An old saying about watching a baseball game: “You might see something you’ve never seen before.”
A bit of cursory research ties the quote back to the late Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. But it also seems that Ernie could have been talking about traveling.
Well, last week I had a first in my travels, but not in a good way: My first time being evacuated from an airport. Los Angeles International Airport, to be precise.
The voice from above at LAX told everyone to leave Terminal 1 “for security reasons.”
It was not a scary situation, and ultimately we were back in the terminal less than an hour later. However, the experience reminded me of a few things to always keep an mind with air travel.
1. If you can avoid checking your bags, then avoid checking your bags.
In college, I would almost always take advantage of Southwest’s two free checked bags. I was schlepping a lot of my clothes back and forth across the country, so it only made sense…
… Until one of my checked bags ended up coming loose and dragging on a wet tarmac, ruining most of the clothes inside.
I learned that keeping your items with you should always be the goal. In this case, it allowed us the flexibility to return to my brother’s place in Burbank. Or:
2. Have a backup plan.
I had to prepare some contingency plans for me and my girlfriend to get back to Pittsburgh that day.
Say the worst happened and no flights were going to head out of LAX Terminal 1 that day? Then what?
My brain started racking through the options. We could head to another terminal and try a connection with American, United or Delta.
I could call Southwest and see if they could fly us back to Pittsburgh through Burbank. Or Long Beach. Or Ontario. Or Orange County. (Southern California has a more airports than most people think.)
In the end, we stuck it out on the curbside at LAX. And when we were allowed back in, we had to go to security again, which reminded me:
3. TSA Precheck is a beautiful thing.
The program (more formally known as TSA Pre✓®) is always useful for shorter security lines that let me keep my shoes on, which I prefer in almost all social situations.
The convenience was exponentially more convenient after the LAX evacuation.
When more than 1,000 cranky travelers are all trying to get back through security at once, jumping into that quick-moving Precheck line was like getting a warm hug.
If you’re still not getting Precheck on every trip, check out one of the credit cards that offers “free” (basically an automatic rebate) registration as a perk. It’s worth its weight in gold cards.
4. If you’re even a little bit hungry, eat right when you get to the airport.
I don’t even want to think about the hangry feeling sitting outside an evacuated LAX terminal if we hadn’t had a couple of Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuits.
5. Take it all in stride.
Our flight was delayed before the evacuation, and then again after the evacuation, as Southwest tried to get all their early-morning flights out.
My girlfriend and I had a couple appointments scheduled back in Pittsburgh that day, but nothing we couldn’t postpone or cancel.
Oh! And I forgot to tell you guys what caused the evacuation. So…
The night before, there was a power outage in the terminal that caused some cancellations, even for passengers who had already gotten onto a plane.
“An airline granted passengers whose flights were cancelled access to their checked bags,” a TSA spokesperson said, “resulting in the unintentional introduction of prohibited items into the secure area of the airport.”
Translation: Southwest let someone get back their checked bag in the secure part of the terminal, instead of sending it through baggage claim. And because someone could have had a weapon in their checked bag, the whole kit-and-caboodle had to be evacuated for a security sweep.
Air travel. Sometimes you might see something you’ve never seen before.