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Here’s saluting a Raven who rescued this Los Banos man from airport misery

Southwest Airlines has touted fares so low passengers can “fly for peanuts.” But as of Aug. 1, the nuts will no longer fly. Even so, a gate agent named Raven provided crucial help to John Spevak in his quest to return home to Los Banos.
Southwest Airlines has touted fares so low passengers can “fly for peanuts.” But as of Aug. 1, the nuts will no longer fly. Even so, a gate agent named Raven provided crucial help to John Spevak in his quest to return home to Los Banos. TNS

Once upon an airport dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, I encountered a Raven.

Unlike the ominous bird in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem, the Raven who alighted in my life was a sign of good fortune.

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John Spevak, columnist for The Enterprise Enterprise file

Without the help of Raven, an agent at gate 17B in LAX last month, I would have had to spend the night in the Los Angeles airport or ride in an Oakland cab after midnight.

To explain why I’m so grateful to this young woman with remarkable problem-solving skills, I need to describe how I ended up in LAX that April evening, when I should have been in Las Vegas.

My goal had been simple. Leave from the Dallas airport at 7:45 p.m. and arrive in San Jose at 10:40 p.m., then drive my car (parked at the airport) home to Los Banos by 1 a.m.

There was one significant problem with my plan. My itinerary required me to first fly from Dallas to Las Vegas and, after an hour layover, fly from there to San Jose. It didn’t seem problematic when I booked the flight, but it became a headache when, after going through security in Dallas, I saw on a screen that my flight to Las Vegas was delayed 2½ hours.

Because of that delay, it would be impossible for me to connect with the flight from Las Vegas to San Jose, the last flight between those two cities that night. I was further irritated because Southwest Airlines hadn’t notified me by text of this delay, as they were supposed to.

I talked with a Southwest agent at a Dallas gate. “You’re right,” he said. “No way you can make that Las Vegas flight. I can create another itinerary for you. But you would be leaving Dallas tomorrow morning.”

I frowned and then growled. So he reflected awhile and said, “I can set you up with a connecting flight to Los Angeles, but there would be no guarantee you’d get to San Jose tonight, because all flights from LAX to SJC are completely booked. You would have to fly standby, with only a slight chance you’d get on a plane there.”

Well, I thought, getting stranded in L.A. is better than spending the night in the Dallas airport. “OK,” I said. “Book the flight to L.A. I’ll take my chances.” I texted my wife in Los Banos. She said she would pray for me.

When I arrived in LAX I asked a gate agent about the chances of getting on the next flight to San Jose, which would be leaving a half-hour later, on standby. “Not very good,” she said, “but you can try.” I stood by, and then was told “No luck.”

There was only one flight left to San Jose, and I was again only on the standby list. I asked another Southwest agent if another airline had openings on a flight to San Jose that night. “Yes, but it would cost you $440.”

She reflected a little. “Southwest has a flight to Oakland tonight, and there’s one seat left.” Then she said, “You could then take a taxi to San Jose. It would be cheaper than $440.

“There is one catch,” she added. “The flight arrives in Oakland at midnight.”

“OK,” I said. “Book it, and I’ll take my chances.” Maybe I could get home by 3 or 4 a.m.

Since the Oakland flight would leave later than the standby San Jose flight, I checked at LAX gate 17B, from which the last San Jose flight would depart.

That’s when, weaker and wearier, I met Raven, the Southwest agent at that gate. I gave her my newly printed Southwest ticket to Oakland and explained my long-shot chance at the San Jose flight. She took my ticket and said, “Let me work on this. Come back in a few minutes.”

About 10 minutes later I returned to gate 17B. Raven was standing there waving my ticket. “Here you go,” she said.

“Thank you for trying,” I replied; “at least I have this ticket for Oakland.”

“No,” she said. “This is your ticket for San Jose tonight.”

I bowed to her in respect, admiration and awe. “You were able to do,” I said, “what none of the other Southwest agents I had talked with today could.”

“I always look after my people,” she said, “and take care of them.” I felt lucky to be one of Raven’s people.

I was the last person to board the plane for San Jose, but I did get on. As it turned out I arrived in San Jose at almost the exact same time as scheduled in my original itinerary and eventually make it home to Los Banos before 1 a.m.

When I arrived home, I told my wife her prayers were answered, thanks to a Raven that was an angel.

John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is john.spevak@gmail.com.
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