Baggage Nightmare at Boston (aka Southwest Airlines terrible baggage policy)

This is a long, likely boring rant, but this story must be shared.  Typically we have good experiences with Southwest.  It used to be better.  Customer service seems to have an inverse correlation to pricing though because as prices have gone up, the luv has gone down.  This experience though … takes the cake.

The Flight:  ABQ-MDW-BOS

My husband was invited to a conference in Boston, and since I had never been, I jumped at the opportunity to tag along.  Our itinerary was fairly simple:  Leave Albuquerque at 9am, have a 45 minute layover in Chicago, then land in Boston around 4:00.  Easy peasy.  Unfortunately my insomnia was in full swing the night before so I slept not a wink.  Not.  A.  Wink.  And since I’m not a big plane sleeper I was really looking forward to wrapping up our travel day and crashing.  But that was not to be.

Flight Delayed

At 5am I looked at my phone and read a text from Southwest that our outbound flight was delayed 30 minutes.  That doesn’t allow for much time to connect to our next flight so I started looking into the next available flights to Boston.  There was a MDW-BOS flight a few hours later that we would have plenty of time to make if worse came to worst but we tossed a change of clothes into our carry-on just in case.

Fight Un-Delayed

We went to the airport on time for our originally scheduled flight and good thing because Southwest cancelled the delay.  Relieved that the slights seemed to be re-aligning we settled in.  But that too was not to be.

MDW-BOS Cancelled.  Now ABQ-MDW-STL-BOS

Upon landing in Chicago we received notices that our connecting flight was cancelled.  Ugh.  No explanation as to why.  They automatically re-routed us.  I figured it’d be that 7pm that arrived Boston at 10pm but nope.  That flight was full.  Our new itinerary is now wait two and a half hours, fly to St. Louis (with Group C boarding), enjoy a leisurely four hour layover, arrive Boston at 11:10pm (also, boarding group C).  Now I want to cry.  No sleep and a super jacked itinerary.  In Midway there is a tiny USO lounge with comfortable chairs and light snacks so we went there.  I was really hoping for a recliner so I could nap, but that too, was not meant to be.  Still, better than hanging out in the ridiculously over crowded Midway airport so, silver linings I guess.

When we got to St. Louis 4 hours later we found a pay for use lounge named Wingtips.  It is new and looked very nice, but again, no way to put up your feet and nap.  But we had a few glasses of wine and some very good (especially for the airport) light fare.  Well worth the $80 dollar cost of admission for the two of us.  When it was time to board our flight to Boston we tried to buy up to board with the A group but that was sold out.  The sympathetic gate agent gave us family boarding so we could sit together for the last flight of our miserable day so bonus points to her.

Southwest Lost Our Bags

Upon landing in Boston, 40 odd hours since I had last slept, we found that our bags hadn’t.  We went to baggage claim along with a line of other bag-less MDW-BOS travelers and were told no one knew where our bags were but if we wanted to wait around almost 3 hours until 1:45am there’s a chance that our bags would arrive on that flight.  They couldn’t know, though, because Southwest apparently does not track bags along the way.  They scan them when they’ve been checked in and when they’ve arrived at the destination, but other than that it’s whatever apparently.

Southwest Won’t Deliver Our Bags If They Find Them

If we didn’t want to wait 3 hours to see if our bags showed up on the next flight we were told to come back the next day.  Troy’s conference was starting in 9 hours and it was almost midnight.  Boston was no longer sounding as fun as it did when we booked these tickets.  I told the agent that historically when our bags were lost the airlines delivered them.  Her response:  My supervisor said no bags from the cancelled Chicago flight are to be delivered.   I asked to speak to the supervisor and was told she left a half hour ago.  So the supervisor somehow knew in advance that dozens of bags were lost, didn’t know where they were, and specifically instructed the agent to not deliver them.  Bravo.

The Baggage Agent Yelled At Us

Needless to say people were dumbstruck.  One woman was full on sobbing.  My husband asked me, since I am the world traveler in the family, what about my 8am meeting?  I answered him, “they don’t care.” At this point a different baggage agent yelled at us:  How dare you say we don’t care.  We care!  Don’t you say we don’t care.

Disbelief washed over the crowd.  No one was speaking to this woman.  She didn’t need to come to the aid of the other agent as no one was yelling at her either.  But the consensus was, if you care, get our bags to us.  But that too was not meant to be.  We were handed an incident report and were told that if we wanted our bags, we would either have to pay a courier to deliver them or come back to the airport and pick them up ourselves.

