Monday, October 23, 2017

Alaska Airlines: Don't Put the Can in the Can Ever Again

How do I start? First of all, I have to say that I had an absolutely fabulous time touring Boise, Idaho for upcoming articles in Wander With Wonder and Real Food Traveler. Boise is fun, funky, clean, welcoming and absolutely beautiful in fall.

I had a great visit to Boise, Idaho
I spent my last day in Boise racking up quite a few steps on my FitBit. I walked from the luxurious Grove Hotel to the Capitol, and then all the way back down Capitol Boulevard to the historic Union Pacific Train Depot. I then Ubered to the beautiful Telaya Winery (great Mourvedre by the way) and Ubered to a late lunch at Juniper in downtown Boise. After a hearty burger lunch, I made my last visit to the alleyway, dubbed Freak Alley Gallery and walked back to the hotel.

I was photographing details of the Freak Alley murals.
What I didn't realize was that before the day ended, my eyes would
be feeling just like this!

I started packing.

Alaska Doesn't Always Fly Idaho Wine For Free

While visiting Boise I was gifted with two lovely bottles of Idaho wine. I looked forward to enjoying them with friends. As I put them in the cute green Boise gift bag, I started thinking.... wine is liquid. TSA doesn't like liquids. So I went on the Alaska Airlines website to learn a bit more. I read between the lines. They kept mentioning. "Up to a case of wine can be shipped free as baggage." Somewhere else I read that the wine needed to be packed well. They'd mark it "fragile," but it needed to be packed.

I looked at the two bottles of wine in the cute green gift bag and bade them goodbye. Knowing that they would not be allowed to "fly free," or at any cost, I left them as gifts for my host. Sigh... it was good wine!


Just about then my phone went "ping" and I had a message from Alaska Airlines. My 6:31 flight was delayed until 7:10 p.m. - not the end of the world. Since I had reserved a shuttle to the airport, I went early. And that's when everything went to heck in a hand basket, as they say.

Delay #2

After finding a quiet corner on the main floor of the airport with a plug for my phone, and almost falling asleep, I decided it was time to make my way downstairs to the gate. I looked at the reader board at the gate. My flight showed a further delay... this time it read that they would be boarding at 7:55 p.m. The light and bright gate agent announced that there had been a mechanical issue with the plane and it had not left Portland yet.

I schlepped my carry on bag (which by now felt like it weighed 50 pounds) over to the "Business Center" where I sat down at a cubicle reminiscent of my college days at the library studying for exams.

I was really getting sleepy.

Delay #3

The light and bright gate agent announced that there would be a further delay and didn't give a reason. He did, however, hand out $12 food vouchers, good for any restaurant in the airport. At that point I was hoping for a hotel voucher as I was really sleepy. My eyeballs were getting scratchy. But I recalled a pleasant looking restaurant upstairs and schlepped my now 60 pound carry-on up there.

I decided a healthy dinner would give me strength for whatever adventures the night would bring. So I ordered a salmon filet with salad. The cheerful waitress apologized... they had run out of salad. I could have another side. So I had salmon filet with french fries, not so healthy after all.

Good News, I Guess

The light and bright gate agent announced that our flight had finally left Portland and when it arrived, they would let the passengers deplane and we'd be off as soon as possible. Time passed and the the light and bright gate agent keep looking nervously out the window watching for our plane. Finally, he announced, with a smile, that the plane had landed. Eventually a throng of weary passengers came into the terminal and we got in line for boarding.

The light and bright gate agent then announced that the toilet on our flight was not working so, he said, "I suggest you use the restroom before boarding."

But Wait... This Isn't Horizon Air!

I lugged my now 75 pound carry-on all the way to the far gate. I was expecting to see a shiny Horizon Air Turbo Prop awaiting me. That's what Alaska flies on this route. Instead I saw something unrecognizable... SkyWest Airlines. And the plane wasn't all that shiny and new looking. We climbed up the ramp to be greeted by a weary but very pleasant flight attendant.
Oh oh, what's this?
Aircraft bait and switch?
Once  I found my seat, I looked around. The plane reminded me of those I experienced in Central America... recycled U.S. planes. When a plane got too old to fly in the U.S., name brand airlines sold them to little regional airlines in Central America. My reminiscing was interrupted as the Captain came to the cabin.

The Truth is Out!

Captain Tim explained why Flight Attendant Debbie was looking a bit harried. The flight was delayed a little bit coming into Portland. But that's when the real problems were discovered. The restroom toilet mechanism was ruined and had to be taken apart. This was no easy task. The problem, he said smiling, was "Someone had flushed a soda can down the toilet... the mechanism was then jammed." And, he added, "we have locked the restroom. It is not operable. If we let you use it, it will back up and flood the passenger compartment of the plane." The picture painted by the Captain was enough to hope no one needed to use the bathroom!

After the safety briefing, Flight Attendant Debbie told us that if anyone really needed to go, she would unlock the bathroom, and you could flush manually with a bottle of water. "But don't throw the bottle into the toilet, now," she added with a smirk.

The Flight

Captain Tim also explained why we didn't recognize the plane. He said that there had been such an increased demand for flights that they had run out of planes. While new ones were being built, a lengthy process, Alaska needed to use planes from SkyWest airlines, kind of like hiring from a temp agency (my words.) He added, "The planes are old but fly faster than the turbo-props you are used to."

I settled back hoping they flew really, really fast!

Indeed, the flight was 55 minutes and the plane stayed in the air just fine. Flight Attendant Debbie, the sole flight attendant, offered refreshments... water, ice (alcohol if there is any left, she quipped), red wine and beer. She added, they had no sodas. I wondered if that was because they came in cans? :)

The Aftermath

After we landed, I got home with my 100 lb carry-on in record time. Uber works great, I have found. And this morning I received an apologetic email from Alaska Airlines with a $75 discount coupon for a future flight.

Moral of the Story


Read more of my flying stories.
Read More Than You Want to Know About Airport Bathrooms.

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