12 March 2008

The Flight Of Doom

Truth be told, my time in Montreal was cut short by two days because of the weather. I was supposed to arrive Sunday in the morning and didn't make it until Monday, LATE. This was due in large part to the fact that United Airlines is apparently unsure of how to fly plans or manage a business. I was booked out of Raleigh, North Carolina, had to change due to technical difficulties and ended up with a flight out of Dulles in DC on Sunday morning. That flight was cancelled because of weather (the only flight to Montreal cancelled that day, obviously, and it didn't post as cancelled until I got to the airport. I checked right before leaving for the airport and it was good to go). So the woman at the counter says she can't help me (obviously) and gives me a phone number to call.

Susan answers after I've been on hold for 30 minutes. I explain the situation and let her know that I’m continuing on from Montreal to Denver on Wednesday morning. She tells me the next available flight from DC to Montreal is Wednesday at noon, asking, “how does that sound?” Seriously Susan? I get a bit huffy and site the fact that I have flown 40 flights with them in the past 10 months. She puts me on hold and says she can fly me DC-NYC-Ottawa-Montreal Monday at noon. I take this, even though it turns my 2-hour journey into an 8-hour sojourn. She gives me seat assignments and confirmation numbers for all 3 flights. I go home for 24 hours.

Then I show up Monday and it turns out the 2nd and 3rd flights aren't on United but with Air Canada, and they rejected the request. Obviously. True to form, United told me none of this so I'm at the airport with a ticket to NYC. “That’s a start,” Patty says to me from behind the counter, finishing with a little giggle. I refrain, but this only lasts for about 10 minutes before I go ballistic, this time at the desk. The woman says it is "not her fault,” waving her hands and saying “don’t look at me.” I’m sorry Patty, where might I look for a solution? Maybe in Chicago or Detroit? She makes some calls and gets me on standby at 12:20, which leaves in TWENTY MINUTES. I run through the airport, get double-checked at security, ride the giant SUV people mover thing to my terminal, run some more and get there just in time to find out they are not taking any standbys. Furthermore, there are 90 people on the standby list. Thankfully, my million miles gets me the 3rd spot on the list. So I go back to the Customer Service Desk to find, after waiting for 10 minutes, that I have to go the INTERNATIONAL customer service desk, which is in a different terminal. Obviously

I do. They tell me all they can do is put me on standby for the 4:40pm flight, so I spend all day in the terminal and stand right next to the gate as they board the plane (I had a delicious Wendy’s burger for lunch). Then they start calling standbys and I get THE LAST SEAT ON THE PLANE. Woo!

So I arrive in Montreal, clear immigration control with the literally 1,000 Montrealers who are coming back from Florida and are FRIED from the sunshine then stand at the baggage carousel for an hour waiting for my luggage, which never comes. I do the whole "look behind the flaps" thing and confirm that no, it is indeed not here. So I go to the baggage claims desk. There is no one there. Obviously. I ask someone at the next desk over if she can page someone for me. “Oh sure,” she says, “but they never come.” Obviously. I repeat this request every 10 minutes for the next 2 hours, until someone finally arrives and starts yelling at the 20 of us there because we “should have come right after we got off the flight.” Um, did she mean when I was standing in the hour-long line clearing customs or when I was watching the same six bags go around the carousel for 45 minutes? How would we have known if our luggage hadn't come right after we got off the plane?

So I fill out the form and exit the airport, only to wait in a 30-minute line to get a taxi, then take the 1-hour ride into the city because the weather is so bad. I get up Tuesday and call the hotline for bags. "Fred" answers. I give him my report number and he says there is no claim and that I "did not fly to Montreal on March 11th. Um Fred, I beg to differ, as I am standing IN Montreal. 20 minutes later he has refiled my request and discovers that my bags are still in DC. I'm going on to Denver Wednesday morning, so I ask him to just send them straight there. "I can do that," he tells me, going on to explain my bags must follow my exact path, meaning they'll have to go to Montreal then to Denver, clearing customs in Canada then again in the United States. And what does United offer me for my trouble? $25 in flight credits. OH MY GOD.

Then I arrive in Denver and head straight to the baggage delay zone, once again explaining my situation. The woman pulls up my file by pressing the F8 key about 12 times, tapping random keys, fiddling with the arrows, spinning in her chair and clapping her hands (seriously, why do they have to press so many buttons at the airport to do anything on the computer?). “It’s still in DC,” she tells me. “Why don’t we just send it straight to Boston (where I will be NEXT MONDAY), to be sure?” To be sure of what? That it will take you – the largest airline on planet earth – 8 days to get a duffle bag from DC to Boston, a 10-hour drive. Laughable. I ask her about additional compensation. “Well,” she starts. “You can save your receipts and mail them in this envelope. Please allow 12 to 15 months for requests to be processed.” To be honest, this amount of time doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Why wouldn’t it take over a year to mail a check within the Continental United States?

Question: When did we the public allow companies to start treating us like garbage? I say, no more!