We Supposedly Voluntarily Separated From Our Bags

So we left.  Broken.  And called the 800 number on our incident report for assistance.  I asked her why Southwest didn’t deliver bags any more.  She said, We do.  But this report says you voluntary separated from our bags so it was no longer Southwest’s responsibility to deliver them.  I asked her how exactly we voluntarily separated from our bags when we were literally in the air when our flight was cancelled and automatically re-booked.  She didn’t understand either and made notes in the report that we very obviously did not voluntarily do anything and that I should call Boston Baggage the next day and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Southwest’s Policy Confirmed:  Weather Related Baggage Delay = Passengers Voluntarily Separating From Their Bags

The next day I called Boston’s baggage department and asked if they found our bags.  They had.  They arrived on the 1:45 am flight and even though we had given them our hotel information, they were still sitting there in the Boston baggage area.  I asked her how they define ‘voluntary separation’ and she said if a flight is cancelled because of weather passengers are considered to have voluntarily separated from their luggage and the airlines are no longer responsible for getting them to you.  I’m not repeating that because the words are so vile I feel like throwing up just having typed them just once.  For the record, it was raining in Boston the day before.  Raining.  No thunderstorms.  No lightening.  No tornadoes or hurricanes or volcanic eruptions or even heavy winds.  It had rained.  Rather than delaying our flight (which Southwest is super duper good at based on the fact that 80% of my SWA flights are delayed nowadays) they instead cancelled our flight, added eight ours to our travel day, had eight extra hours to figure out how to get our bags to us, didn’t, and then didn’t feel it was their responsibility to deliver our bags to our hotel.

We Paid $40 To Have Our Bags Delivered

So we paid the courier $39.95 to deliver two bags (twice actually – working on getting the duplicate charge refunded now) and ended up getting our bags 20 hours after we arrived.  I ruined my brand new not-meant-to-be-worn-in-puddles shoes walking around in the rain, had to buy a sweatshirt to keep from freezing, used horrible hotel toiletries (Marriott, it’s time to up your game with the shampoo and conditioner), and missed dinner my first night in town.

The Compensation

I reached out to Southwest via Facebook messenger and they offered a $40 LUV Voucher as a ‘gesture of goodwill.’   When I  said I really didn’t consider that to be adequate, they upped it to $75.  That will cover the courier and the sweatshirt but not my brand new ruined shoes and certainly not any time or emotional distress.  Not that I’m a gold digger but in no way to I feel compensated for the miserableness that was my Albuquerque to Boston travel day.

Take Away

Don’t check bags with Southwest if you have a layover.  Now that I have an understanding of their baggage policies if I have a layover I won’t be risking another debacle like this.  Oh, and I think I’ll be shorting their stock since this is a pretty big window into the future afaic.

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Replacing Our Water Heater

We have a Lochinvar model ETN065-423 high efficiency , 65 gallon, 65,000 BTU water heater, made by Bradford White. It needs to be replaced.  American Home Shield (our home warranty company) offered me a ‘standard 50 gallon tank with mixing valve’ replacement since 65 gallon units are no longer available … when I ask them for details about the 50 gallon tank (brand, btu, recovery rating, anything) they say they don’t know; no one will know anything about the until the unit is delivered.  Whaaaaaaat?  Obvs I am not going to agree to that.   Time to figure out how to buy a water heater.

sizing recI spoke with Dan at Bradford White and he gave me a lot of good info.  He said no way will a 50 gallon hot water heater be enough to suit our needs since usable hot water is typically about 75% of the tank capacity.  He directed me to their Sizing Calculator and it showed the minimum for our household (3 people, 2.5 baths, appliances and a 55-60 gallon Jacuzzi tub) is a 75 gallon hot water heater with 76,000 BTU (Model RG275H6N) or two 40 gallon tanks.  Then I go to AO Smith’s website and it shows 50 gallon high efficiency tanks that claim to heat a tub up to 80 gallons.

