Once I realized that there was no hope of getting to the reunion, I wanted to know about getting home. I could have bought a ticket to Minneapolis on another carrier, but then I would have had to also buy a ticket to fly back to Seattle, or I could try to use my Southwest return flights, but what if they were still dealing with this backlog on Monday? I was very concerned about getting back home because not only did I have to go to work, but the days I had already taken I were not paid vacation, so adding to my lack of work days and income was not a positive thought. I asked about flights back to Seattle -- nothing for days. Not through Orange County, Sacramento or San Francisco. Not through Portland, Spokane, or even Boise.
I decided around 11 PM that I needed a Plan B. I was already very tired, having milled around the airport for hours. I checked out Travelocity (several flights available but not changeable) and decided to look at Alaska Airlines directly. I found and booked the earliest NON STOP flight home to Seattle that I could get and paid extra for a refundable ticket because IF I could get to Minneapolis to the reunion on my original ticket, I still wanted to go there. Our reunion happens every three years and I will statistically likely not see some of the older cousins by the time the next comes around in 2019. I already feel cheated for not getting a chance to see them again and hope that their strong Norwegian constitutions will get them safely to the next reunion.
There were a few bright spots along the way. I talked to a variety of people of all ages, ethnicities and interests. There was definitely a sense of community between fellow travelers. I noticed fairly quickly that I was seeing many of the same people over and over again! When the flight to Minneapolis was finally cancelled around midnight, I ended up in line near another woman traveling alone (she was meeting a relative in Minneapolis to drive together to a family reunion camping trip further east!). Her first name was the same as my middle name and my first name and her middle names were variations on a theme, so that seemed fortuitous! We hung out together for the next several hours. We met a great employee of Southwest, Ivy, who rescued us from the long lines of people waiting to be processed now that our flight was cancelled and she issued us each our $200 travel vouchers. She was the brightest spot in this ordeal.
When morning arrived I was delighted to board Alaska flight 711 and head for home, even if I was out another $600. I was still sad I was missing the reunion. It was the shortest four hour flight I have ever taken since because of exhaustion, I slept soundly from after takeoff until about 40 minutes before touch down. Was I happy to see home sweet home!
So, what did I learn? I learned that as soon as I was told there was a delay I should have checked to see how widespread delays were. I should have cancelled that flight (planning to use it later) right away and booked another carrier if I could get a reasonable flight and headed for the reunion another way. Worst case I should have just gone home and given up on the reunion immediately and avoided spending an entire day getting nowhere. I did receive a $200 voucher for a future flight. I also got an email from Southwest today giving me a code for 50% off another flight. But we still need to have another conversation about getting this entire flight back to use because I NEVER wanted to end up in St. Louis. I wanted to end up in Minneapolis! I don't think going to St. Louis counts as using my outbound ticket. Time will tell!
Alas, I still did not get to see my very extended family -- which was the whole point of attending the reunion. Hope I get to see you all again in 2019! Stay well and prosper!