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missed opportunity airport story

Last year my parents traded their time-share in Branson, MO for two weeks in Ft. Lauderdale. They had such a good time that they asked (in about March of 2004) me and my brother if we'd like to join them for a repeat in 2005. I'm 33 years old and haven't been on vaction in about 6 or 7 years and haven't been on vacation with my parents in much longer than that. I'd been looking forward to it for a long time. My parents went from Michigan down to Florida last weekend on Saturday and my brother and sister-in-law and my neice and nephew went down around Tuesday. My partner Regula and I were to fly down Friday morning.

But I messed up.

I set the alarm for 5:10 for a 6:40 flight. I figured it would take 5-10 minutes to get out of the house after waking up and then would take 20 minutes to drive to the airport and we'd have plenty of time. I even checked the homeland security website to see how long to expect for security delays. Ten minutes it seemed to say for that time of morning.

We actually got into the car at 5:28. We got to the airport exit about 5:50 and I still thought we'd be okay. We parked the car and walked to the airport train to our terminal. There was a delay at the escalator leaving the train and there were no stairs so no other way to go. Then in the walkway to the terminal, there were machines where you could check in, but they were all occupied so we kept walking. I noticed some departure monitors that said it was 6:08 at that point. (6:40 flight, remember?). I still didn't know that we were in trouble.

So we then found a whole lot more of these check-in machines, but there aren't the typical lines to stand in that I'm used to so it was a bit chaotic. When I finally got up to a machine and put my credit card in there, it told me to see an agent. We did and she seemed worried. She said 30 minutes before a flight, the gate takes control of seat-assignments so we were too late to check in. She put us on the stand-by list for the next flight and told us to rush to the gate to see if we could make it.

The security line was really long and my heart sank. Regula asked a staff person if we could jump the line because we'd miss our flight and she was less than helpful. Then another set of security lines opened up down the terminal and we went fast-walking that way with many of the others. After another minute or two we were at the front of the line and I put the bags on the belt. I didn't notice that behind me Regula was being screened out into the invasive search line. After I went through the machines, I looked back to see her having to wait further. It took at least another 10 minutes for her to get through and by then we'd for sure missed the flight. I have no idea how these kinds of random checks make anyone safer, but I'm fairly certain we would've missed the flight anyway.

So we were on standby for the 1:20 flight. What a long 6 hours that was waiting for that one. After everyone else got on, they called my name. I went up with both stand-by cards and they said they only had one seat and that we were not listed as flying together anyway. I assured them that we were flying together and isn't there a chance for a 2nd seat. They said no without looking at our stand-by cards. They told me they'd roll us (me?) over to the next flight at 3:55. So I walked away and they called Regula's name. We told them she was with me and they called someone else's name. A few mintues later they discovered a checked-in passenger that had not boarded so they called another name (drats-if one of us had gotten on when called, the other would've also made it!).

We found a place to take a name and wait another 2+ hours. When I took our cards up to the counter to make sure we were on the list and together they told me that Regula was not on the list. They added her and gave us both new cards. But then they only called one name for that flight.

We gave up and went home. I'm not sure how much difference it makes, but I cannot blame any of the staff at the airport for our plight. Yes, I feel things at many stages of the day should've gone differently from their side of things, but ultimately, we controlled our own fate when we didn't get up early enough. So I missed the time in Florida, most importantly missed the time with my family. And I have to take responsibility for that. Not fun, but necessary.

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