24 Hours in Albany

Adventures in Albany: The Time TSA Went Home Early

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Last month, following 24 hours in Boston and a long weekend in Martha’s Vineyard, I headed up to Albany for a quick night to meet Alex’s mom Kathryn for the first time. I’ve been a long-time fan of all the Baackes ladies through reading Alex’s blog for the past five years, and I simply found it unacceptable that we would be so close to New York and not get to become best friends with them all.

24 Hours in Albany

So, to Albany we went.

It took us a little over six hours by car from the time we left Martha’s Vineyard, thanks to (multiple) stops for snacks, gas and the bathroom; Alex informs me in typically takes her in the neighborhood of four. Once we pulled into town, we had just enough time to get to know Kathryn and Miller over a glass of wine on their lovely sun porch before it was time to head into Albany for her birthday celebration.

24 Hours in Albany

We had a dinner reservation at Ama Cocina, which is one of Albany’s new hotspots and an amazing Mexican joint to boot. We ordered a little of everything on the menu, complete with (again, multiple) margaritas.

24 Hours in Albany

I may have gotten caught taking photos in the bathroom, but seriously, how cool is this mural in the stall?

24 Hours in Albany

When we were through, Miller and Kathryn gave us a downtown walking tour as we enjoyed the summer night and strolled through Empire State Plaza, admiring how all the buildings were illuminated under the veil of darkness.
24 Hours in Albany
24 Hours in Albany
24 Hours in Albany

The next morning, we had breakfast before Angie’s flight and then Alex dropped me off downtown as she checked some to-do items off her list after being overseas for the past nine months. Albany is such a lovely town full of old abandoned brick warehouses that SVV and I would love to get our hands on and turn into lofts and work space for startups, a pipe dream of ours.

24 Hours in Albany

I milled around a bit before finding a spot at the bar of the City Beer Hall to meet my lunch companion.

24 Hours in Albany

One of the highlights of my time in Albany was, no doubt, my extended happy hour with MonsteRawr, she with the mighty pen, colorful hair and puns for days; one of my oldest blog friends. And we only met in person last month.

She was every bit as funny, cute, kind and easy to talk to as I anticipated, and I tried to reign in my extreme fangirldom so as to not scare her off. We could have talked for days, but after three rounds and three hours, she had to get to work.
24 Hours in Albany

As we were leaving, the sky clouded over and dumped typhoon levels of rain on top of us, drenching us both to the core. That thwarted any plans I had for a photo walk, so Alex swung back around to the plaza to pick me up and we went for coffee on Lark Street instead.

24 Hours in Albany

That night, after a quick dinner with Alex, Kathryn and Miller at a cute little food hall, Troy Kitchen, my hospitable hosts transported me to the airport. American Airlines had already canceled my flight one time a week prior—or rather, changed my itinerary entirely so that I was flying out six hours earlier than I booked—and I had to set them straight(/tell them to put me on a later flight), so when the text alerts started arriving from them that morning saying my flight was delayed 10 hours in advance, well, let’s just say I wasn’t surprised.

24 Hours in Albany

What I was surprised to find was once I arrived at Albany International Airport at 8:35pm for a flight taking off at 10:15 was that TSA was closed.

That’s right, friends: TSA went home for the night.

Lucky for me, Alex had come inside the airport with me to check on her own Pre-Check status, so not only did I have a documentarian on hand, but I also had someone to confirm that I was not going crazy.

When TSA Closes Down

What you’re seeing here is me, a ticketed passenger who arrived 90 minutes prior to her flight, trying to get my security screening and failing spectacularly.

There was not an American Airlines employee in sight, so we went up to the arrivals floor where we finally found a lone airport rep who had a “don’t shoot the messenger!” look plastered on his face when we confirmed that, indeed, TSA was shut down for the night.

“Sorry,” he shrugged. “Budget cuts and all. They’re not allowed to work past 8:30pm.”

“Wha-wha-what?” I asked in disbelief. “But there are flights still leaving! So, how do I get to mine—you just wave me through?”

“You don’t,” he said with the slightest trace of pity in his voice. “You come back tomorrow.” Another shrug.

