Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home again, Home Again, Jigety Jig

Okay, let me first start out by saying in no uncertain terms that


I have traveled to Boulder three times in the last month and a half. To get to Boulder you fly in and out of Denver. I am a government employee and as such we have to book our travel through our contracted travel agent and we are required to use a government contract carrier. United is a government contract carrier. Let's forget about the fact that the cost of a roundtrip ticket has cost the taxpayers a minimum of $500 when I could've gotten a ticket on Southwest for half that. Let's forget about the fact that on this last trip because it was booked on the same day as my travel it cost $1,000. Let's forget about the fact that every time I've gone to Denver on United I have had to sit in a middle seat for every three hour trip because our contracted travel agent couldn't get me a seat assignment because the flight was overbooked and when I checked in there was nothing else left except the Economy Plus seat (with about 0.638 inches of extra room) that you have to pay extra for. Let's forget all of that.

On the return flight of each trip my flight has been delayed. The first time it was about an hour. Not that big a deal but still, delayed. The second time...four hours. The inbound flight was late getting in. Then right before we were supposed to board it developed a mysterious mechanical problem. "We'll update you in 30 minutes" times eight. And oh by the way, we can't get this plane fixed in time so we're going to use a different plane but it's not here yet. And we're going to change gates. FIVE TIMES!!! Yes, five gate changes. And the one we ended up leaving from was one I had been to two hours before. Then of course we're all about to board and guess what? No flight crew. Then the flight crew shows up and it's the same crew from the original flight and they tell us that the first plane was fixed and they were sitting on the plane at the original gate waiting FOR US! Welcome to the fucking three stooges airlines.

Then there was the third trip. That was yesterday. I was booked on an 11:45AM flight. On Friday we weren't sure we could get all of our work finished and thought we'd have to meet yesterday morning so the boss decided we should change our flight to the 3:30PM flight. So far so good. By Friday evening we realized we could finish so we changed flights again, this time to the 10:43AM flight. Even earlier than the original, hey I'm all there.

I leave the hotel at 8AM to drive to Denver. Drop off the car and get to the terminal. Security is pretty short so that wasn't really a problem even though I was a male traveling alone with no checked bags which got me the extra personalized attention of being puffed by air in a booth (I was blown at the airport) and the "Sir, step over here and do you mind if we look through your dirty underwear?" Still, so far, so good.

I'm at the gate by 9AM. At 9:45 the inbound flight lands and unloads. At 10:00 the announcement comes..."Folks maintenance is checking out a mechanical problem with the plane...AND WE'LL UPDATE YOU IN 30 MINUTES." Fuck.

Then it was, "we have the part and we're fixing the problem", and "we're fixing the problem but it's going to take until 5:00PM (this is a 11:30AM)." Then at noon the only gate agent left says that the next update will be in, yeah, 30 minutes, but she has to leave to go to another gate. A new gate crew will be here at 12:30 to update us. Bye!

At almost 1:00 still no gate crew but an announcement is made over the general airport PA system. It sounds like a drunk with a speech impediment ordering a bag of tacos from Jack-in-the-Box at 2AM after a night of partying. The general consensus of everyone in the gate area was that it was something about our flight and something about 4:30PM. Fuck again.

I go to customer service and stand in a line that doesn't move and while I'm there I call my government contract travel agent on their "emergency" number where they don't answer. Finally a United rep tells us that the flight is on a decisional (WTF?) delay until 4:30 and we can't rebook until it is actually canceled.

Beer. I need beer. Fortunately there is a bar close at hand where I have lunch and a few pints of Guinness which dramatically improves my demeanor. I even bonded with an old couple who were watching the Notre Dame/Michigan game. And I don't even watch football - though it's kinda in my genes to root for the Irish. Then it's off to a quiet spot to do some work on a book proposal I'm putting together. My wife calls at about 3:15 to tell me that the United website is showing the flight as canceled. Would've been nice of them to announce it AT THE AIRPORT.

Back to the customer service line that doesn't move and on the phone to the travel agent who finally does answer. At this point, the only thing available to get me into the Washington area was a 4:30 flight on Frontier Airlines getting into Washington National at 10:00PM. She rebooks me and I'm off to a different concourse to find Frontier.

Minor problem. When I left Washington on Wednesday night, I flew out of Dulles airport which is the current location of my car. My sweetheart of a wife ever on the ball, talks me down off the ledge then researches shuttles and has me a reservation on the SuperShuttle from National to Dulles before the Frontier flight even takes off. From that point on everything went smoothly and it was just a matter of doing the actual traveling. I got to National at 10PM...right on schedule, was at Dulles by 11:30 and home by 1:00AM. Only about eight hours late.

This was my first experience with Frontier but it was a good one. They charged extra for every little thing like food, DirectTV and movies but they tell you that up front and who isn't charging for everything these days? At least the food was reasonably priced and actually pretty good for an airline. Everyone from the gate agents to the flight attendants were on the ball. And remember that $1,000 price for the round trip on United? The one way price on Frontier that was booked an hour before the flight...$169. My head hurts.

There's one final twist of the knife from United. When I checked in on online Friday night, I payed $30 extra out of my own pocket to get the Economy Plus just so I could get an aisle seat. A seat I never got to sit in. Of course you know where I sat on the Frontier flight.

It feels good to vent but the important thing is that I made it home safely. While I had all those hours to kill at the airport I watched quite a bit of news coverage from Texas about hurricane Ike. It kept reminding me that I was being inconvenienced but there were others who were having a far worse day than I was.

Oh, and did I mention that I hate United Airlines?


Malach the Merciless said...

Wow, but at least your alive

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Yeah well, there is that.

Malicious Intent said...

This is why I don't fly anymore, except in Blackhawks with my own personal military body guard and escort Blackhawk.

No peanuts or pillows however.

Bruce, a work in progress said...

If I had access to a Blackhawk on would not have been pretty.