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Customer Service

Today, I did two things I haven't done in a long time. I rode the bus to work, and I updated my webpage.

First off, the visit from the family over the weekend of the 13th was fun, but Rachel got completely owned by Southwest Airlines, who threw their hands in the air and stopped taking care of anyone when the slightest whiff of weather trouble surfaced. Kansas City received a nasty share of a big ice storm that marched across the central plains from Oklahoma to Nebraska, east to central Illinois.

Rachel lives in Oregon, so her two-leg flight itinerary took her to Oakland before making the big leap across the hairy back of America: the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. All was presumably well in Kansas City when her flight took off relatively on time from Oakland, but while she was in the air, Southwest chose to wave away every inbound flight they had for Kansas City. That's their business of course, but it was a poor call, in my opinion.

Julia's flight from Boston on another airline landed with an expected one-hour delay, and she was at my apartment just after 11pm. Brian and Kathleen flew Southwest from Chicago, but since the flight is only an hour long, they had plenty of notice that their flight was canceled, and that they were rescheduled to depart early the next morning- a flight on which they arrived on time, to my intense relief.

Dad and Amy took the train, and only experienced typical train-related delays, amounting to about an hour and a half. That placed them at Union Station(a much easier trip at ten blocks than the airport at 15 miles on icy roads) at about the same time as Julia got lost in KCK in her rental. But lost in KCK is much better than rerouted to Louisville, as Rachel was, with no promise of ever getting to Kansas City with the ticket for which she paid.

At every turn, Southwest simply blamed the weather for the grievous problems experienced by all their Midwestern paying customers. I would have even been on their side if they hadn't made the incomprehensible customer service error in judgement that they made: not allowing Rachel to get her bag when she got off the plane in Louisville. This absolutely baffles me. She was placed in a massive standby queue for one of the two daily flights from Louisville to Kansas City, with a very slim chance of being able to board.

With that kind of a situation in mind, it would make perfect sense to me if the airline would be willing to let its customers make their own way to their final destination without their half-hearted help. Rachel, seeing a standby ticket for a sold-out flight, among 120 other standby passengers from another sold-out flight, availed herself of the non-flight option, and still was not allowed to have her bag. Baffling!

Nevertheless, she was determined to make it to Kansas City, and so took up with a businessman from Harrisonville named Roger, who generously gave her a ride in his rental car to Cincinnati, where they moth caught a train to Chicago, an on to Kansas City to arrive late the following night. Dad and I drove down to Union Station to pick Rachel up that night, and were solicited by Roger for a ride to KCI where his truck was parked. In light of his kindness to my sister, I could hardly refuse. We gassed up and made one of my many ice-streaked trips to the god-damned airport.

While we were there, we decided to inquire as to the status of Rachel's bag, and were met with a talk-to-the-hand style clerk whose sole job, it seemed, was to disappoint customers. I was upset by this but Dad had reached the end of his rope and verbally ripped into her. I angrily pulled Dad away- I just wanted to get home and spend time with my family that was now fully assembled in Kansas City -and we made the soggy icy trip back toward the city.

The next morning, the rest of the family went to Mass across the street, though I just wasn't feeling it, and then enjoyed a nice John-cooked brunch at home. We went to the new National World War I museum at the Liberty Memorial and had a grand time. It is an excellent museum, and didn't fail and extracting tears from me. We rounded off our Sunday with a couple drinks at O'Dowd's and an outrageously expensive dinner at Plaza III across the street. The food was sensational, but I don't plan on eating there again, unless it's guaranteed to make a woman like me.

Dad and Amy caught the train back to Illinois at 9am. The rest of us got some lunch at a place that the memory of which eludes me, and made a beeline for the Roasterie Cafe in Brookside. The place was jammed with people, and not a single seat was available, much less a table for five. We took our coffees to go, and walked over to Cellar and Loft to browse their very impressive wine cellar. We finished the weekend off with some drinks at Grinders and everyone left for KCI to catch their planes home on time.

It was a really nice weekend, but like I said, Rachel got owned. She never did get her bag before leaving. She finally got through to someone at the airline on Sunday. They informed her that her bag was at KCI, and she was free come and get it, but they would not deliver it. The weekend was something of a wash for Rachel, in that respect. I think she still had a nice time though.

12:01 PM, Jan 25, 2007

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