Miranda Lambert croons “you can’t go home again”—well, that’s definitely true if TSA has anything to say about it.

But how was I going to even get rebooked if AA was MIA? And worst of all, what if I had actually had an important thing to get back to? I guess American and TSA didn’t really care if I reached my destination or not.

Indifferent Airport Employee redirected us to the lost baggage center where we encountered Disgruntled AA Employee who did not seem too keen on helping us either. Or rather he seemed flummoxed that I missed a flight that had taken off an hour ago.

“Um, no, sir,” I sighed, trying to maintain my polite Southern demeanor. “Check the monitor.”

When TSA Closes Down

He didn’t believe me until finally we showed him that, sure enough, there was one flight taking off from the airport later that night—and it was my flight, and it was still an hour away from departing. In fact, the incoming flight hadn’t even landed yet.

Sigh, this time it was his turn to emote, as he called someone up on his walkie-talkie.

“Go see the ticket counter.”

We had another rude run-in with an AA employee who basically said I was at fault for not arriving more than two hours before my flight—uh, excuse me? with a carry-on, in a tiny airport, with Pre-Check? why on Earth would I ever think to assume that TSA would ever shut down with flights still departing the airport?—but luckily the ticket counter gal, from Knoxville ironically, was as nice as they came and super apologetic. She’d tried to call me, she said, but apparently had the wrong number: the nine digits for Chase instead as I’d used points to book the flight.

AA had automatically rebooked me for a flight that got me in at 6pm, nearly 24 hours later than the original flight. Not OK, particularly as I was booked to work the CMT Awards red carpet for PEOPLE beginning at 3pm. The ticket counter rep agreed this was ludicrous and managed to get me onto one that was leaving Albany at 7:30am, which leaves me wondering why AA didn’t just do that in the first place.
When TSA Shuts Down

I left Alex’s house super early the next morning, around 5am, as I no longer trusted this airport or that airline—plus, friends had told me their lines could be long. I got there to find I was the second person in the line, and I was stoked that having Pre-Check meant I didn’t have to unpack all my electronics. Only, due to budget cuts, Pre-Check wasn’t open at 6am! Just my luck; off my shoes came, out my electronics went. Oh, Albany.

The good news is that I arrived in Nashville right at noon in plenty of time to take a Lyft to lunch to meet some friends, have a couple shots of whiskey at a new distillery, run to our condo and take a shower to get red-carpet ready, then hit the arena for CMT Awards by 3pm. It was cutting it close, but what are you gonna do?

CMT Awards 2016
"CMT
CMT Awards 2016

Bottom line: A huge thanks to the sweet Knoxville gal who got me back in time, and a huge pox upon the houses of American Airlines and TSA for trying to prevent me from doing just that. Seriously, guys? I’ve got a job to do.

CMT Awards 2016

Regardless of my travel follies—because seriously, when do things go smoothly for me?—which were more humorous than annoying, my 24 hours in Albany was lovely, and I hope I get more time the next time I’m back to do this cool city justice.

24 Hours in Albany

 

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COMMENTS
  • July 12, 2016
    Lee

    Haha yes this made me mad just thinking about a very similar nightmare I had in St. Thomas last weekend…ahhhh how can you just leave?! I don’t care what they say, American has a responsibility to let passengers know this is even a possibility.

    • July 15, 2016

      I totally agree. Did you ever get a hold of them about this, or did you even try? They were so aloof with me at the airport that I didn’t even bother…

  • July 12, 2016

    Lovely itinerary, cannot believe the craziness of TSA. (Although, I’ve definitely had similar issues with trying to get through security….gaaah!)

    xox
    Feisty Harriet recently posted..Point Reyes National Seashore, CaliforniaMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      Really? This was the first incident I’d ever heard about—but now two friends in the past week have experienced very similar!

  • July 12, 2016

    Wow! I live in the Capital District, and in fact, I flew out of Albany this morning bound for Japan. But that’s rare as I usually save money by flying from NYC airports. I did NOT know that TSA closed at 8:30 pm. Good to know!

