all Alaska Airlines flights were either delayed or cancelled. When we inquired as to what was going on, he gave us the short version: there was a network failure that basically grounded the entire airline. He suggested that we might be stuck at the LV airport for a couple hours; in the grand scheme of travel, that was no big deal.
Six hours kinda sucked, though.
LAS Terminal 3: Up Close and Really Personal
Yes, it was about six hours. Turns out that during some routine construction, Alaska’s internet connection through Sprint was accidentally cut (literally, the cable was severed), both in Wisconsin and – get this – Seattle as well… which happens to be Alaska’s hub. This minor incident pretty much rendered Alaska’s network dead, so no one could issue boarding passes or check in for flights. Basically, the planes were grounded until it got fixed. Well, at least it wasn’t anything mechanical, I reasoned with myself. No, that came later.
We passed the time by watching shows on our iPad, going to a pub, watching another show, going to another pub, etc., etc. It went on like this for what seemed an eternity. I tried not to think that all this time we could be spending outside in the glorious 34 degree Vegas weather, lying by the pool. OK, maybe not the pool, given my last two experiences there à la Vegas-style douchery, but still.
So after many episodes of Justified and Modern Family, several glasses of pinot grigio and humongous plates of ‘merican food, our plane finally starts boarding. (Of course, Cam was up at the ticket counter every so often trying to figure out what the hell was going on, wrangling food vouchers, bantering with other hapless passengers, and the like. He says it helps pass the time – somebody is always worse off than you, and this turned out to be true, as you’ll see.) Although our connection to Victoria from Seattle had evaporated, it certainly was not forgotten. In fact, we pretty quickly worked it out that there was no freakin’ way we’d make it home that night. Ugh.
Well, at Least We Weren’t Like This Guy
Once settled and safely in the air, the air hostess took pity on us (bless her heart) by pouring us coffee with Bailey’s along with generous glasses of yet more pinot grigio. As we made our way up to cruising altitude, we both noticed a young fellow traveling alone, seated diagonally across from us in first. He looked extremely worse for wear, holding his head in hands for most of the taxiing and looking a particular shade of grey. Cam informed me that he had been chatting with him in the ticket counter line-up. With a sardonic grin, he relayed to me this guy’s deal: he’d been partying in Vegas for a full three days, living it up in the clubs each night (morning?) until 9 am. In fact he thought – as he woke up in a rather stunned and severely hungover haze that very morning – that he was going to actually miss his flight.
Next thing we knew, this guy is standing in the hostess cabin where of course you cannot hang out post 9/11, chatting away and trying to avoid the barf bag the hostess handed him earlier. When Cam passed by en route to the washroom, he gave dude an inquiring look, to which Hangover Harry replied, “I have anxiety attacks sometimes” as a source of explanation. I don’t doubt it in the least. Cam sort of regretted saying to him a bit earlier, “Don’t jump”. Sort of.
Sleepful in Seattle
We arrived in Seattle a good 3.5 hours after our scheduled connection to Victoria. Not that anyone was going anywhere, mind you. We headed straight for the Alaska info counter – we were the first ones there – to figure out what we do next. After an interminable amount of time, with much sympathetic clucking and tapping of keys from the ticket agent, she informed us that the next – and last – flight to Vic (11 pm) was all booked. We were officially SOL. And so were all the people behind us – and there were many. Still, we managed to secure seats on an 11 am flight the next day – the earliest we could get – and wrangle a nearby hotel. We walked past the extremely long and growing lineup as we made for the exit.
The Airport Hilton was close and comfy, complete with low-lit corridors and bunker-style halls. Cam fondly described it as “virtually charm-free”. But, it did the trick, especially when it came to purchasing provisions, which we had to do since our luggage didn’t make it with us. Of course it didn’t.
The check-in person informed us that the gift store was open for another 15 minutes, so off we went to acquire snacks, deodorant and other various and sundry travel items. It wasn’t until we got to our room that I discovered I had nothing to sleep in. So, off we went back to the store where the overly cheerful clerk greeted us once again, this time enthusiastically gesturing to a particular table with a “buy one, get the other half price” (or something to that effect) t-shirts. We bought two of the worst-looking ones – both with the same Seattle motif – one pink, one grey. Chuckling, we made our way back, only then to discover we’d no toothbrush or toothpaste. (Yes, I really should have taken inventory beforehand. Total rookie move.) I can live without most things for a night, but brushing my teeth isn’t one of them. Of course now that the store was closed, I phoned the front desk, and about 15 minutes later, someone from housecleaning arrived with the much-coveted instruments in hand. At least it was ‘free’.
There’s No Place Like Home
We awoke after a fitful sleep on lumpy pillows and headed to the lobby’s ‘business centre’ to email work (no option for Wi-fi in the room), letting them know we wouldn’t be in for a while, if at all that day. We got to the airport in plenty of time for our mid-morning flight, and everything seemed to be going smoothly as we boarded. We’re almost home! I excitedly thought – a little prematurely… but you know that by now, right?
We’re patiently waiting for the plane to taxi when the pilot makes an announcement that makes my blood run cold (or boil, it could have gone either way): the plane was having mechanical issue with the luggage door. Which meant us and our luggage had to disembark and wait for another plane. And to think we were so close! The pilot didn’t even finish the announcement when a woman across from us (stranded coming back from Mexico with what it looked like as a broken arm), burst into tears. Shaking, she then started begging the man in front of her for some pain killers. I didn’t blame her in the least.
Back we went to the Alaska service counter, where we’d been clocking a significant amount of time. After explaining our situation, the agent prepared us for the worst-case scenario – delay, possible overnight YET AGAIN, as all subsequent flights were booked after this one. No sooner had she told us this when she switched gears and informed us that our replacement plane would be ready in an hour. I wasn’t optimistic. But, this time she was true to her word, and we all clambered back on into the same selection of seats on a different plane.
Forty-five minutes + twenty-four hours later, we touched down on Canadian soil. For someone who absolutely dreads coming home after a vacation, this time I was eternally grateful, and actually was tempted to kneel down and kiss the ground. The ironic thing was that a day or two later Alaska sent me a customer service survey asking me how I enjoyed my trip. The subject line was “Tell us About Your Latest Flight”. Although the folks at Alaska did a pretty good job of troubleshooting the whole situation, I really didn’t have the heart to blast them – it’s not like the frontline folks cut the blessed cable.
At least my rose was still intact.
PS. OK, you’ve had your schadenfreude, so let me put a balancing coda on this. As of this moment, we’re in the YVR Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge waiting for our flight to Bali via HK (yes again). We’re staying for three glorious weeks, so watch for some genuine weirdness coming your way. In other words, I’ll be blogging. Here’s what first class looks like on CX.