Gamez: How I got back to Seattle after flight was canceled in Vegas

Dec 28, 2022, 3:07 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm
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It was a wonderful holiday with family back in Michigan with my in-laws, sans the blizzard-like conditions that blew in from Canada. But on the way home, I knew something was off.

First, it started when we arrived in Detroit and waited almost two hours for a ride-share to pick us up from my mother-in-law’s house. Our driver said, “I hope your flight takes off on time. So many flights have been canceled.”

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According to the airline’s app, everything was on track. We checked into the airport hotel and ate dinner and slept for maybe four hours. The alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and we were through security by 3:45 a.m.

By the time we reached the gate, our flight was still reporting on time. So, we sat and waited. Unfortunately, the gate attendants announced that our flight crew was stuck at the hotel. They couldn’t find a ride to the airport. We were going to be late. Nearly two hours later, we boarded the Airbus. We slept the whole way to Vegas but first, we prayed to the universe that we would make our connecting flight home to Seattle.

Once we landed, I turned on my phone and the notifications came in loud and clear. Our flight to Sea-Tac was canceled.

We were re-booked for December 30th. I laughed out of frustration. The airline allowed all of us who had connecting flights off first. I ran to the nearest gate attendant and was first in line. I was kind and understanding but told the attendant that as much as I would love to visit Vegas, this was not the time and we needed to get home.

The guy who sat in our aisle was standing beside us. I thought he was being rude encroaching on my space and time with the attendant, but he needed to get to Seattle as well.

The attendant helped us and placed us on standby for the next flight home, which was 12 hours later. No food vouchers were given. This setback was all on our dime. 

We ran to baggage claim to grab our bags which took two hours because the bags they were releasing on the carousel were from delayed or canceled flights from over the weekend, according to airline ground support.

Once we had our bags, we exchanged numbers with our new traveling companion, Sam. He is from Canada and was headed to Seattle for a funeral. He suggested we rent a car and drive home. I said ‘Let’s wait.’ I feel good about our flight tonight.

From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., my family and I ate and slept on the airport floor (thank goodness we had throw blankets with us).

By 4:15 p.m., we re-checked our bags and made our way through security again (and thank extra goodness for CLEAR because we were able to skip the 75-minute security line). Sam was still in tow and kept saying, we should leave and rent a car.

When we reached the airline’s terminal, it was a madhouse. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe how many travelers there were just sitting, sleeping, reading, and watching their phones. Some were talking to the gate attendants…screaming even. We found seats by our gate for all of us, because a family gave up waiting and left the airport.

I kept checking in with the gate attendant. Our flight was still on-time and we had good odds of getting on because, according to the airline representative, the flight had 24 open seats. For the next five hours, I played games with my kids, slept, ate, read, and chatted with other people around us who were in the same boat.

Sam struck up a conversation and said, “Hey, if we don’t take off tonight, we should rent a car. I am serious. Would you consider renting a car and driving with me straight through?”

Jokingly I said yes. I wasn’t getting in a car with a stranger. No way. But then I thought about it. Did I really want to sleep on the airport floor and eat airport food and wait until December 30th to get home? No.

And then it happened. Airport security was called again. Another ticket holder lost her mind. She began to scream and the whole terminal in our area went silent. She had hit the end of her rope. I am sure she is now TikTok famous.

Apparently, she had been at the airport for 24 hours, was booked stand-by four times and all of her flights were canceled. I looked at Sam and said, if they cancel our flight, we need to make a plan.

An hour later, it was called. Our flight was canceled due to no flight crew. I ran to the gate desk and the attendant manager said, go get your bags and find another airline. Text this number and we will issue you a refund. We can’t re-book you. If we do, it won’t be until January.

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My wife, kids, and Sam hauled it across what felt like three football fields. As we made our way, I heard a father tell his son, “I can’t believe we have to stay here another extra day. $%@!”  I said, “Where are you headed?” He said, “Seattle.” I told him we were going to rent a van and drive home. He asked, “Can we join you?”

We gathered at baggage claim and made a plan. My wife stayed with the kids – ours and our new friend Dave’s son. Sam, Dave, and I ran to the rental car shuttle. Once we arrived, we checked all of the rental companies and no one had a car.

I ran by a woman in a red Avis shirt and I asked, “Do you have cars?” She whispered, “Yes.” I asked, do you have vans? She nodded and fled by me. The line to Avis was long but it moved quickly. When we reached the desk, the agent said they weren’t renting vehicles out of state. This is where it pays to be nice and hold your composure. We pleaded with the guy, said we have kids and asked for his manager.

He said, “We have an Expedition with Washington plates. It’s $598.00 for the rental and if I let you take it out of state, I have to charge you a deposit.” We were desperate and all chipped in.

By 10:42 p.m. we were off! But didn’t know which route to take. I knew I-90 wasn’t an option. Hello? I report on horrific events on the passes. I knew the route through California would take too long.

So, what did I do? I called Sully. He said to take I-15 to Salt Lake City. Get on I-84 which will take you to Oregon. Get to Portland and take I-5 home. Yay Sully!

I took the first leg of the drive. I drove us from Vegas to about 150 miles outside of Salt Lake City. Dave took the second leg at 4 a.m. and got us to Idaho! We drove through some high winds and sleet, but that was nothing compared to our next trek through Oregon.

We stopped in windy Oregon, somewhere outside of Pendleton. Six more hours to go.

Exhausted, we gassed up, cleaned up, stretched our legs, and hit the road again. And then, the weather turned.

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The winds picked up harder and it began to sleet. Sam drove this leg. He is a professional truck driver. I felt safe with him behind the wheel.

Once we met the Columbia River, everything changed. Our drive went from safe to treacherous. The Expedition was beaten back and forth with what felt like over 50 mph winds. There was tree debris in the roadway being blown all over. The sleet/rain mixture came down and sometimes it was hard to see.

At one point, I saw a tree fall and slide into the road. Cars going eastbound swerved and came to a halt. Luckily no crashes! Then further down, more trees on the road. State patrol shut down the highway. Freight was at a halt. At one point, I thought the Expedition was going to flip, that’s how windy it was. I prayed. We all prayed.

Once we made it to Mount Hood, the winds died down some. The traffic backups going east on I-84 were epic. Eighteen-wheelers were lined up along the highway and in fast-food restaurant parking lots. Our traffic came to a halt as well. Two crashes up ahead caused delays into Portland.

After two hours, we made it onto I-5 and we all cheered! It was our last leg home. It wasn’t easy, because of the wind and rain, but it was easier than driving along the Columbia River Gorge.

We dropped Dave and his son off at their home in Federal Way. Sam, my wife, kids, and I made our way to Sea-Tac and turned in the Expedition. Sam’s family was already there waiting to whisk him away.

We took a ride share back home to Seattle. Home never felt better.

Home, sweet home.

@puffinsmommy45 Will never fly Spirit again!! #thegamezdiaries #flightscanceled #stuckinvegas #wintertravel #neverflyspirit #badweather #CODSquadUp #kindstrangers ♬ Polozhenie – Izzamuzzic Remix – Скриптонит

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Gamez: How I got back to Seattle after flight was canceled in Vegas