How to Give a Seminar in Your Underwear

Ever have that dream where you wake up, totally unprepared, and have to go to school to take a test in your underwear?

That's what pretty much happened to me this morning.


SWA Sends You an Extra Reservation, Just for Good Measure

If you'll indulge an OT rant, here's how not to start a trip off very smoothly.

Back story: I am heading to Bowling Green Kentucky this weekend, home of Western Kentucky University, possibly the most kickass photojournalism program in the country, to do an in-house lighting seminar.

Looking forward to catching up with my former colleagues Fran and Kurt, and eating on the university dime.

I throw all of my clothes in the wash.

My Friday flight leaves at 5:20 p.m., gets into Nashville an hour later, nonstop, no lost bags - easy stuff. I check in online on Friday at 10:00 a.m., because it is just an hour flight and I really do not care where I sit on SWA's first-come boarding service.

I pull the reservation for my 5:20 p.m. flight. Only, hey, look -- now says that I am on the 10:05 a.m. flight, which presumably is now climbing towards its cruising altitude.

Two seconds of silence. Followed by about a minute of

(The following paragraph has been edited by for content and language)

Motor BOATER?!?!? My motorboating reservation is for motorboating 10:00 a.m.???? Flock!



(Picture Hugh Grant in the opening scene of Four Weddings and a Funeral, only without the dashing good looks at the proclivities for cross-dressing hookers.)

Okayokayokay. Check flights between now and tomorrow morning. Everything full except a 12:40, which is close to full. Gear is packed. I think. Close enough -- just go with what is packed. Clothes are (MotorBOATER!) in the wash...

What's clean? two pair of shorts, some T's, some second-string underwear and a few pairs of mismatched socks. Doesn't matter. Gotta go. Now.

Susan drives me to the airport ASAP to save the short term parking expenses. Instead, all it costs me are helpful reminders from her that I maybe I should think about keeping a calendar.

(For the record, I do. It's just not written down. And thanks for lowering the stress level, hon...)

Get to BWI and to the check-in person to plead my case as a frequent flier of Southwest Airlines.

Only, hey, look, Mr. Hobby -- turns out you are still on the original 5:20 p.m. flight! Turns out we accidentally sent you two completely different reservations by mistake, just to keep you on your toes. No problem. You're all set.

Wait. You sent me a reservation for my flight, and an extra, "DoNotOpenUnlessYouWantAHeartAttack" reservation for a flight that leaves six hours earlier?

Yeah, oops, that happens sometimes. Sorry about that! Want some peanuts?

So, now I am at BWI, six hours early, where I am either gonna catch a stand-by on an earlier flight or do the $9.95 internet-for-a-day thing and try to get some work done.

And try to get my friggin' blood pressure down to pre-Southwest levels.

So, if you are coming to the weekend lighting gig at WKU, and I look a might disheveled and about 20 years older, now you know why.

And thanks for letting me vent. I feel better already.

UPDATE: Sorry For the Screwup. $66.00, Please!

This just keeps getting sillier.

When I arrives at the airport only to find out that I had been sent the "special" extra reservation, Southwest check-in lady apologizes profusely and offers to stick me on standby for the interim flights.

"The 12:40 is only oversold by 2 people," she says. "Should be no problem!"

Well, that's something, at least. Maybe I will not have to wait at BWI for six hours unnecessarily.

So I put my name on the list for the 12:40 flight -- first in line past the oversold folks. Which means I have to check my hard case (stands, umbrellas, ring flash adapter, all the other not-too-fragile stuff) on the 12:40 in case I get the earlier flight.


Hey, first good news of the day -- there is one seat available on the flight. (Gate agent man is cracking jokes at this point, asking if my last name happens to be "Hamilton," or perhaps at least "Jackson".)

It might be "Washington," I reply. At least someone still has their sense of humor today. Which is a good thing, I guess.

"That'll be $66.00 for the schedule change," gate agent lady says to me.

