Friday, July 29, 2016

Travel Adventures: Minneapolis & the Southwest Debacle

I had a work meeting in Minneapolis last week.  I wrapped up IFT in Chicago and then flew to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.  For my job I am part of a working group that approves content for the GAP Harmonization Standards.  Boy that's a mouthful!  GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices.  Basically, it is the set of standards that when applied correctly reduce contamination of pathogenic bacteria from getting on your fruits and vegetables which you might consume raw.

Recently, new laws were released from FDA regarding farm food safety.  We are meeting to make sure that our GAP Harmonization audit meets with FDA requirements.  The meeting was held at the Target Headquarters in downtown Minneapolis.  It was such a cool building.  You could tell that it was a good working environment.  They had a lot of really cool lounging areas set up in the building with comfortable furniture arranged in small groups so that people could come and relax or have smaller, intimate meetings.

This was a huge mural on one wall at the Target HQ
The meeting ended a little after 3:00 and we were able to accomplish all objectives that day.  It was really cool to work with so many different experts from the industry.  There are times with not everyone agrees, but everybody is very respectful of the different opinions.  Its a great group.

Me and a few fellow colleagues were not flying out until tomorrow.  We decided to all go together to dinner together.  Reggie is a foodie, so he picked the restaurant and took care of the reservation.  We ended up going to Eat Street Social.  Can I just say yum!  The menu was small, but all of the dishes looked very well thought out.  I ended up choosing the duck breast with fig risotto and roasted Brussels sprouts.  OMG!! This was delicious.  Have you ever had duck?  It is a fatty meat, but when cooked right it just melts in your mouth.  This dish also I think had the skin on it, which was very crispy.  The texture and taste reminded me of bacon in a way.  It had a bit of crisp but was so tender to almost melt in your mouth.  Heavenly!

Eat Street Social, Duck Breast w/ Fig Risotto
So now I get to the sucky part of my trip.  My flight out tomorrow was through Southwest Airlines.  If you have ever flown Southwest you know that you board the plane in the order you check in online.  I always set an alarm to go off so that I can check in at exactly 24hrs (this is the earliest you can do it).  When I went to go check in there was something wrong with the Southwest website.  Fast forward two hours later, the website was finally back up and I had my line assignment.  I was in the B boarding group, so not too bad.  However, in the back of my mind I was worried about my flight being delayed because I was hearing of flights being cancelled.

The following day, I had a teleconference meeting in the morning and was scheduled to fly out at 4:00 in the afternoon.  I had some time to kill so my trip to Minneapolis would not be complete if I didn't go to the Mall of America, the largest mall in the US!  I had lunch in the mall and walked around.  It's three stories high and is adjacent to hotels.  In the middle of the mall there is a Nickelodeon amusement park.  It's kind of crazy to see roller coasters in the middle of a shopping mall.

Mall of America

I headed to the airport to find out that my flight had indeed been delayed.  But only by 30 minutes.  Not too bad.  However, once the plane arrived, they made an announcement that while our plane was there, no crew had been assigned to it.  What???  How do you have a plane but no pilot?  So they told us to sit tight and they would work on getting a crew assigned to our flight.  Long story short, our flight was cancelled as were several other Southwest flights at the airport.  Each gate counter had a line of at least 20 people standing in it.  The other bad part, is that if you were looking to reschedule through Southwest you would not be able to get another flight out of the city until at least Saturday, possibly Sunday (this was Thursday).  I think not!

I got on my phone and quickly booked the next flight out through American Airlines.  I wouldn't be leaving until the next morning, but hey I would be getting home before the weekend!  It also cost me double for flying out of AA rather than on SW, and I now had to get a hotel room, which were booking up fast.  I actually ended back at the Mall of America at the Marriott there.  The Mall is pretty close to the airport.

To get refunded, I was instructed to call their 1-800 number and give them my confirmation code.  When I did this the attendant on the phone could not find a record of my confirmation number.  It took about an hour for him to get help only to tell me that I was going to have to send an email through the website in order to get things straightened out. *Sigh*

I sent my email explaining my situation.  I received a very prescribed email back telling me that I would receive a full refund plus a $200 voucher to use on my next Southwest flight.  I have to say, I am not really sure I want to go on another SW flight.  Right now, their customer service is in the crapper!   I was just travelling by myself.  Had I been with my family, I doubt I could have afforded to book a ticket on another airline.  Have any of you been effected by flight cancellations?  If so, how did you muddle through it?


nath said...

Target Headquarters?! My sister would love to go there! Interesting that they kind of rent out the place LOL. The food looks great!! although I'm not a big fan of risotto.

We have a mall here that also has roller coasters in. I guess it attracts people in... but at the same time, it's scary! LOL.

Oh wow! That was bad!! Cancelled flight and you had to wait several days before being able to fly out?! At least, you got a refund. Still, nobody is going to reimburse your AA flight :(

Jill D. said...

Hi Nath! Thanks for stopping by! Target didn't exactly rent out the space to us, more like we knew the food safety person at Target and they were happy to have us meet in their space.

Yeah, and if my work hadn't been paying for my flight, I might have thought twice before buying my AA airline ticket.