Happy Cinco de Mayo: A Tale of Travel to Mexico
A few years back (September 2006 to be specific), my brother and I decided to go to Cancun. We stayed at the Blue Bay Getaway (which is now called “Temptation“).
The resort itself was wonderful and was our first experience of going on vacation without anyone else. Also, the hotel being all adult and all inclusive meant 2 things: no children and lots of free booze. But enough about that, what I really want to talk about today was how we got down there.
Being located in different parts of the country, we flew separately. My brother made it down without incident, alas I was not so lucky.
I was flying US Airways and was scheduled to go Reno to Phoenix to Philadelphia to Cancun, leaving at 6:34 PM on a Friday and getting into Cancun at 12:53 PM the next day. Not the most exciting series of flights to be on, but it was what I had to work with at the time. What actually happened was that the flight from Reno to Phoenix was repeatedly delayed. Initially, this was not a problem as I had a 3 hour layover in Phoenix. However as the delays continued to add up (some of which occurred before boarding, some after), I started to stare at the clock a bit more. Eventually we depart Reno (a little over 3 hours late) and are on our way to Phoenix.
In general, I only ever fly Southwest Airlines, and my experience with them has always been that they will bend over backward to take care of you, including (but most definitely not limited to) holding your connecting flight for you. My many experiences with Southwest were the reason this next part was particularly jarring.
As we pull into the gate, I watch as the plane next to me has its chocks removed and backs up from the gate. I remember thinking to myself, “I bet that’s my flight”. As we had arrived right as it was scheduled to depart. As I exited the aircraft I was proven correct. We had parked right next to my connecting flight and it would have taken me less than 15 minutes to get from where I was sitting on my previous flight to where I should have been sitting on my next flight.
I, along with my fellow passengers, was pissed. I joined the queue for customer service and after 45 minutes in line (it now being after midnight) I am told that I will be moved onto a different flight the next day going direct from Phoenix to Cancun (yay!) and that they have agreements with the local Crowne Plaza Hotel to offer us at a reduced rate.
That’s right, I need to pay for my own hotel for the evening. And the flight in the morning leaves around 6 AM, and since it is international, I need to be back at the airport 2 hours ahead of time. Some of my fellow passengers have opted to sleep in the airport. I opt to go to the hotel (and pay what feels to be an exorbitant fee for what amounts to a couple hours in a room), and the customer service agent lets me know that there is a free shuttle that will take me there (wonderful). I then ask if I need to go get my checked luggage to get some clothes out of it. She tells me that not only do I not need to, it is not possible. This seems odd to me, but what do I know?
Off I go to the hotel, sleep for 2 hours, wake up, shower, can’t have breakfast at the hotel (kitchen doesn’t open till after I am supposed to be at the airport), take the free shuttle back to the airport, go through security, find an open shop and get something resembling a breakfast. Then, a bit of wonderful, very exciting news: I’ve been upgraded to first class.
Yeah, that’s right first class on an international flight. And let me tell you, it was nice! Free meal, free dessert, free headphones, free booze, free movie(s). Basically, everything you might have to pay for in coach, you get for free in first class (or at least that’s how it was back then). It was a very enjoyable trip down to Cancun and I felt like the whole business the night before was totally worth the upgrade to first class.
I land in Cancun and my brother meets me there in the terminal. We wait as the luggage gets unloaded. The carousel spins up and… after a while it spins down… after everyone else has their luggage. Uh oh… turns out my bag was lost/left in Phoenix. I then have to go through the process of explaining what my bag looks like to the local US Airways agent. Telling them where I will be staying (they asked for my room number as well, which I of course didn’t have as I had yet to check into the hotel). I gave them all my info and they said they usually get the bag found within 2-3 days. We’re only staying in Mexico for 3 nights so I am a bit perturbed by this news.
At this point I form a new rule for traveling: If you are checking bags, make sure you have at least a day’s worth of comfortable clothing on your person.
Fortunately, my brother and I were roughly the same size so I could use some of his clothes, and the hotel gift shop took care of the rest of the necessities. My bag did eventually show up and the trip was in no way ruined, but it did end up costing me a bit more since I had to buy new clothes from the resort. Also, no free upgrade on the way back to the states (if I wanted to pay for the upgrade it would have been around $600 to $1000, don’t recall exact amount), but such is life.
In summary, Southwest good, US Airways, not so much, which is probably the reason why I generally feel that if Southwest doesn’t fly there (at least inside the US), it probably isn’t worth visiting.