"No, you don't understand," I say. "I am trying to make the best of SWA's little mistaken surprise wake-up call today. Check-in lady suggested I do this so I will not have to wait at BWI all day."

"Sorry, she did not make a note on the file," gate lady says. "Nothing I can do."

(Baksheesh joking agent slips away at this point.)

"Surely you have some discretion here," I plead. "This all started when SWA mistakenly sent me a wrong reservation. And you clearly have a seat that will be going unused on the flight."

"Sorry!' she says. Nothing I can do..."

(Want some peanuts?)

Now I am sitting all afternoon at BWI, thinking about the catch-up work I was gonna do at home today. And wondering if my hard gear case will survive on the baggage belt long enough to make it to Unclaimed Baggage -- or quietly walk away all by itself.

We'll see tonight.

UPDATE #2: I got here, albeit with a few more grey hairs.

Bags were here, too, in unclaimed baggage. Or more accuately, sitting out in an open area near the office of unclaimed baggage. I grabbed the hard case and my backpack and the lady waived at me from inside the room. I guess I looked trustworthy enough to just come up and grab some bags without showing any form of ID whatsoever. Yikes.

But the weekend went great, otherwise. Great folks at the Western Kentucky Photojournalism Program, too. Now I just gotta get home...

UPDATE #3: If you are arriving here from Consumerist, we don't normally talk about traveling in dirty underwear. Strobist is about teaching photographers how to light.

UPDATE #4: Mystery solved!

There were apparently two concurrent reservations for my R/T trip to Nashville: One made by me, and one made by the people at Western Kentucky. They were each paid for by a separate party, neither of whom knew about the other reservation.

Southwest apparently has no way to know whether some is booked twice for the same trip, which prolonged the confusion a bit. And the fact that they would not let me fly standby without charging me a $66 upgrade was as a result of the fact that I had not yet begun the first leg of (either) of my two, concurrent trips in the system in the system at that point.

Long story short, SWA's computers are not wigging out. But neither can they tell when someone is double-booked for the same flight (which I was, on the return leg.) In retrospect, I am amazed that some kind of a flag was not set off by the double-book.

I am a SWA flyer, and will continue to be so, because I think they do things better than the other guys on the whole. But I did learn a lesson or two this time!


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Blogger George Lue said...

Sorry to hear about your troubles man. I had a friend detained in OIA by TSA for pulling out his camera after while waiting to be rescheduled on a new flight (his other one was cancelled).

Don't pull out your camera. Not even to look at pictures. Keep it in your bag.

April 11, 2008 12:39 PM  
Blogger Columbus Mix Xchange said...

Wow. I had my flight info change on me when I was coming home from a wedding I did in Florida. I was supposed to leave at 2 and they decided to change it last minute to noon. I caught the plane with 5 minutes to spare. It would have been a long day spent pissed off in a Sarasota airport. I don't know why they can't leave flight itineraries alone after a certain date.

Glad you made it. Good luck doing the seminar.

-Nick Fancher

April 11, 2008 12:42 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Welp I live in Nashville so if you wanna a place to hold over until the traffic eases up let me know and you can practice the lighting seminar in my living room over a couple of beers ok. ;-)


April 11, 2008 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, sounds about right. Airlines go out of their way to amp your nerves, then sic the TSA on you if you don't reflect the perfect demeanor of Dalai Lama.

April 11, 2008 12:52 PM  
Anonymous David Wilson said...

That sucks!

April 11, 2008 12:53 PM  
Blogger EricC in OK said...

Well, at least you're not scheduled on American, ATA, Aloha, Champion, or skybus. Actually, I find the lighting and atmosphere at Lefty's Grille on Concourse B in the Denver Airport to be quite conducive to twiddling in Lightroom.

April 11, 2008 1:05 PM  
Blogger GeoWulf said...

I hope the peanuts they gave you were the best you've ever had.

MotorBoater that Sucks!