Things I learned today:

First Hour Rating.  Higher is better.  An FHA of 122 (our current heater) can put out 122 gallons of hot water in the first hour. After that the tank will need to recover before it can put out more.  On average an 8 minute shower will use 17 gallons.  The average dishwasher uses 6 gallons.  The average washing machine cycle uses around 40 gallons.  So a 50 gallon tank with 40k BTU might have a FHR of about 77.  You could take one shower, do one load of laundry, and one load of dishes before the hot water ran out but that’d be it.  Forget about a second person taking a shower or godforbid, a bath.

Uniform Energy Factor.  Higher is better.  And a gas EF of > .82 (or thermal efficiency > 90%) qualifies you for a $300 federal tax rebate.  I can’t find an EF on our current heater’s label.  It could be that wasn’t a thing in  2000 or whenever they made this thing.

More Rebates!  NM Gas Co offers a $300 rebate on condensing water heaters with a UEF of .87 or a EF of .90

Unfortunately I don’t think any hot water heaters that have an atmospheric vent qualify.  All the super high efficiency models have power vents.  I’m kicking around a 75 gallon Bradford White (model RG275H6N) and it’s UEF is .59 so no rebate for me.  It appears that once you get over 50 gallons, efficiency is hard to achieve.

Recovery Rate.  My Lochinvar is considered high recovery.  Lochinvar rep said an equivalent unit is rated 67 gallon per hour recovery @ 90 degree rise (which doesn’t seem very high to me). The rise is the difference between the ground water and the temperature at which you set your water heater.  So if my ground water is 45 degrees and my hot water temp is set to 135 (90 degree rise) it will recover 67 gallons of hot water every hour. I was told to look for a high demand quick recovery heater by my favorite HVAC company in Albuquerque, Fix Right.

Can your gas line handle the BTUs?  I called NM Gas company and Jeffrey in customer service said the plumber will let you know when they do the install if your current setup can handle the increased btu or if you’ll need to replace your meter.  He assured me that if the meter needed replacing NM Gas would be able to come out the next day to do it.  Good thing because the hot water heater won’t not be able to run if the gas line can’t support it.  There is no cost for the meter itself but I will be charged $70 an hour for their time.  He said it should only take an hour.  He obviously doesn’t know me.

What size PVC venting?  2″ 3″?  Can that be swapped out easily enough?

Is altitude an issue?

Warranty.  I’m not sure what the different warranties are but it looks like 6 years might be the average.  I would prefer a 10 year warranty to cover the time I plan to be in this house.

When I spoke with Moreno Plumbing (the service hired by AHS) I was told that brand names don’t matter.  “All water heaters are made by the same one or two manufacturers then companies like Rheems and State stick a label on it” … Dan at Bradford White says that is absolutely not true.  But we already know that BW made the Lochinvar unit in 2000 so it’s definitely sorta true.  So I pulled up the the Energy Star certified hot water heaters and despite being different brands, these 75 gallon units are identical:  A.O. Smith, American, GSW, Reliance, State … so who actually makes them??

You’ll need to bring your new hot water heater up to code.  We have new code requirements that didn’t exist when they built our house in 2000.  Some of the non-covered items that I need to pay for to bring it up to code:  3″ leg drips ($65), Earthquake straps ($75), expansion tank ($195) and permit ($100).  The insurance company doesn’t cover any of these costs so my out of pocket should be $435 based on the contract.

We also have a hot water recirculating pump that is mixing the hot water into the cold somewhere.  We are hoping it’s at the valve so that needs to be replaced as well.

AHS contract items

E. 5. WATER HEATERS COVERED: All components and parts, including tankless water heaters and circulating pumps, except: NOT COVERED: Auxiliary holding or storage tanks – Noise – Fuel storage tank and energy conservation unit.

A. 4.  For covered malfunctions, unless otherwise specified in this contract, AHS will repair or replace the covered item. AHS has the sole right to determine, according to the terms of this contract, whether a covered item will be repaired or replaced. When making repairs, AHS reserves the right to rebuild existing parts or components and/or to install rebuilt parts or components. When making replacements, AHS is responsible for installing replacement equipment and parts of similar features, capacity, and efficiency, but not for matching dimensions, brand or color. AHS is not responsible for matching any feature of an existing item that does not contribute to the primary function of that item.

I called AHS and got transferred to the authorizations department.  Randy told me that since a 65 gallon tank is no longer available, AHS will only offer a 50 gallon replacement despite that fact that 50 gallons is utterly insufficient for our needs.  My other option is to pay to upgrade to the 75 gallon or take their cash out offer of $1130.  I already left a message for Ernie @ Moreno plumbing requesting an estimate for the 75 gallon upgrade so I guess we will see what they come back with.

