Saturday, May 17, 2008

How to get effed by United Airlines:

Fly with them.

My flight from Richmond to Chicago had its start time delayed by air traffic control. A short delay, only 20 minutes or so.

When we landed in Chicago I busted my tail to get to my new gate, which was hard because it was all the way across the airport and because we didn't even deplane at a gate. We deplaned on the tarmac and had to hoof it across the concrete, then up a series of ramps until we were actually indoors again. THEN I could run halfway across the airport.

As I was walk-jogging up to the gate of my connecting flight, I noticed with despair and growing fury that a) it said FLIGHT CLOSED and b) that the plane was actually right there, it hadn't even pulled away from the gate. The United Airlines person was like "um yeeah, the next flight to Seattle is tomorrow. Also, I've enjoyed ruining your day. Please have a nice day."

She said that the next flight out of Chicago to Seattle - on any airline - was the United flight that left at 8:30 am Saturday (today), and that I had no choice but to stay the night in Chicago. This option would have put me home at around dinnertime tonight.

I can't even describe how angry I was.

Seething, I went to stand in United's customer service line to get my hotel and cab taken care of. The line had about 45 travelers in it, and only a couple people working the desk at the front of the line. It was a one-to-two hour line. The guy behind me had his connecting flight re-directed but his luggage wasn't, so he was stuck overnight in Chicago with no luggage. Go United.

For the two weeks before my travel I was worried in the back of my mind about exactly this thing happening - it's dangerous traveling through Chicago's O'Hare Airport, you know? So yesterday during all of this there was a little voice saying "I told you so, I told you so." I fucking HATE that voice.

While standing in line I called the awesome professionals at my company's travel agent, Carson Wagonlit, and was able to get booked on a US Air flight to Las Vegas with a connecting flight to Seattle. This was scheduled to put me in to Seattle at 2:30 this morning and give me a personal best - and never to be repeated - 6 plane rides in 3 days.I booked that flight but - of course - the plane was leaving in 20 minutes and was entirely on the other side of the airport. There was no jogging this time. Nope, this time I ran my white little ass off all the effing way across O'Hare. Let me tell you, that sucked. I got to the new gate and got my boarding pass. I told the gate agent what happened and she said "wow, we sure are getting a lot of pissed off United customers today."

So, got on the plane AND managed to get an aisle seat, my personal favorite. OK, we're ready to take off. Go ahead. Go ahead...

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain, uh... we seem to be having some trouble with the internal intercom system. I'm not really sure exactly that the issue is, but technicians are on the plane now and we'll let you know as soon as it's resolved."

Thirty minutes or so went by, dangerously eating into the time I would have to navigate the Las Vegas airport to get to my connecting flight to Seattle. So of course my nerves were on edge. Further contributing to my annoyance was the attitude on the plane (Vegas, baby! woo!!) and the dirtbag in the seat just across the aisle. He alternately appeared to be on the verge of throwing up due to being a nervous flyer ... and couldn't wait to party, chanting on a number of occasions Drink! Drink! Drink!


Eventually they resolve the intercom issue and we started flying. That's what you're supposed to do on a plane: fly. Due to it being a night flight they turned the lights off. I was really wired so tried to read my magazine, except my personal reading light was on the fritz. It would stay on for a few seconds or a few minutes, then turn off without warning. I could reach up and whack it with my knuckles to turn it back on for a moment, but there was nothing keeping it on unless it wanted to stay on. Eventually I borrowed a keychain flashlight from the flight attendant, but you had to squeeze the bejeesus out of it to get it to stay on. I did that off and on for an hour or whatever, long enough to calm down, then napped a bit until we landed in Vegas.

When I deplaned I asked the lady where my next flight was and she told me. You want to guess? ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AIRPORT. Remember, flight 2 of 3 on the day was delayed taking off. I said "do I have enough time to make this next flight? Do I have to run to catch it?" She wouldn't say you HAVE to run, but suggested that running wouldn't be a bad idea, you know, if I liked running.


so I move briskly to the end of whatever the hell concourse I was at, down a few ramps and again I'm on the tarmac. I'm standing with a half dozen other travelers looking just as worn out as I am, like we slept in the dryer. After a couple minutes the bus driver shows up to drive us over to our correct concourse. we unloaded, across the tarmac, up some ramps, and it's time to hoof it over to the gate again. I walked briskly to my gate to find that my plane had already been boarding for some time now. I joined the end of the boarding line and within 2 minutes or so was on the plane (it was THE END of the boarding line).

We took off in short order. I struggled to nap on the two hour flight, mostly failing. Something happened to my right ear on the first flight of the day and I never was able to synch it up with the rest of me, with the pressure and whatnot. It's still hurting, as a matter of fact, though at least I can hear through it now.

We landed with a bump and three thuds that would have yanked tears from my wife's eyes, and thank the gods I was in Seattle.

After navigating to the car and exiting the garage I got home around 3:30 this morning. With the baby and all we've been up since around 7 , though I was able to nap for another or so with the baby when he crashed earlier.

I never want to fly again.


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