April 11, 2008 1:24 PM  
Blogger Muwen said...

aww....i'm sorry to hear that.

but the brighter side of the story is that compared to all those people who flew American Airlines in the past several days who had hundreds of flights canceling on them, it ain't seem so bad after all...

April 11, 2008 1:25 PM  
Blogger ogalthorpe said...

...second-string underwear...

Ewwwwwwww! Now I gotta find a cult for some much-needed brain cleaning. Hopefully that image is the first to go.

I guess that's payback for a certain nudie pic.

April 11, 2008 1:28 PM  
Blogger Patrick F. said...

Hey David,

Uber lame - Did you just pay the $66 then fight it later?

Here is something to make you laugh. NSFW!


April 11, 2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is why Wal-Mart was invented. When you get down there, and discover you don't have a shirt, you go to Wally's and pick it up. No Stress at all!

Sounds like you need to send a link to your blog to

April 11, 2008 1:40 PM  
Blogger DaveRe said...

Hang in there, Mr. H. I admit, I got a good laugh out of that... at your expense... :D Sorry, sorry... :D Been there and done that kind of stuff w/ SWA, and yet I still fly them for some reason... ;)

April 11, 2008 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Richard Cave LBPPA said...

That is why us brits invented tea. Honestly London burns down, earthquake hits the midlands, flooding in gloucester, the first thing us brits do is have a cup of tea. I do not know why but it works.

Next time you get a commission from a a airline turn up early, leave late and charge them premium rates. If it is a portrait put two chairs in the studio. When one of the airlines lackeys sits down add to the bill. In fact make them take there shoes off.

Ha ha, Good luck Dave.

April 11, 2008 1:43 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Well, at least your bags aren't stuck in Paris while you are in san diego....dontchya just love SWA?

April 11, 2008 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just pay the $66, jump on the 12:40, and call SWA after the fact. Oh yea, and mention the word-of-mouth that this episode will get on your wildly popular blog. My guess is that you'll at least get your $66 back ;>)

April 11, 2008 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike T said...

Go Hilltoppers!!! Got my PJ degree there in 1990.

April 11, 2008 2:21 PM  
Blogger John Leonard Photography said...

This is why I drive.

Just wait until you pick up your bag and it has a note from the TSA that says:

"All your strobes are belong to us."

April 11, 2008 2:40 PM  
Blogger Matt Gholston said...

Seems like you could have driven there just as fast, if you count all of the waiting in airports...

I can drive from Fort Wayne,In to Bowling Green, KY in about 6 Hours... surely it can't be much worse for you.

Or look at taking the train :)

I am so fed up with airlines in the last year, that more and more I take my business elsewhere and opt to drive. My time is worth more than the savings in gas...and I never loose my own luggage!


April 11, 2008 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Shane said...

I had a similiar experience with a confirmation letter. I got a confirmation letter from United that look like the standard confirmation letter... You know... Here is you confirmation number, your flight times and so on. Went to do online check in the night (6 am flight) before and their website didn't recoginize my tickets. Called in and they had no record. Reviewed my confirmation and found at the end in small print that my confirmation letter was a confirmation that they were holding tickets for me, but I need to confirm in 48 hours. You would think they would have that in bold some where instead of making it look like a standard confirmation letter.

April 11, 2008 2:57 PM  
Blogger DanielSting said...


Well put...


April 11, 2008 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't so lovely that they mess up your reservation, and then charge you for it?

I also love those schedule changes - Delta did that to me once, but it was the opposite of yours. I was going about 80 MPH to make it to the airport, only to find out that I had an extra hour once I checked in, had parked in the short-term parking, etc. Had I known about the extra hour, I would have got some real dinner before sitting in one of the lovely (not) establishments at CVG.

April 11, 2008 3:37 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

Did you happen to let them know that you blog on a site that gets millions of readers? You know what, that probably still doesn't matter to them because all the airlines treat their customers unfairly. What are you gonna do, not fly?

April 11, 2008 3:53 PM  
Blogger Photo said...

Well, welcome to Kentucky. I am about 3 hours away in Lexington.

