Routed And Rerouted Airport Fog Throws Monkey Wrench In Travel Plans
About 12 hours before tip-off, some Gonzaga University basketball fans got the first inkling it wasn’t going to be their day.
The only outgoing flight canceled at Spokane International Airport on Thursday was supposed to carry about 60 Gonzaga fans to Salt Lake City for their team’s first-ever NCAA basketball tournament game.
It was a day that began in fog and ended in disappointment as the Bulldogs fell to the University of Maryland, 87-63.
The time in between generally was a blur.
Right after the 7:10 a.m. Southwest Airlines flight had been canceled, GU fans rushed to other airline counters or made quick calls to hectic ticket agents.
The cancellation occurred because the plane had left Seattle but couldn’t land in Spokane. Other flights that originated in Spokane were able to leave despite the fog.
“That was the one and only flight we canceled all day,” said Southwest Airlines Supervisor Brad Green.
Most of the GU fans got aboard other flights, some to Oakland, Calif., most to Seattle, before the final leg to Salt Lake City. All had the same game plan: Catch another flight to get to Salt Lake City before the 8:30 p.m. tip-off there.
Bill and Odette Rubright, eager to watch their son, Gonzaga forward Jason Rubright, play, left the airport and started driving to Boise. From there, they planned a short flight that would put them in Salt Lake with 20 minutes to spare.
Many people, such as Spokane schoolteacher Ann McLane, made several calls and then decided to hold still, trying to catch one of three Southwest flights due to leave for Seattle.
“Our choice was wait on standby or pay nearly $1,000 for two one-way confirmed tickets to Salt Lake on Delta Airlines,” said McLane.
She and her husband, John, bought the new tickets but got lucky and didn’t need them. Three hours and a refund later, they were two of 12 GU fans getting aboard a 10:30 a.m. flight to Seattle.
Once there, they faced the same challenge: waiting on standby for a shot at a flight to Salt Lake City.
Gonzaga alumni Kevin and Dan Malone realized two heads were better than one in finding a solution. Dan headed to check with Horizon Airlines. His brother trolled the Southwest and Delta counters looking for a better connection.
“We considered going to Coeur d’Alene, flying on Empire (Airlines) to Boise and then to Salt Lake,” said Kevin.
The Malones ended up taking a Horizon flight to Seattle.
Bob Hogg of Cranbrook, British Columbia, spent two hours looking at about a dozen options before settling on the 10:30 a.m. flight to Seattle.
“I’m going to get to Salt Lake one way or another,” said Hogg, who had driven to Spokane the night before.
After the 10:30 flight, four Gonzaga fans still were waiting in the airport, including Emma Wasson and Mary Rose Hawkins. Huddled over coffee cups, the women had two more chances on later Southwest flights to Seattle.
“We’ve got to keep going,” said Hawkins, who had arranged the trip with her friends, the McLanes, last week.
“Seeing the team play in this tournament is a one-in-a-million opportunity,” she said.
As he walked toward the Horizon concourse to board his flight, Kevin Malone saw Wasson and Hawkins and offered consolation: “We might never make the next flight to Salt Lake, and we could end up here again this afternoon.”
“Then it’s to Jack and Dan’s” - the popular tavern in the Gonzaga neighborhood. “That’s where I’m headed tonight if I’m back in Spokane.”