If the kids fly United, they will find nothing provided

April 26, 2008

Scheduled journey
12.45pm (Fri, MDT): Leave Bozeman, MT
4.45pm (CT): Arrive Chicago, IL
6:00pm (CT): Leave Chicago, IL
8.15am (Sat, BST): Arrive London Heathrow

Actual
12.45pm (Fri, MDT): Drumming fingers in Bozeman, MT.
1.30pm (MDT): Learn flight has landed in Helena, MT. Told it’ll be 20 minutes or so before it’s here.
3.15pm (MDT): Incoming plane arrives at Bozeman, MT.
3.45pm (Fri, MDT): Leave Bozeman, MT.
4.30pm (CT): Begin interminable hold pattern over cities progressively closer to Chicago, IL.
7.00pm (CT): Diverted to Madison, WI for refuelling.
9.45pm (CT): Allowed off of plane in Madison, WI
10.00pm (CT): Told there is neither a crew nor a bus available to get us to O’Hare. Told by agent this is now a crew problem rather than a weather problem, and United’s responsibility.
11.00pm (CT): Rent car in Madison. Drive to Chicago, IL
2.00am (Sat, CT): Arrive at Chicago, IL. No information is available, three United staff to deal with dozens of tired, frustrated passengers. There would be hundreds but for the ones that have booked up all the hotels.
2.45am (CT): Reach United representative on phone. Told my connection will now be at 4.11pm. Flights at 6am and 9am are booked solid, and standby is not available.
2.55am (CT): Seriously consider destroying exit card just so United are given a hefty fine.
3.00am (CT): Buy t-mobile internet pass for day, use for a while.
4.00am (CT): Begin queuing for check-in.
5.15am (CT): Reach check-in
5.45am (CT): Clear security
6.00am (CT): Pizza for breakfast, first proper meal in 21 hours.
9.00am (CT): Give up on trying to sleep. Discover internet has very limited connectivity and keeps dropping.
10.30am (CT): Compile schedule of first 24 hours of trip. Still around 15 hours from reaching London.
11.00am (CT): Seriously contemplate putting on adjustable bouffant to see if it elicits any comment from United staff.
4.11pm (CT): ETD, Chicago, IL.
5.55am (Sun, BST): ETA, London.

It’d just be really nice for someone at United to say ‘God, that’s awful.’ They think that driving 150 miles just to reach a layover longer than the original flight is not just acceptable but something I should be grateful for (one agent said, ‘what if we’d booked you on the 9pm flight out?’). There are a hundred things they could have done to make things a bit easier – ask for a volunteer on an earlier flight to fly later, say ‘we’re very sorry’, offer use of the customer lounge, offer a pillow, a blanket, earplugs … There are a dozen ways they could have avoided the problem – it’s not as if they suddenly realised the crew was out of time, it’s not as if the arrival of hundreds of late passengers after dozens of delayed and cancelled flights should have been a surprise (and i certainly shouldn’t have been left to a handful of frazzled baggage claim employees to deal with), and it’s not as if trying to find extra capacity for stranded passengers, on different airlines if necessary, should be completely out of the question – or even the passengers’ responsibility to deal with.

Dear United. You have brought me somebody else’s shredded slippers and expect a pat on the head. No love, Colin.

There are likely to be other United-related posts in the near future. Do feel free to share your airline horror-stories.

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