Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Delayed on United
I recently promised to tell you more about my trip from Eugene, OR, to Orlando, so here I go.
I recently visited with a client in Eugene and then moved on directly to Orlando where I spoke at a conference. This was an interesting trip, because one does not have a lot of flexibility traveling out of Eugene, and going from Eugene to Orlando also is about as far as one can go within the continental US. So this was a combination of a long trip and little flexibility, which meant that I had to take a flight that wasn't quite ideal. In particular, it had a stopover in Denver and a relatively short connection time (although not unreasonably short connection time either).
The trouble started when I got to the airport in Eugene, because I was told that the plane was late. Why, I am not sure. It wasn't a beautiful day in Eugene, but it wasn't overly bad either, so there was no particular reason for a weather-related delay. And in fact, the delay was not due to weather in Eugene. The problem was that the aircraft was arriving late (why I do not know). So even before we left Eugene I knew that there could be a problem with my connection.
When we got into Denver, things looked promising though. We got there about 25 minutes before my connection left. I had to get to a different terminal, but I thought I was in OK shape. Other people on my flight had short connections too. In fact, one row behind me were some people that had about 40 minutes to make their connection (from what I overheard). Now I am not the kind of person that gets up in a plane and demands to be let out first just because I have a short connection. But for some reason, the flight attendant asked everyone to remain seated so the people in the row behind me with the short connection could get out first. Hm! My connection was much shorter, and they knew about it, because they talked to me about it even on the plane, yet they would still let people with more time our first?!? I guess only United Frequent Flyers are entitled to make their connection...
So I waited in line before I got out. I literally ran to the other terminal (and I am not talking about jogging... I RAN!), which included a train ride. I didn't check any luggage, so I had a lot to carry and was quite out of breath by the time I got to my gate. I made it in time. In fact, I was there 8 minutes early. But when I tried to check in, I was told that I had missed my plane. Hu?!? I didn't know what to say other than "but it is right there!!!". And so it was. The plane was outside, but I was told that since "I" was late, I could not get on. And I was "late" because I was not there 10 minutes before scheduled departure!
I was rather annoyed at that point! I mean, c'mon! They knew I was coming, and they knew I had enough time to make the connection. All they would have had to do is let me step into the plane and take a seat! I would have had plenty of time. In fact, from what I could tell, the plane even left a little late so I was in fact there more than 10 minutes before departure!!! And what made things worse is that the staff at the gate was rude about the whole thing, blaming me for being late! (It seems that that has become the modus operandi for ground crews lately... keep in mind that my last bad experience with rude ground crews was just a few days earlier...).
But wait, there is more! It turns out that there wasn't another flight to Orlando for another 6-7 hours!!! So while I left Eugene at noon, I would not get into Orlando until the next morning. My only choice was a red-eye flight. I even made them check into other airlines, but apparently there were no other flights. (All the while the plane that I supposedly "missed" was still parked outside with the jetway connected!). But then I was told to consider myself lucky again (just like a few days earlier I suppose) that there were any flights at all "that day". (An after-midnight flight does not qualify as "that day" in my book...).
So eventually I tried to calm myself and I sat down, plugged in my computer, and started to read some email (while the plane was STILL at the gate). A while later, I decided to get some food, but as it turns out, every restaurant at Denver airport apparently closes at 8pm. It was just after 8, and I managed to convince someone at McDonald's (not my first choice, really) who was still there by accident to sell me their last burger. That was really my only food option that day. I had missed lunch in Eugene. There was no food on the first flight. And there was nothing United did in terms of offering me anything.
So as things got close to departure time, I started to get really tired (after all, I had also just returned from Europe 4 days earlier). So I had the idea to ask them if there were any exit row seats. I figured with the extra legroom I might be able to sleep (normally I never am able to sleep on planes). As it turned out, there were tons of available exit row seats. I thought I was in luck, but no! At United, one has to pay an upgrade fee for exit row! What a bunch of rubbish! It is outrageous in the first place, and with how they messed up with my connection, the least they could have done is accommodate me with some seats that were open anyway. But no.
You know what? I was about as likely to pay the upgrade fee as I am to fly on United again!
I got into Orlando the next morning at 6:30am. Total travel time: 15 hours. About the same as a trip to Europe normally takes counting stopovers and all. Between my recent trip to Europe and this, I was just about completely wiped out. I had a headache for days afterwards. I've just about had it with airlines. Two such messes within a matter of 4 or 5 days is just too much. Not only is it annoying, but it takes a serious toll on you physically.
And if at least they were a bit friendlier and helpful about the situation, then I'd be a much happier traveler too. But this is just outrageous! Is there anything a traveler can do about this? Apparently not. Or is that just a myth that airlines successfully spread...?
Posted @ 9:37 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org) -