United Airlines Epic Fail

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Jun 022013

UnitedAirlinesPlanesLast week I flew to Chicago to attend a professional conference. I was sent along at the last-minute, and didn’t have a lot of time to work out the details of the conference, so I’d just planned to take the last flight home Wednesday evening.

It was raining in Chicago last Wednesday, so it will be no surprise that nearly every flight was delayed. My flight was scheduled to depart at 7:32PM CDT and arrive in Tampa at 11:14PM EDT. The conference was over right around noon, so our sales person in Chicago gave me a ride to the airport, and we stopped and had lunch along the way.

I arrived at O’Hare around 1:30. Although I’d checked in on-line, I checked in again at a kiosk. In the past, during that kind of on-site check-in, it would automatically put you on standby for earlier available flights. There was a flight scheduled to leave about 2:30PM, but it was already delayed to around 4:00PM. The kiosk didn’t present me with the standby option.It did however, notify me that my flight was potentially over-booked, and asked me if I’d be willing to volunteer for a later flight (meaning the next morning), for a $200 voucher. I declined.

I went through security, and just headed to the posted gate. Of course, no one from United was at the gate, and actually there wasn’t much of anyone at any of the nearby gates.

I headed back up the concourse to the customer service counter. It didn’t seem the line was very long, but was I in for a surprise. There were a series of kiosks there as well, and you were supposed to check in on those, and you got a ticket telling you when to come back to actually get waited on by a person. My wait-time for that privilege was 2 hours and 3 minutes. Lest you think I’m kidding, the actual ticket is below. Continue reading »

Toronto Travel Travails

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Oct 202008

I know, I have not been posting much lately. Once again, work has been extremely busy with some travel thrown in for good measure. Since my work involves a lot of writing, by the time I have time to write here, I’m just too wrung out to carry on. I do have some things percolating in my mind that I want to get set down, so I’ll to get more posted this evening, and I do owe you a few movie reviews.

I guess the biggest story is my first trip outside the U.S. You got it, I’m 49, and just now have crossed the border. I went to Toronto on business, and must say, I was impressed with the little I got to experience of the city. I stayed in a downtown hotel that was supposedly in an “entertainment district.” There wasn’t much around after about 8:00pm when I got out to find some dinner, but it was clean. I felt safe, and found a nice little gourmet pizza place.

I’d planned to arrive late afternoon to have some time to explore, but apparently there were two conventions going on, so it took nearly an hour to get a cab. However, I was even impressed with the cab. All the airport cabs seemed to be Lincolns. They were clean, and the cabbies were all wearing ties.

The office where my meeting was held the following day was in a busier district, and I wish I’d sprung for the Marriott right beside the office building. If I ever get to go back, I’ll know where to stay. There seems to be a much more relaxed vibe to the city than most U.S. cities of that size. It seemed to permeate everything. The cabby that drove me from the hotel to the meeting site, on learning I’d be going to the airport later, insisted on meeting me at the hotel to take me back. I got a late checkout so I could come back, take a shower and change to casual clothes. Believe it or not, the cabby was right at the hotel door waiting on me when I came down.

As is so often the case though, air travel chaos accompanied me as I headed home last Wednesday (and then into Thursday). I arrived at the Toronto Airport the required two and one-half hours prior to my scheduled 4pm departure. I was on a United ticket, but flying on an Air Canada plane. So, I went up to the Air Canada check-in where I was told that, due to some rain in Chicago, my flight was canceled. Now the lady at this counter directed me to a ticketing counter, but she was very sympathetic and apologetic.

Given that I was on a United Ticket, I went to the United counter where I was met with an entirely different attitude. The United employee was, not surprisingly, not nearly so sympathetic and polite as the Air Canada person. However, she put me on a United flight scheduled to leave at 3pm (an hour earlier). I pre-cleared customs in no time. Even the U.S. Customs agent was friendly and smiling. The difference between Canadian airport security and U.S. airport security theater could not be more stark. There were plenty of agents around, so there was basically no line. While the process of getting through was the same, it went fast, and the people there were friendly, smiling, and even exchanged a few pleasant words. I found the supervisor, distinguished because he was wearing a nicely tailored uniform suit. I told him it was my first time through security in Canada, and that I wished they could teach TSA how to treat passengers. He just smiled and said, “Ah yes, TSA, I’m familiar with them.”  Continue reading »