I have spent the last four of five weekends in another city, which means I have spent a lot of time on planes. Most of it has been less than stellar, but nothing has been downright horrible.
Until last week when Wes and I set out to get to Idaho for Christmas. I think if we had hitchhiked there we would have made better time. We were scheduled to leave at 1:00pm on Wednesday and get in at 5:45pm, just in time to join my parents for dinner at a delicious French restaurant in Boise. We had a stop in San Francisco, but we had a buffer of over an hour to catch the connecting flight so neither of us were worried about the possibility of missing it.
Oh how foolish and naive we were.
Our first plane kept getting delayed by ten minutes until we were right up against the departure of our second flight. Still calm at this point, I made my way to the counter and asked about our second flight and was informed that it was running behind schedule so we should be fine. And then we sat in the terminal for another 20 minutes while the plane to Denver sat at the gate waiting to move, while the plane that we were taking to SFO sat behind that waiting for the gate to open up.
I don’t want to draw out this suspense, so I’ll just tell you that we missed our flight. Wait, no, that’s not right. Here’s what happened: Our flight fucking left us and no one at United Airlines gave a shit and the reason we got for that, from a very cheerful customer service rep who was doing her Christmas cards: “It’s a business! They have to oversell to make sure they make money! Even on Christmas!” To which I replied, “It’s a shitty fucking way to run a business!”
I know that it’s a business. I really do. But I also know it’s Christmas and we were going to Boise! People who book tickets to go to Boise (or Eugene, as the man next to us had but was stuck in the same boat as us) have a reason to and will not back out at the last minute. Come hell or high water or H1N1, if I spend the money on a ticket to Boise, I’m going to Boise. And for United Airlines to be so careless and callous about the whole situation was just insulting. Don’t overbook every Boise flight for three days, ensuring that if another plane can’t make it to the fucking gate and has to just chill on the tarmac for 40 minutes then the guests on the flight will miss their connection. It’s just bad business practice.
The customer service reps where awful. One was too cheery to a fault (see above quote about it being a business – said in a voice two octaves too high and with every statement coming out like it was followed with an exclamation mark) and the other one couldn’t care less that we seemed to be stranded in San Francisco for Christmas. At one point she suggested that we fly to Seattle and then drive to Boise. It took a lot of strength to not yell at her to look at the fucking map right behind her. Our options seemed to be: 1) Wait in SFO for the next open flight to Boise, the evening of December 25th; or 2) fly from SFO to Denver to Boise and get in at 11:30pm. We opted for Denver and rushed down the terminal in that airport to make our 8:58 flight only to discover that the plane that was flying us to Boise had not yet left Wichita but would be there at 9:55.
And here’s how Denver went:
9:30pm: announcement that plane has not yet left Wichita. New arrival time of 11:05.
10:35pm: Announcement that plane has arrived! We’ll be boarding in 20 minutes.
11:05pm: Announcement that she got some bad information. Flight has not, in fact, even left Wichita. New arrival time of 12:15.
11:10pm: Wes goes for a walk and discovers that our gate has moved. Along with about 30 other folks headed to Boise, we head to the new gate and sit.
11:45pm: Gate has changed again, which we discover only because someone has asked.
11:50pm: At new gate there is a plane and our boarding, according to the board, is scheduled to begin in 4 minutes. All are hopeful but doubtful.
11:53pm: Agent tells us, humorously (for her, not for the travelers), that the board is incorrect. That’s not our plane. We will not be boarding in 1 minute. Hahahaha.
12:15am: New agent tells us the plane will be there in about 30 minutes. All are skeptical.
12:40am: The motherfucking plane arrives! There is clapping and cheering and a mad rush to get on the plane once we finally start boarding.
3:00am: Touchdown in Boise.
It was the worst time traveling I’ve ever experienced – including that one time when I was 15 and the plane circled the Seattle airport for an hour while listening to a girl scout troop told horrible jokes and then I got left at SEA-TAC because my friend mixed up her days. This was so much worse. The attitudes about ever United work was just about unbelievable.
I will never fly United again. I am cutting up the credit card that got us on all these flights that made no sense (seriously? A scheduled flight from Boise to Orange County through Denver? ). I wash my hands of the entire company.
The rest of Christmas was awesome, but I’m worn out from reliving the Day That Wouldn’t End.