    Maybe that’s why they keep an adorable Yellow Lab on hand as a canine greeter–they need the good will!
    Sandra Foyt recently posted..Chelsea NYC: FIT, Flowers, Floating Gardens and the Cool Cambria HotelMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      Definitely good to know if you use that airport frequently! And still bummed the lab was also out to lunch (or um, dinner) the night I was there =)=(

  • July 12, 2016

    I’m almost speechless. Your experience is so outrageous on so many levels. We live in Philly, so we now have the pleasure (NOT) of dealing with American Airlines on a regular basis since they took over the US Airways Philly hub. On our last flight out of O’Hare, we had heard all the TSA horror stories, so we arrived at the airport an hour and a half before our flight only to encounter the shortest, fastest moving TSA line ever. They had a bomb sniffing dog walking up and down the wait “line” after which we were afforded the Precheck experience. We were through in 5 minutes after which we had to find a place to hang out for 2 hours. The waiting areas were very crowded, probably with others like us who arrived at the airport extra early because of the scary news stories about O’Hare and TSA.

    • July 17, 2016

      The irony of our situation, right? They tell you to arrive early, and you do and can’t get through TSA because they’re not even there! (Only me; only me.)

  • July 12, 2016

    Ok, that’s just ridiculous. TSA shouldn’t be allowed to shut down until check-in time closes for a flight, which is usually an hour before I think. I hope you were able to get some compensation from someone for all that hassle.
    Melissa recently posted..The Condor Hotel – Brooklyn, NYMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      Right? No compensation; American brushed it off as TSA’s problem and didn’t offer to help at all. And had I not had a friend to stay with (who also would drive me to/from the airport), it would have definitely cost me a couple hundred dollars!

  • July 12, 2016

    I remember watching this unfold on Snapchat – what a frustrating experience!! The last time I came from Honduras through the US to Canada, the TSA lineup in Houston was over two hours long. Ridiculous. People were missing flights all over the place. Glad you got sorted out in the end, but what a bunch of crap to have to deal with!!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Should You Do a Cubicle Throwdown Like I Did?My Profile

  • July 13, 2016
    lindy

    xo

  • July 13, 2016

    I’ve never heard much about Albany, but it looks like an awesome city! That TSA thing is ridiculous!
    Cate recently posted..Finding Crush in MancoraMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      It is a really cute city! I’m surprised it’s not talked about more in the media, as I LOVED it.

  • July 13, 2016

    I remember your snaps about the TSA debacle! What a hopeless situation! Luckily, you made it back in time for the CMT awards! Albany looks gorgeous, I’m going to hunt for colourful houses in the Netherlands. I can’t believe so many areas in the US have them and I can’t recall one area were we have them! Let the search commence! 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..Rotterdam – Stairway to HeavenMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      I never thought about that, but Holland is dominated by brick homes, huh?

  • July 14, 2016

    I never thought TSA closing was even a thing…what a crazy situation!
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..How to Visit Expensive London on the Cheap: Budget Travel GuideMy Profile

    • July 15, 2016

      I don’t think anyone did! In all those pre-summer stories about arriving three hours early, not ONCE did anyone mention the possibility that cutbacks would translate to the lanes not even being open!

  • July 14, 2016
    Diana Dragomir

    So does this mean that a bunch of flights left almost empty that evening? And presumably every evening? Don’t the airlines lose a lot of money because of that? You’d think that would be enough to get them to try and do something about it too, no? Oy.

    • July 15, 2016

      Ours was the last of the night. I think since it’s such a small airport, they don’t really have flights going out past 9pm or so, so I guess they think it’s safe to shut down? Of course, what that fails to factor in is the possibility of delays, which are ALWAYS a huge problem when you service AA and Delta.

  • July 15, 2016

    I’m speechless at the level of ineptitude. Haven’t had to deal with U.S. TSA in a long time but coming home so I have that to look forward to. Missed my connection last time. Not surprised the airline employees were indifferent. US carriers are all rubbish.

  • July 15, 2016

    Wow – that is just bizarre! I usually love flying out of small airports, but that definitely makes me think twice about it!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Solo in SouthEast AsiaMy Profile

  • July 17, 2016

    There are no words. I’ve never heard of anything like this ever! Now I feel like I need to check out the TSA hours for any future flights out of smaller airports!
    Andi recently posted..8 Years!My Profile

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