Unfortunately a week went by with no return call from Moreno.  I called Moreno again on 4/24/18 and spoke with Laura.  She said she gave the message to Ernie and also discussed it with her office manager who was going to call me.  She said she would give them the messages again.  This is pretty standard in Albuquerque.  It’s amazing how much you have to pester people to work.

On 4/26 Moreno called and said they have never had to give an estimate on an upgrade before (that is typically the responsibility of the insurance company) but she will call AHS and figure out what they want her to do.

May 7, 2018 No call back.  No one from Moreno plumbing called back.  It’s really incredible to me how bad service companies are in this city.  I called at 10:30 am and the phone went straight to voice mail which said if we don’t call back within 24 hours to call them back.  Seriously.  I hopelessly left a message for her to return my call.  Will see what happens.

May 8, 2018.  Surprise!  No call back from Moreno Plumbing.  Called again at 9:41am.  Got voice mail.  Again.  Left a message that I will call AHS and ask for another plumber since Moreno is unable to schedule an appointment.  Crystal called me back immediately.  There were apparently no notes on my account so I had to explain the situation again.  She said she is short handed but will contact the owner and see what’s going on.

Fun Fact.  Per Consumer Reports, heating water constitutes about 20% of your gas bill!  I hope that when we replace this we will see our bill go down a bit.

Albuquerque’s Immigrant Friendly Status Reinforced

Council Bill CS R-18-7 passed Monday night, strengthening Albuquerque’s Sanctuary City status.  The Ordinance vote was 6-3 (democrats to republicans, respectively).

Sponsored by Klarissa Pena and Pat Davis.  4 other Councilors voted in favor of the resolution:  Isaac Benton, Cynthia Borrego, Diane Gibson and Ken Sanchez.   Republican Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones and Don Harris (district 9) voted in opposition to the measure.

The resolution states that Albuquerque is a “safe place for immigrants from all countries, as well as for war refugees, people of color, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.”

If you’re curious, City Councilors are elected in staggered 4-year terms. Terms end in November, with the swearing-in ceremony generally scheduled in early December.  The terms for Council Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 began December 2017. The terms for Council Districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 began December 2015.

In other news, 5 days ago Mayor Keller decriminalized marijuana.  Didn’t hear a peep about that.  The fine for possession of up to 1 oz of marijuana is now $25.  Our last  mayor vetoed the measure in 2015.

My First Meal Kit Delivery – Hello Fresh

I didn’t think to write about our meal kit experience until after we received and finished cooking.  But we were so impressed with the whole process I thought I’d spend a few minutes putting my thoughts down on LED.  So here’s our story…

The decision to try a meal kit delivery came easy.  I love to cook and consider myself somewhat knowledgeable in the kitchen.  But I wanted to try some new recipes and new techniques.  Plus it looks super easy and everyone seems to be doing it. And since Hello Fresh has the most attractive signup bonus right now (they are offering $40 off your first delivery) …  Shut up and take my money.

I was able to create an account with my Facebook login (love that).   I chose the Classic Plan which consists of three meals a week that feeds two people for $59.94 ($9.99 per person per meal) and within seconds I was off dinner shopping.

They offered up 13 choices.  Impressive.  But a couple of them were marked as ‘Premium’ and carried additional charges of $5 per person.  Up-selling. Pass.  However all the meals looked clean, simple, and reasonably healthy.  We decided on The Pat Lafrieda Hamburger with Balsamic Onions and Crispy Cauliflower Oven Fries, Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Thighs with Pesto Pasta Salad, and Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Potatoes and Zucchini.

Our meal kits arrived in an insulated box.  The meats were nestled between two ice packs, and the other ingredients were packed by recipe in individual brown paper bags.  As advertised, we received pretty much all that was needed for each meal (think hotel room service sized bottles of mayonnaise and salt / pepper packets).  I have always had a problem making and buying too much food.  This may help my eyes, stomach and pocketbook align better.

We decided to try the burger meal kit first.  Start to finish it took about 45 minutes.  They claim this is a 30 minute meal so either I’m not hustling or they may be fudging on the estimate a bit.  Either way, it was not cumbersome or chaotic.  The instructions came on a 8.5″x 11″ glossy heavy paper with step by step instructions that anyone could follow.  It even outlined which kitchen tools you would need (pans, bowls, sheets, etc).  I was  impressed.  The calories for this meal totaled a whopping 840 though (78% of what I typically eat in an entire day) so I know to keep an eye on that moving forward.

