10 July 2009

BWI Airport woes

Yesterday my wife and I went to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to pick up our daughter who was flying into town on Southwest. We arrived at about 4:45PM to pick her up from her 5:05PM arriving flight, and because she is a minor, I figured I would go meet her at the gate.

I explained my situation to the agent at the beginning of the ticket lines and she quickly ferried me into a short line, avoiding the dozens of passengers checking in for flights. After all, I only needed a gate pass, not a ticket. It wasn't going to take the ticket agent very long to get me through.

Passengers were getting checked in at a healthy rate from lines to the left and right of me, but it seemed like only one agent was handling the people in my line. It was pretty slow going and I was getting a little impatient. Our daughter's flight was due to arrive soon.

Finally I was next in line, but the agent who was handling the people in front of me suddenly starting accepting passengers from the queue on our right, signalling to me that she was alternating lines. Not so, as she accepted three more passengers from the right line. I threw up my hands in an exagerrated "What the heck" type of look, and explaining that I only needed a gate pass. Meanwhile, another ticket agent who was helping people inexplicably walked away from his terminal.

My daughter called and explained that her plane had already landed. I finally approached the counter and explained that I only needed a gate pass, not a ticket. It took the ticket agent less than one minute to get me a gate pass. The flight was arriving at Gate A1, but she told me that I should go through the security checkpoint at Gate B because it was faster.

I hustled off to the security checkpoint but there were probably 50-100 people in front of me which would have been a considerable wait. My daughter called again to let me know she was in the terminal, so at this point I pretty much abandoned my plan to meet her at the gate and just guide her to baggage claim. I walked back passed the ticket agents on the way to baggage claim and passed the security checkpoint in front of the A gates, where less than a dozen people were in line. So much for being faster the other way...

My wife was driving the Jeep and I tried calling her to let her know our timetable, but the calls failed. Again, and again. And again. I tried at least a dozen times, but no luck. AT&T, 3G service showing 4-5 bars, but calls failed. I tried an email, failed. Nothing was working.

I ended up meeting our daughter at baggage claim and were fortunate to grab her bag and meet up with my wife without incident. As we were driving away from the terminal, my email arrived...

Southwest Airlines was disappointing. Meeting a minor at the gate is no problem, airlines will give you a gate pass to get through security, but if you can't even remotely get there in time, what is the point? I realize that ticket agents are busy, but I was presumably put in the "quick" line because I wouldn't have burdened them for more than a minute. Which is exactly what ended up happening. I realize that I probably could have arrived at the airport sooner, but even 30 minutes earlier might not have been enough time.

AT&T was a complete FAIL. 4-5 bars of service means nothing when the backhaul isn't sufficient to meet demand. No doubt time of day and location are factors here, but reliability of absolutely zero is unacceptable anywhere given otherwise normal conditions.

But hey, its Friday. ;-)
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