Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Orleans -- Wednesday -- July 23, 2014

Wednesday we woke up a little later than usual.  After we got dressed and reviewed the contents of the room and our luggage, we took a walk down Royal Street to Café Beignet.  We sat outside in a garden next to the 1827 Bank of Louisiana Building, which is now a police station.  Coming from San Francisco where buildings older than 1906 are rare and buildings older than the 1850s are almost nonexistent, I loved seeing all the 18th and early 19th Century buildings in New Orleans.  I liked the Café du Monde's beignets better. 

I meant to take a photo of our room, but I never thought of doing it while the bed was made up.  Here is a photo of our view, looking towards Canal Street with Exchange Place in the foreground. 

We went downstairs about 10:30 to check out, then sat in the lobby for a while as it filled up with people from an organization called Tales of the Cocktail, a yearly festival "This New Orleans festival, in its 11th year, brings together the world’s top mixologists, bartenders, and chefs for five days full of cuisine, culture, and most importantly – cocktails." They appeared to be a lively bunch.

We outside to wait and found Royal Street jammed with trucks and buses, school buses from Thomas Built, the descendant of the company that built the Saint Charles Avenue streetcars.  We saw a car go by about 12:30, and then my wife got a call, which turned out to be from the driver.  He was over by the Walgreen's.  He gave us a nice ride to the airport. 

We had no trouble checking in and getting through the TSA area.  We went through the scanners in both San Francisco and New Orleans. 

We got to the gate in plenty of time and had lined up to board our 2:35 flight to LAX when the gate agent announced that we could not board because they did not have a pilot and copilot.  They were stuck on a flight that was late coming in.  This was interesting because the boards did not list any flights as being delayed. 

I suggested we eat lunch.  We went to a Subway which was staffed by some people who appeared to hate their jobs.  Then we sat down at the gate and waited. 

Then they told us to move to another gate with another airplane.  My wife heard a pilot berate the gate agent and ask why they had moved us from a gate with a good airplane.  This turned out to be because the airplane in the new gate had struck a bird on its way from Houston.  They were waiting for an email from Houston to get permission for a contract mechanic to look at the engine to see if the turbine blades had been damaged. 

Houston gave permission.  The contract mechanic came out, found that the turbine blades had been damaged, and the plane was not safe to fly. 

After a while, the gate agent announced that they were trying to find a new plane for us.  Later he announced that a plane was being sent from Houston and should be there about 5pm.  We were not happy. 

Then the gate agent said he was leaving for the day.  The lady at the desk was trying to help people rearrange connections.  Before the gate agent left, he said a supervisor was coming to help the lady at the desk. 

Another agent came to hand out $100 vouchers.  The problem is, to use them, we'd have to fly Southwest again. 

At one point the lady at the desk announced that she could help people going to Oakland and San Francisco right away.  We got in line.  Another lady joined her, but she was definitely not a supervisor.  We were in line for almost an hour.  They helped the Oakland people.  When someone asked about San Francisco people, the new woman told them to get back in line.  When we finally got to the front of the line, the original lady said she could reroute us through Phoenix.  She gave us new boarding passes and we went back to the original gate. 

We found that the Phoenix flight was very late.  I got in line to ask if we would miss the San Francisco flight.  The lady at that desk announced that San Francisco people shouldn't worry.  That flight was very late.  They would hold it if needed. 

We waited for the Phoenix flight.  The lady at the desk kept announcing that it would be later and later.  I walked by the other gate and found that the LAX flight had left.  We talked to another man who was trying to get to San Francisco so his wife could pick him up from Santa Clara.  Our boarding passes were for group C, which was the last to board, even though we had paid extra for priority boarding.   We were in group B for the flight from Phoenix to San Francisco.  The agent said she couldn't do anything about it and we should get a refund. 

My wife was crying when the flight left at 9pm.  We couldn't sit together, but at least we were in consecutive rows. 

The flight got to Phoenix after 11pm at gate C1.  The crew told us that the San Francisco flight was being held at C14.  We ran.  We got seats together on that flight. 

We got to San Francisco after 1am.  We were supposed to get there at 7:30pm, so we were 5 1/2 hours late. It took a long time for our luggage to come.  We didn't think it had made the transfer in Phoenix, so we were happy to see it.

The driver came pretty quickly and we walked into the house at 2am.  The cat was happy to see us. 

My wife's primary comments on the Southwest situation were that they gave us very little information and many of the staff did not seem to care.  Several people remarked that Southwest was having a system-wide meltdown, but I couldn't find anything about it on the internet or in the newspaper. 

Some thoughts for our next trip to New Orleans:
1.  Ride the Loyola streetcar line and the Canal Street branch to City Park.
2.  Don't fly Southwest.
3.  Take the combined Garden District walking tour and photography class.
4.  Don't fly Southwest.
5.  Take more photos of architectural details.
6.  Don't fly Southwest.
7.  Visit the World War II Museum.
8.  Don't fly Southwest.
9.  Find the chapel of Saint Expedite.  Praying for him to intercede on our behalf might have gotten us home sooner.
10.  Don't fly Southwest.

We loved New Orleans and would be happy to go again.  We were not happy with the ride home, which left us frustrated and exhausted.  I'm working on a letter to the president of Southwest Airlines. 

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