SNAFU-ed in Hawaii

Our final morning in Kapaa.
Not a happy camper.

This is how a normally cheerful seventy-three-year-old looks after an epic travel SNAFU on the return trip from Kauai. I’d been up for thirty-six hours after being rained on most of the day before.

It had been a week of disappointingly foul weather on the island of Kauai when things got decidedly worse. We were already up way past our bedtimes late Saturday night when our names we called by the American Airlines gate agent at Lihue Airport. My husband and I had been “involuntarily downgraded” (bumped) from our red-eye return flight. This overnight flight was only one of the many changes American Airlines forced on us. New routes, new flights, new seat assignments, and now bumped. We’d made our original reservations last summer.

However we weren’t alone in being left at the gate and in the lurch. A while later, the gate agent told about forty-five other passengers that the flight was “weight restricted.” They were left waiting in line for over an hour. Why? Baggage was especially heavy on this flight because of sixty collegiate golfers (and their clubs} traveling home from a tournament. All of them had been given priority and boarded in the early groups. Hours went by without anyone telling us what was happening.

We watched the plane taxi away. Then a few minutes later it came back. Everyone deplaned and was sent back out to the ticketing counter.

Schadenfreude? Maybe, just a bit.

At about 2:30 Sunday morning, those of us in the first “left behind” group started receiving our compensation—substantial travel credits for anywhere American flies. Would we ever trust American Airlines again? Maybe, but only for a direct flight. And not for a while.

We booked our own flight home on Southwest at our own expense. It would leave in just a few hours at 7:45 AM. By that time a hotel seemed pointless. We resolved to spend the night in the airport, that is until we were booted out by security. It seems the little Lihue airport was closed.

Our lodgings for the night.

That meant that we sat up the rest of the night on a concrete bench in the open-air baggage claim area. I slept a little with the pillow and blanket the gate agent offered. My husband kept watch. I kept the pillow and blanket.

When the airport reopened, we went through security and the agricultural inspection. Again. At last, we were at our gate awaiting our flight when the agent announced the flight was “weight restricted.” Again. Yes, there were also young golfers with their clubs on this flight. The agent asked for five or six volunteers to take a later flight. We did not volunteer. We’d already done our time. Besides, when you get bumped you don’t necessarily get your checked bags. They may go on without you.

Again, our flight was delayed while the situation was resolved, causing us to miss our connecting flight. Happily, Southwest automatically put us on the next flight out. Whew. Southwest for the win.

Yes, this was a first-world problem. We are grateful for the freedom and opportunity to travel, good health, a comfortable home, and enough to eat. But pardon me if I believe an airline should be able to anticipate and account for the weight of sixty golf bags before everyone is boarding. Or maybe before allowing so many people to reserve seats.

That being said, we are home now and mostly caught up on our sleep. And I’m mostly back to my normal level of cheeriness. But it’s snowing again, so maybe we will consider using that travel credit to find the sun. Again.

We did enjoy our 50th Valentine’s Day together on a great ATV tour with Kipu Ranch Adventures. Aloha!

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