You can expect Kentucky charm, and if you get a chance find some garlic grits and 1 year old country ham.

Ken in Kentucky

"we think of gravy as a drink?

April 11, 2008 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You get what you pay for. Southworst and other budget airlines have lame customer service.

Personally, I would have paid the $66. I mean really, what's your time worth? Nevermind, I forgot I was in a room full of DIYers.

As another poster suggested, I would have complained after the fact and requested a refund, though I doubt they would have honored it. Which is when you threaten the customer service manager about the your blog's readership, and that you will post and spread your awful experiences traveling with SWA. You also threaten them by telling the manager that you will name them by name on your blog.

April 11, 2008 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps your eighteen billion readers should "encourage" them to make this right. :)

April 11, 2008 5:05 PM  
Blogger supercarrera said...

It's amazing to me that we don't have a high speed rail system in this country. Anyone who's been on a shinkansen in Japan knows what I'm talking about. It's a much, much, much, better way to travel. Our rail system in this country is the absolute pits...

April 11, 2008 6:20 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

So wait - is there a hardcase sitting in Kentucky still waiting for your arrival? Or perhaps it's sitting in my living room now....

I'll sell it back to you for a nominal handling fee....

April 11, 2008 9:35 PM  
Blogger UltimateAtrophy said...


So there's no paparazzi constantly around that could have driven you to the airport? :-)

You think the TSA would have shut you down if you started a hands on lecture in the waiting area?

Let me know. I'd certainly attend a BWI strobist flash meet!

April 11, 2008 10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a letter to SWA headquarters and get your free ticket for your next flight!

April 11, 2008 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Janet Gully said...

'(The following paragraph has been edited by for content and language)'

Uh, what? Is this true? Is Blogger filtering language, or are you joking?

If you're not joking - then FUCK Blogger.

April 11, 2008 11:29 PM  
Anonymous a husband said...

Wow what a story. Sorry that was so complicated. My mom's a flight attendant and has been pretty much for 20+ years. She continues to complain at how bad the air travel industry is getting.

But Southwest though...I thought we could always trust them. First the bad wheel wiring and now this!

April 12, 2008 12:07 AM  
Blogger jasphoto said...

I'd fight real hard to get a refund on the tickets you didn't get to use. But get it quick SWA might not be around for long.

April 12, 2008 12:37 AM  
Blogger rodbot said...

welcome to SWA, I have had issues with them. flying home(vancouver) from Lafayette Louisiana,

a big rain storm came in and flooded everything 2' of water everywhere.
I phoned the airport they said the flight was delayed 5 hrs, but I should still make my connection.
so I showed up at the airport 2 hrs before the newly scheduled flight.
only to be told that to guaranteed on the flight i should have showed up on time for my original flight!!!(when the runway was 2' underwater)
now I am on the waitlist. # 1 on the waitlist.
and 2 people behind me also had the same issue. talking with the 2 people they are leaving for their honeymoon in france.
soo when the flight is about to board(another 2hrs late, I could almost hear my connection leaving) they ask if anyone wants to miss their flight for a free return trip. an elderly couple jumps on that opportunity.

so they call me first but all three of us go to the desk. and he is about to put my name on the flight and the bride. not the husband. I said don't send me send him. it's their honeymoon they can still make their connection.

he said I couldn't do that or no waitlistees will get on the plane.
no exceptions. because I was first.

and since they couldn't fill both seats the elderly couple had to get back on the flight.

I have since refused flying SWA ever since.

April 12, 2008 3:42 AM  
Blogger BMC Photo Blog said...

Hey David....we're waiting to hear that you arrived safely (if a bit disgruntled), collected your gear (all in good order) and all is well. You're MIA.


supercarrera saidL
"It's amazing to me that we don't have a high speed rail system in this country. Anyone who's been on a shinkansen in Japan knows what I'm talking about. It's a much, much, much, better way to travel. Our rail system in this country is the absolute pits..."

