CHICAGO, IL – Gabriel Hernandez, Sr., might “Wanna Get Away” from home for a while after missing his child’s first steps to check in for a Southwest Airlines flight.
32-year-old dad Gabriel Hernandez, Sr., had one job: use his iPhone to video record his son’s first steps. But sadly he missed the magic moment when instead he was checking in for his Southwest Airlines trip departing the next day.
The incident occurred at 2:35 P.M. on Monday — precisely 24 hours before Mr. Hernandez’s Chicago Midway to Dallas Love flight.
“I didn’t know Gabriel Jr. would take his first steps at the exact same second my check-in window opened,” said the father of one, a watercolor marker consultant based in Naperville, Illinois.
Southwest Airlines enforces an open-seating policy. Passengers are assigned boarding positions calculated by multiple factors, including fare type – and check-in time. This means that folks who’ve not purchased an upgrade ticket or who are not A-List frequent travelers, have to check in to their flight as quickly as possible once the 24-hour window opens or risk sitting in a middle seat.
His wife, 29-year-old Sonia Hernandez, appeared distraught.
“For the past few days, Junior tried so hard to start walking on his own,” she said while dabbing tears. “My husband had a business trip in Texas this week. And I was so scared he’d miss such a special milestone: our little papi‘s first steps.”
The family of three gathered in the living room Monday afternoon, not long after Mr. Hernandez, Sr. finished packing for his trip. (“We wanted some quality time together before my trip.”) He says his son stood up against a coffee table — and that’s when both he and his wife knew “something special” was about to happen.
“‘Turn on your phone, honey!’ (Sonia) told me,” said Mr. Hernandez, Sr. “My hands were trembling with excitement. First, my son was about to take his first steps. More importantly, it was 2:34 P.M. It was a minute away from game time. Checking in for Southwest flights is always such a rush of adrenaline. It’s like a personal victory if I get a good ‘A’ boarding group number, you know? It gives me a chance to score an exit row seat or a bulkhead seat. But if I get something in the’ B’ group, it’s a crushing defeat.”
He started video recording the child’s movements. But at the exact second 2:35 P.M. struck, multiple alarms trigged on his phone and a Southwest Airlines app alert popped up on the screen.
“It only takes a few seconds (to check in),” he said. “So, I tapped the Southwest pop-up and checked in. Next thing you know, my wife screams, ‘Yay! Baby, did you get it on your phone?’ And I said, ‘Yes, mi amor! Look! A-28!”
He showed her a digital boarding pass — and saw little Gabriel mid-stride on what Mr. Hernandez Sr. estimated was the child’s “fifth, sixth, seventh step. My stomach dropped when I realized what happened.”
Mrs. Hernandez flew into a rage when she realized her husband neglected to capture the historic moment.
“Instead of a video of our beautiful baby taking his first steps, all I see is a QR code and ‘A-28,'” Mrs. Hernandez said between sobs. “We can’t ever get that moment back. I hope his stupid exit row seat was worth missing something so special.”
Mr. Hernandez Sr. said, “I told my wife, ‘let’s just record him getting up off the floor and walking. We’ll send that clip to your parents. They won’t know the difference.”
Upon hearing the suggestion, Mrs. Hernandez picked up her son and suggested her husband extend his business trip from two nights to a week.
Mr. Hernandez, Sr., has yet to announce a change in plans.