BurgerI dove in … made the burger, made the cauliflower fries, sauteed the red onions, made aioli (their version is to mix garlic with mayo but it was good enough), plated everything, and it looked great.  And even better, it tasted great!  I’d never topped a burger with balsamic red onions and the cauliflower tossed with panko and olive oil tasted like scallops, I kid you not. As simple as it sounds, this was a fantastic meal.

ChickenTroy made the Chipotle Barbecue Chicken Thighs with Pesto Pasta Salad a couple of days later.  It seemed to take him about the same amount of time and again, fairly simple concept, great execution of flavor.  This meal also had more calories than I would typically consider (830) so I ate a smaller portion and Troy had it lunch the next day.  Win-Win.  This was a very summery meal.  And it was so nice to have pesto without all the work typically involved.

PorkOur third and final Hello Fresh meal was Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Lemony Potatoes and Zucchini.  This one also took about 45 minutes and made a bit of a mess using a cast iron skillet, two baking sheets, plus misc knives and utensils and separate cutting boards, but it was worth it.  Perfect portion sizes (although I did add a small yellow squash to the mix that I happened to have on hand) and the calories were more reasonable at 570.  I’ve never put cilantro on roasted squash, and I learned that I seriously need to learn how to make demi-glace sauce.  It was yummo.  Troy said it was his favorite.  I’m sticking with the burger as my fave.  But I thought all three were terrific.

And as I scanned the recipe cards for this post I noticed that they include wine pairings for each meal too.  I wish I would have seen that!  The hubs and I loves us some wine.  But probably good that I didn’t add any more calories to dinner anyway.

So all said and done I was really happy with Hello Fresh.  Especially since I got all three meals for about $20 after the refer a friend promo (if you sign up with my link you’ll also get $40 off, and I’ll get $20 off a future order, FYI).

I will most likely buy from them again, but first I want to try Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Chef to see how they compare.  Hopefully Casey will jump in and help.  I think it would be a great way to learn to cook.  Will keep you posted!

Bon Appetite!

Confirmed my account is cancelled on 9/20/17 but will likely go back.

 

Rattlesnake at the front door

20228566_10154597025595614_2508479976721094213_nSo we discovered this guy curled up behind the planter at our front door.

Our front door.

The city came and got him but now I’m very upset at the serpent trespass and want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  I did a little google searching and there doesn’t seem to be a foolproof way to get rid of snakes in the yard.  I mean there are snake repellent products that you sprinkle on the ground that smell funny and supposedly keep the snakes away but the reviews are mixed at best.  I’m not going to install a snake fence.  I will be cutting down the big grassy plants that they like to hide under, but I can’t take out all of our landscaping.  Our house backs the foothills of the Sandia mountains so snakes are always going to be there.  I just want to keep them there and out of my back yard.

I’m considering a snake trap but I’m afraid I’ll just catch the lizards (which the snakes are probably coming here to eat anyway).

Do you think bird spikes placed behind planters and bushes might deter them from curling up in nooks and crannies?  Have you successfully stopped snakes, specifically rattlesnakes, from sharing your living space?  If so, please share!  I’m desperate to keep my 10 pounds of fluff safe from a snake attack.

Using Points in Las Vegas

I haven’t seen any updated charts so I’m making my own.  These are current as of June 6, 2017

  • Excalibur 12,000 points $30 resort fee per night (Royal Tower Queen)
  • Luxor 12,000 points $30 resort fee (Pyramid Deluxe Queen)
  • Monte Carlo 15,000 points $30 resort fee (Deluxe King Room) Cancel 72 hours Prior To Arrival
  • New York New York 15,000 points $35 resort fee (Park King)
  • MGM Grand 15,000 points $35 resort fee (West Wing King)
  • Mandalay Bay 20,000 points $35 resort fee
  • Signature at MGM Grand 20,000 points $35 resort fee
  • Vdara 20,000 points $35 resort fee
  • Mirage 20,000 points $35 resort fee
  • Aria 25,000 points $39 resort fee
  • Bellagio 25,000 points $39 resort fee
  • Delano 25,000 points $35 resort fee

These are all MLife properties so be sure to give your membership number when you log in!