While I agree that our rail system sucks, that in part reflects a decision by the US to build the interstate highway system. Japan has no real highways. While you can take the bullet from Tokyo to Osaka in (it's been a while, but I'll guess about 2 hours) it would take you 14 hours to drive.

April 12, 2008 11:09 AM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

This is one of the those instances I would expect Steven Frischling to randomly jump out behind a corner and get you some amazing seat, all while somehow getting your gear an extra seat beside you.

OK, that was a joke, but his blog is awesome. Hope all works (worked) out.

April 12, 2008 12:36 PM  
Blogger James said...

David, obviously you haven't watched the latest iteration of Battlestar Gallatica or else you'd know the word is "frack."

April 12, 2008 1:19 PM  
Blogger quietjim said...

First, let me admit my bias: my wife is a SWA Flight Attendant (out of BWI by the way). So I do get to see a bit of the other side. I can appreciate the story; I think we all have our own. Seriously, however, I think if you write it up and send it to Southwest, you would probably get some kind of consideration. Just a thought. They do take customer service very seriously. (this is where I put on my flame proof suit).
Southwest Contact Info

April 12, 2008 2:43 PM  
Blogger Rush Jagoe said...

Wow. I was just at your workshop (I modeled for one of the photos) and can't believe you had so much trouble getting here. It was a great experience though. I am starting my final portfolio for lighting this week and doing my fashion assignment and it gave me a zillion ideas. Thanks a lot. -Rush Jagoe

April 12, 2008 5:59 PM  
Blogger Balmore said...

I never realised that you doing the seminar in your underwear was an option, I am glad I did not tick that box for the London seminar.


April 12, 2008 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, some people would argue that Ohio has the most awesomest PJ program...

April 12, 2008 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to your hard case being checked. How much are you carrying for a weekend trip? You might want to start reading this blog:

He writes about flying around the world on photo assignments without carrying more than can fit in a carry-on.

April 13, 2008 2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that USA airlines also suck not only the European ones . Question: For the past 40 minutes I've been looking for link pages from the sight, and I still can't find them. What happened?? to them. Thank you verry much.

April 13, 2008 7:45 AM  
Anonymous ben said...

Geez... I've flown a ton of Southwest, and two things seem extremely unusual: first that they would mess up the confirmation (isn't that all computer generated?), and second that the gate agent would give you a hard time about the $66. Not their best day.

The good news is, I've found Southwest's customer service to be unparalleled. I would call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA as soon as you get settled in KY... They absolutely will make this right (read: give you a flight credit).

Ask them to throw in some drink coupons while they're at it. :)

April 13, 2008 9:22 AM  
Blogger David Manning said...

I have learned that i never need to fly Southwest Airlines. Especially with photo equipment.

April 13, 2008 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Threatening SWA with bad bloging won't bother them a bit. Hasn't anyone watched them in the A&E show 'Airline'.

They constantly screw with people and the minute you voice a complaint they accuse you of being intoxicated and won't let you fly that day. If you complain any more they get the police involved.

I'd walk before I ever fly SWA

Jim Marby

April 13, 2008 11:55 AM  
Blogger bartron said... guys need to fly domestic in Australia.

We have a new domestic carrier (Tiger Airways, owned by Singapore Air) and they had the audacity to cancel a flight...that shit made the news.

Here, if you buy a ticket you have a seat. I never understood the concept of overbooking flights or why it would be needed, not can I understand the difficulty of organising a booking. You have a flight number and a booking on that it can be messed up god only knows.

I did get pulled up for having a can of deoderant on me once but it just went through the x-ray seperatly.

I'd hate to fly in the US. You have such a great interstate system that I think driving would be a lot easier....especially wiht a 6 hour wait at the airport.

April 13, 2008 9:18 PM  
Blogger Patrick F. said...

They overbook because they know about 15-20% of people will miss/noshow on the flight, worst case it costs them a few pennies to put people on the next one instead - and usually there is someone who will volunteer to be bumped - take the cash, and be quite happy about it [like me and my brother, we scored $900].

As flying on Southwest as a Photog, its been good in the past. They are nice about Gate checking a bag, I have boarded early with my gear and a press pass [which I should take them up on more often] the price is great and I like the service.

Every airline makes mistakes. This sounds like a really crappy situation, but I would be surprised if you did not get your $66 or even a free flight from it.

April 13, 2008 10:54 PM  
Blogger James J. Lee said...

David, Thanks for going through that to continue the great tradition of having some of the finest photogs in the world come coach at WKU. Got my start there as well. Awesome program, in no small part, due to folks like you "giving back."

April 14, 2008 12:33 AM  
Blogger Brian said...


SWA Customer Relations.. I would recommend you call them and share what happened. Your next trip to WKU will then likely be free.

April 14, 2008 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Stone said...

You got a mention on the blog! Thanks for the great seminar this weekend.

April 14, 2008 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

supercarrera said...
"It's amazing to me that we don't have a high speed rail system in this country. Anyone who's been on a shinkansen in Japan knows what I'm talking about."

Not cost effective in the US, as the population density is far too low. Especially when you're traveling between two small towns like Balitmore and Nashville. The Shinkansen doesn't even stop in second-class cities such as these, unless it's on a direct route between two larger metro areas.

April 14, 2008 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is it that you make a 10:05 flight when you found out about it at 10:00?

April 14, 2008 9:12 PM  
Anonymous conrad erb said...

wow - hilarious story. never heard of that happening. if it ever happens in philly, give me a call and I'll take you out for a drink while you wait...

April 15, 2008 1:40 PM  
Blogger Paula Berg - Southwest Airlines said...

David - Paula Berg from Southwest Airlines again. I see that you didn't post my original comment. Wondering if I made a mistake when submitting and you didn't get it for some reason. Anyway, I said I would look into the problem for you, so I contacted our Vice President of Customer Relations, and he has never heard of that happening with a reservation email either.

If you would, shoot me an email off line so that we can figure out what the problem was. If there is some sort of glitch in our system, we'd like to figure it out before is happens again and anyone else is inconveninced. sorry for your trouble. Hope to hear from you.

Paula Berg
Southwest Airlines

April 15, 2008 6:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hey, Paula-

I didn't moderate your original comment because it appeared to be a note specifically to me and not for publication. (I try to err on the safe side in the regard.)

Also, there was no way given to contact you. I goggled you and came up with a blog post about you, but could not find an email address.

If you have read the final update, you'll see that the mystery of the double reservation has been solved. There were, literally two tickets purchased. Neither of us knew about the other one, and SWA's computers did not flag it either.

The WKU ticket was used, and I have the one I bought in my pocket for next time, in which case I promise to be wearing clean underwear...

April 15, 2008 7:31 PM  
Blogger flyingfish said...


You're probably happily sunning yourself in the middle-east at the moment,so I am sorry for the late reply. On this one.

Southwest Airlines, an airline that I really do like flying, does have one of the weirdest and most outrageous stand-by policies of all the airlines. The policy is to charge the difference between your ticket face value and the cost of the current walk up ticket at the time you choose to fly stand-by.

I just wrote up about five hidden airline fees that really tick me off on Flying With Fish and Southwest's Stand-By policy sits at #2. You can read a detailed break down of the policy here:

As for SWA not knowing of a double booking, it is because in theory there can be David Hobby Sr flying from BWI to BNA in the morning and David Hobby Jr flying BWI to BNA in the afternoon. So since the tickets are booked independently the airline does not see them as two conflicting schedules.

I have more than once booked two independent flights on the same date , on the same route, knowing full well I'd cancel one of them once I sorted out my schedule on he ground.

As you know SWA is a good airline, easy straight forward customer service (which can be annoying that they are straight forward) but they are reliable, reliable and overall reliable :0)

Happy Flying!


April 26, 2008 8:36 AM  
Anonymous mens underwear said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 05, 2008 9:00 PM  

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